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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