Hope for Those With Bipolar Disorder Who Have Lost Someone to Suicide
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
On March 20, 2013, I lost my precious younger brother to suicide. He was only 25 years old, and had a lovely 2-year-old daughter. Needless to say, this has been a devastating experience for our family. I miss my brother terribly, and there is an endless void. That being said, however, our family is not without hope.
Being a person with bipolar disorder, the death of my brother to suicide opens up fears for my own safety as well. It is well known that there is a higher incidence of suicide in persons with bipolar disorder than in the general population. Add to that the statistical fact that family members of suicide victims have a higher risk as well. To top it off, include my own history of some bouts with severe depression and suicidal thoughts, and you can see how this would be a legitimate fear.
So, how does one with bipolar disorder and a family history of suicide cope? How do we assure the statistics will not represent us? How do we find hope, and optimism, in the face of such bleak statistics?
My first measure for coping has been to pour myself into organizations and volunteer efforts that support suicide prevention. I have become a Field Advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and I worked for two years on a fundraising effort for them through a local retail company. Doing this has been helpful, not only to try and save the lives of others, but to expose myself to resources, materials and messages that inspire hope and share coping methods.
My second way of coping has been to open up about my illness. As a nurse, I had been very secretive about my disorder prior to my brother’s death. Losing him caused me to re-evaluate my stance on the matter. It wasn’t enough just to think, “Someone out there with bipolar disorder, who is doing well, should open up about it so that others can have hope.” I now needed to be that person, not only for my own mental health (being open about it takes a weight off your shoulders), but in order to fulfill the mission to be a beacon of hope for others with various and sundry emotional conditions. Through doing so, I have had the honor and privilege of helping friends, loved ones and acquaintances find help and hope in the midst of various emotional crises. This has helped reinforce my resolve and commitment to stick around for others.
Lastly, I have taken to writing blog posts on my personal blog site, as well as poetry, that focuses on mental health, emotional issues and hope. This has helped immensely in terms of coping with my brother’s death and my own disorder. I highly recommend the healing power of poetry.
Speaking of which, I have added a poem I wrote that helps me when I am feeling down. It reminds me of a bright sunny day that is on the horizon. No matter how you feel, what you have done or where you have been, there is always, always, hope.
When Darkness Descends
When darkness descends
On your soul and your heart
When the pitch-black angst
Makes all you know dark
When the wind in your spirit
Howls at the moon
When the stress is so potent
You feel you could swoon
When the panic sets in
And you know not where you’ll go
And the vultures and demons
They torture you so….
There’s a train that leaves the station
Just before dawn
With the Angels and the Saints
Who will come to lead you on
From the tracks full of darkness
Through the tunnel you will go
If you look real closely
A light will surely glow
It radiates beams
Through the harrowing night
Though it may not be a spotlight
It still comes to your sight
And you follow and follow
Steered by faith, not just your eyes
The train it is a comin’
Angels and Saints, they never lie
They are coming to carry you
Through the wind and the storm
Their wings will protect you
And their hearts will keep you warm
I see it, I see now
It’s finally near
They come and they greet me
Their song of joy I hear
The darkness behind me
Cannot keep it away
The Angels and Saints
Bring a new sunny day
God’s train it is a comin’
Keep your eyes upon the Lord
His love it will a-find you
Keep the faith,
You shall endure
In loving memory of Joey Blanton-Harris, my brother and friend.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Ethan Robertson