Robin Williams lost the fight.

By Elaina J. Martin

robin williams
I’ve had some days now to digest the news of Robin Williams’s passing. It was very triggering for me, having attempted suicide before. Why does one man’s death, a man I never met, have such a profound effect on me? Because if this man, this celebrity who was witty and funny and loved by people all over the world, couldn’t find a reason to go on living, how can I? Will I too lose this battle eventually?

Fame,  family, fans – he had them all, but that didn’t stop him from taking his own life. What does it take to keep on living when all you want to do is die?

I’ve been there. I’ve been where he has been. Suicidal. It’s the blackest hole. It sucks all the air from your lungs. It lies to you. It sings to you a song that dying is better than living.

But it isn’t. Living is the good stuff.

Unfortunately, when I allow myself, I picture Robin as he was found after his death and it is horrible. Horrible. It makes me cry. No one should go out like that. No one.

And I find myself wondering what I could have said to him in that dark hour. I think it would be this:

“You are loved. God loves you and will take care of you. Better days are ahead, I promise. I know. I’ve been where you are and all the things that happened in the years since that night I nearly died prove that. I am not promising you sunshine and rainbows today or even tomorrow, but there will be many days in the sun. Pots of gold.  You have to be stronger than that voice in your head that tells you it is over. You have to be stronger than you have ever been. All you have to do is get through today. That’s all I ask. And I promise to ask you again tomorrow. And the day after that. One day at a time. That is all you have to do – take it one day at a time.”

 

* If you or someone you know is having a hard time or are considering suicide, call the LIFELINE at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

Photo Credit: Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty images



How Robin Williams is like Elaina J (trigger warning)

By Elaina J. Martin

suicide prevention lifelineI’ve had a rough time with the passing of Robin Williams. He is one of my comedic heroes – right up there with Steve Martin and Martin Short and Lucille Ball. Classically funny. Funny on camera in a series. Funny in an interview. Always funny.

I grew up with Robin Williams. His many movies. His out-of-this-world character. He was amazing.

He was…Still hard to swallow.

In my research of fellow Beautifully Bipolar beings, I found him. So far, they are saying he was suffering from depression – and well he may have been, but was it a symptom of bipolar disorder? I don’t know if it will be confirmed, but I believe this amazingly funny man lived for many years with bipolar disorder.

So how does that make him – a celebrity, and a little old blogger like me, – similar? Well, we like to laugh. We both attempted suicide.

The difference is he succeeded. Am I jealous? No. Not for one minute.

I can’t stop imagining his death. I know, morbid, but it happened. A man a year younger than my dad died – for reasons only he knows and that makes me sad. I cry as I write this. I wish he and I could have had a talk. Maybe something I could have said, from one suicidal person to another, could have helped, could have stopped this travesty.

But the difference between Robin Williams and Elaina J is that I lived. I lived to write this post, and many more before it and many more after. And it’s sad.

I hope this post makes you realize there is life after suicidal thoughts – attempts. There is so much more that life has to offer, I know. I found love and kindness and acceptance and a group full of people who are there for me – day or night.

If you are feeling hopeless, don’t give up. We lost a comedic hero but we don’t need to lose you. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you need to. They are there just for you…and me.



Therapy and the Pdoc

By Elaina J. Martin

therapy and pdocToday was a hard day. I had therapy and an appointment with my psychiatrist, both in the same office suite. When I arrived the tiny waiting room was packed with little ones to quite big ones. I waited a step away from the guy in front of me at the receptionist’s window. Then I stepped up and paid my $80 copay. That’s right. 80 smackaroonies. After signing the receipt I stood with my back to the wall. There was only one seat left and I was not about to shove myself into it. Now, this is a very nerve wracking part of going to therapy and the pdoc for me. I can’t stand being closed in with a lot of people. I become very anxious. I remembered my iPod, my go-to for relaxation or at least distraction, but couldn’t find my earbuds in my mess of a purse so I impatiently waited a short time before my therapist came and saved me.

She took me back to her office and I melted into the upholstered armchair I always take, first grabbing a bottle of water. I told her about my recent couple anniversary – about the enjoyment and the disappointment. I talked. She listened. She talked. I listened. It’s good like that. I disappointed her, but was honest anyway. Listen to me, it is important to be honest as much as you may think your therapist won’t want to hear what you have to say. That is the only way that therapy can work. Honesty.

When we finished I headed out to the chairs lining the hall before my pdoc’s office. This is not the waiting room. It is a step closer to actually seeing the pdoc. The reason I was escorted to the chairs is because my appointment with the pdoc was set for the exact same time as my therapy appointment.

I still waited 45 minutes.

