The other night, I was talking with a friend about what we’re currently going through in life. We do this from time to time, and it’s always beneficial. This time, though, amidst our discussion, I brought up the fact that I was thinking about running away, from home, from people, from life. Now, thanks to a single person in my life, this is no longer my plan.
How did I get to that point, though? It was not a thought that came to me suddenly, but rather a thought that had been festering in my brain for a couple weeks. I was ready to act on it, too. Put some gas in the car, throw my duffel bag in the backseat, turn on a CD and take off. I wasn’t thinking about where I would go or even how I planned to live once my money ran out, but I was ready to go.
The thing about my bipolar disorder is this: When I hit a downswing, I withdraw from life. It’s what I’ve done in the past, and it’s still what I do to this day.
How does that help, though? You may ask. Well, it doesn’t. In fact, it’s probably the worst thing I could do for myself in a given situation, but I do it all the same.
You see, when I hit that depressive episode, my thoughts become negative, and it’s hard to ignore them. I tell myself that if my friends wanted to hang out with me, then they would ask. Why do I have to be the one who always asks? Does anyone even care?
This line of thinking leads down a dark path of isolation that I have walked down many, many times. A path that has led to multiple suicide attempts and the loss of friends, who simply moved on. Yet, I never do anything different.
Say what you will about my brain, but at least it’s consistent. When I start that downswing into a full on depressive episode, my rational mind seems to be shoved to the back of my brain and remains quiet.
Do I know that I’m isolating myself? Yes. Do I know that my friends care about me? Of course. I just don’t know how to convince myself that those answers are true.
So what can we do to help others who are in a similar fix? Talk with them. Reach out, and see what they’re doing that night or for lunch. People like me, who isolate themselves when we fall into these holes, need to hear that you care.
The answer seems so simple, but we tend to get lost in our own thoughts and minds. When my friend and I have a talk or I go to therapy, my thoughts of running away or hurting myself seem to evaporate. It’s as if the mere presence and support of a friend is enough to light up the whole darkness of my mind and send those deceitful thoughts back to the abyss, at least for a little while.
The point I’m trying to make is this: We have so much power in our hands that we don’t use. It’s time to start using our power to help others. Reach out to your friend having a tough week, and let them know you’re there and you care about them. A simple sentence can go a long way.
I’m a big fan of “The West Wing.” Here’s a parable from the show that has gone a long way in my life: “This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, “Hey you. Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
Then, a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, “Father, I’m down in this hole. Can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
Then, a friend walks by, “Hey, Joe. It’s me. Can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.’”
The holidays can be a tough time for you or your friends. All I ask is that you reach out to those of us who are struggling to remind us we are not alone. A little bit can go a long way. As always, remember that you are not alone. Reach out for help if you need it.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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