I haven’t written everyday like I was going to this past week because I wasn’t sure what to write or how to respond to what has happened.
On Monday my friend Matthew committed suicide. I found out on Tuesday. It’s been a pretty rough week. I went to the viewing on Thursday and saw him for the last time. His funeral was yesterday, and his wake was last night.
I don’t know how to convey who Matthew was in writing. He was a very loving sweet creative human being who was suffering from the same thing I have, namely bipolar disorder. I won’t tell you what he told me the last time we saw each other, because a lot of it is personal to his experience of the disease. But I will say he and I exchanged stories of bipolar disorder as it has affected us in our lives. He was being treated with a medication I had been on, but really all it had done for me was make me sleep.
When I found out I had a cry, and I have squeezed out a few tears since but mostly I have felt numb and shocked.
Maybe what shocks me the most is that I do know why he would take his own life. Bipolar disorder is no cakewalk. I feel like I’ve been luckier than most in that I have a really good psychiatrist who has kept me episode free for 4 years or so. Oh sure, a couple of stress related depressions have happened to me, but those were mild compared to the potentially lethal nature of psychosis. Not in terms of me hurting others, but hurting myself. I believed so many strange things, I was lucky not to wander into a harmful situation, like taking a ride from a stranger or thinking I could fly.
The truth is that we don’t really know what Matthew was thinking about when he died, except that he couldn’t do it anymore. This act of living. I am really going to miss him too, he was such an exceptional human, it’s hard to believe someone who had such PRESENCE is gone from us.
I don’t feel like this post is going to do him justice.
I told his mother “thank you for raising such a beautiful man.” And she said “Thank you for loving him.” For my own sense of closure that is pretty good.
I have to get on with life, is the cruelest part. My major presentation for my video editing company is this friday at around about 11am. I have to present the whole business plan. I am going to be working like a dog for this next week. I really really need to get some more work done. It’s been hard dealing with this and a (so unfortunately named) deadline. I’ve been spending a lot of my time talking with friends about what happened. The world keeps turning, even without our much loved friend being with us.
Sometimes I feel having bipolar disorder means being in a near constant battle, always struggling with the undertow of thoughts and moods and the danger of losing one’s health so easily. I forgot my medication two days in a row this week and started hearing music whenever the furnace came on. It was pretty creepy, and even though I knew it wasn’t real, it still tripped me out and made me want to hide.
Could I have prepared him any better for what it would be like with bipolar disorder? Are we really so ashamed of psychotic symptoms that we don’t honestly and openly talk about how our brains can trick us?
Out of the whole spectrum of moods that is bipolar disorder, manic psychosis and depressive psychosis are the least discussed, except in negative terms like people suddenly chopping off someone’s head. We aren’t taught as a society how to recognize suicidal states, or we are even taught that only the weak commit suicide, that they took “the easy way out” and all kinds of stigmatizing views that keep people who need help from pursuing it.
I had one dangerous night, way back in Vancouver when I was 20 years old. I thought I would do it. I was really close. I was too jumbled for a plan, but it was one hell of a dark night. I ended up calling a crisis line and talking to a volunteer about what I was feeling. That night they hooked me up with a counsellor at SAFER, which is a free counselling service in Vancouver for people having suicidal crises. I saw that counsellor for a long time and worked through a lot of issues. Just knowing I had that appointment the next day got me through what could have been my last night on earth.
The suicide crisis line in Saskatoon is : (306) 933-6200
If bipolar disorder is the battle some of us are fighting, then Matthew was the unfortunate casualty of that war. We can sit around thinking about all the what ifs and it still won’t bring him back. But I choose not to believe he killed himself. Bipolar disorder is what killed him.
I hope we can come together as a community and support each other. I’m pretty open about having bipolar disorder, but there are even more of us, quietly relating to each other about what it’s like having it. If his death can change anything, I hope it is more openness about mental health issues.