And the young woman next to me kept threatening that she was going to lose it if she had to wait much longer and the woman next to her was a diabetic who hadn’t had breakfast (it was now 1:15) and complained to the office manager about the wait and wasting her day. They were aggravated and it fed into my anxiety and fuck me if I didn’t have my music to calm me down!

Then, (FINALLY), it was my turn with my Dr. H. We discussed some med changes and a vitamin my physician recommended and then, after setting up an appointment with him for a month from now, I was out of there.

Outside that cramped waiting room I had to walk through, I ran my fingers through my newly shortened hair and took a few deep breaths. It’s not easy – therapy and meeting with your psychiatrist isn’t easy, at least not for me, even all these years later. But it is necessary and helpful, however exhausting.

 

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Medication Compliance

By Elaina J. Martin

spoons with pillsNow, there are those of us who swear by our psychiatric medications and those that don’t believe in taking anything. It’s your life, your body, your choice. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the aid of psychiatric medications. That is my choice.

The goal of medication is to grant you stability, at least that is the way I view it. It should keep you from the extremes of bipolar disorder, allow you to live a somewhat “normal” life.

But here is what happens: You are diagnosed and your moods are out of control and your life is chaotic and a psychiatrist prescribes some mood stabilizers, maybe an anti-psychotic, maybe an anti-depressant, maybe a sedative for anxiety. Pills. And you take these pills and for a few weeks it doesn’t seem like anything is changing except for the side effects you incur. Then you start to feel a bit better, more clear headed, less on edge. The side effects lessen – the annoying nausea goes away. Your doctor makes some adjustments and after a while, life is a little bit better, easier.

And you hum along at this frequency for some time. Living your life. You are “better.” Pay attention, this is the important bit. You will start to believe that you are not sick. You will start to believe that you don’t need your medication, that it is YOU that has made you better, not those tiny pills you swallow. You will want to come off your meds.

Be very careful at this point. Try to remember what it was like before you got help. Try to remember how long it took those pills to make a difference. Most importantly, talk to your psychiatrist. Maybe he can decrease your dose or even omit a medication, but only your doctor knows the safest way to go about this. Stopping cold turkey would be a nightmare.

I know of which I speak. I have been at that point before – where I thought I was “better,” that I wasn’t sick anymore, that it was just a temporary hiccup and I was right as rain, thank you very much. I didn’t need the meds.

But that just isn’t the case for me. I need my mood stabilizers. I need my anti-psychotics. I need my anti-depressants. I need my anxiety meds. I know the difference they make in my life. I wish I was med free. I wish I could do it on my own. I wish I wasn’t ill, but I am.

Taking medication isn’t a sign of weakness. I believe it is a sign of strength to seek help and to comply to a medication regimen. Finding the right meds takes time and the crazy thing is, once they are working, you will think you don’t need them. Don’t fall into that trap – and if you do, talk to your psychiatrist before making any med changes.

 

Image courtesy of nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Live for today

By Elaina J. Martin

This blog post is inspired by a recent comment I received. The question was posed – how do we continue to keep on going when we know that inevitably we will fall victim to our episodes?

sunriseI have rapid cycling bipolar disorder, my episodes of mania, depression, or mixed states can last hours, days, weeks, months. I never know how long my old friend Depression is going to hang around. I never know how high my mania will take me, what danger it will tempt me into. I can’t know. That’s the nature of the beast.

So how do I stay beautifully bipolar?

I take it a day at a time. No, I wasn’t clever enough to come up with this simple solution on my own, my therapist taught it to me. All I have to worry about is today. What can I control today? What can I avoid? What can I do?

The future is too complicated. Yes, there will be episodes and symptoms. I have absolutely no doubt about that, but I am not prepared to live my life waiting for the next shoe to drop.  I’ve done that. It does no good.  It ruins today.

I know bipolar disorder is overwhelming. I know it can be all consuming. But I promise you it is easier if you take it a day at a time. Forget about tomorrow. Forget about how you will feel next week or next month or in five years. Live for today. Do the best you can do today, even if all that means is managing a shower and a bowl of cereal. Maybe it means applying of the job of your dreams. Whatever the case – today. That’s it. That is all you have to get through.

 

Image courtesy of num_skyman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Talk to the Doc

By Elaina J. Martin

doctorThe relationship between you and your psychiatrist is a very special one. He wields the power of medications that very well may help you. It is important to find a psychiatrist you click with. I say this from experience, having had both good and bad ones. Now, you will most likely never be as close to them as you are your therapist (unless he or she is also your therapist), but you should feel comfortable when you see them during the inevitably brief visits.

Because a psychiatrist is in charge of your medication management there will be a lot to discuss – the pros and cons of certain medications, how the meds are affecting you, any side effects, etc.

I’ve talked about the myriad side effects I’ve dealt with in the past and for each of them, I had to talk to my psychiatrist. It is okay to feel uncomfortable to bring up certain side effects like constipation or a challenged sex drive. These aren’t things you normally talk to about with a man you see once a month for 15 minutes. But he (or she) isn’t just a man, he is your doctor. He won’t know if things aren’t going smoothly unless you tell him. Those are your 15 minutes, use them!

There are a lot of medications out there and newer ones are popping up all the time. For me, a nasty side effect went away just by switching antidepressants. Don’t feel like you should suffer any more than you have to. Finding the rights meds is tricky, but you will never find something that truly works for you if you don’t talk to your doc.

 

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Better things

By Elaina J. Martin

sunflowersI wrote another blog post yesterday afternoon to post today but it suddenly feels too naked. So, instead, I will write something new.

I am not happy today. This day is not unlike any other. I got up. I took care of the dogs. I got ready. But today I went to therapy and, try as I might, therapy is never fun. We didn’t delve into anything “deep” or upsetting necessarily. We just talked and I drank the water she offered.

I’ve realized that over the years my world has shrunken – shrunken considerably. I used to have tons of friends and always something to do. Now, not so much. It hasn’t helped that I have moved 4 times in the past 5 years from state to state.

I just get so anxious about meeting new people. I get stomach aches. I have panic attacks.

Anxiety is a bitch and I hate her.

It is alright to have days like today. It is alright to throw a pity party for yourself every now and again, after all, if not you – then who? We just can’t get stuck here. We must move forward. Put Anxiety in her place. Believe that better things are just around the corner, because they are.

They are.

 

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 



Take a nap. Life will be here when you wake up.

By Elaina J. Martin

elephantI was sick again today with the stomach troubles that new medicine has been causing. I found myself lying on the couch and it reminded me of days gone by. When I was very sick – mentally, very sick – I needed rest. It is hard to describe the exhaustion that depression brings. I’ve likened it before to an elephant sitting on my chest. How strong must I be to keep standing up with an elephant on my chest? It’s too hard to endure. One needs a break.

When I was first diagnosed as beautifully bipolar I was given a lot of meds – anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, sedatives, anti-convulsants – you name it, I was on it.  Your mind can only handle so much. Your body can only handle so much. So everyday, between 1 and 3, I would nap. I would fall immediately into sleep and wake up feeling like the elephant had moved his right leg to the floor. A little reprieve.

Today I am more well. I don’t need daily naps, well, unless depression comes a knockin’. But I want to put this out there: It is okay to need rest. It is okay if you need to take an hour or two out of your day to nap. Nobody’s judging you (and if they are they aren’t worth your energy to begin with).

Being a mental health warrior is hard work. I know. But you can do it, and if you need to take that elephant off for a few – it’s all good.

 

Image courtesy of vectorolie / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Anxious

By Elaina J. Martin

panic button manI am feeling very anxious.

It was hard to stop washing my hands after one go ’round. It felt so good I wanted to do it again and again and again. I can wash my hands 30 times in a row. But with each turn, my anxiety heightens because I can’t stop. It is no longer a decision. It is a compulsion.

It’s the same with counting and with cutting.

There is a tightness in my chest. Fidgeting hands. Wiggling of my leg. But what’s a girl to do? I’ve reached out to my support system and what are they supposed to do anyway?

I just have to remember that this feeling – this horrible dread – will go as sure as it came. I must try to distract myself from all the compulsions I feel the need to act out. I need to remember to breathe.



Emotional “buckets”

By Elaina J. Martin

bucketThere are a couple of lines in the television show, “The United States of Tara,” (which I highly advise watching on Netflix) which came to mind when I sat down to write this post.

Marshall says, “I’m sorry, but I think my bucket is full,” in the midst of a family crisis.
His dad, Max, says, “That’s alright, son. I’ll hold your bucket for you if you can’t.”

I’m not as capable as I once was. I used to be able to juggle a million things and events and deadlines and relationships. I used to be Superwoman’s BFF. I didn’t just think I could conquer the world, I knew I could. Maybe some of that was mania, or maybe it was just life before I was sick, either way, today is different.

We all have an emotional “bucket” like Marshall’s and Max’s and there is only so much room inside of it. When I became beautifully bipolar, my bucket shrank. I can’t hold all that I once could. I try but am so easily overwhelmed. The memory of my old life and its chaos is enough to make me want to take a nap.

That’s not to say I don’t wish I was the way I was before. But things are different now. I accept that. I do what I can. That has to be enough.

Not everyone’s bucket is the same size. I have a friend with the bucket the size of an Olympic swimming pool whereas mine is about the size of a toddler’s beach pail.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to need help with your bucket. There are people out there who are willing to hold it for you ’til you gain your strength back.

 

Image courtesy of Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



 
 

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