I watched him suffer many times.
Bipolar made him paranoid. Often, it left him paralyzed in bed for days or weeks without any remorse or the exact opposite; Keeping him awake for days on end tricking him into believing he was fine. It made him spend money, talk speedily and his sentences would often be spoken in rhymes when at it’s worst. He would become delusional, projecting his own emotions and beliefs onto others.
Earlier in our relationship, I came home to find him fetal position on the floor and after putting him to bed for the night I thought maybe he would seek counselling. I would talk to him the next day when I was less emotional myself. I hated seeing him like that; it hurt me too.
The next day came and he was fine. His mother had passed away a few months earlier and I believed this was the grief talking and with time things would improve.
And with time they did. Or at least appeared too. He would have much more energy than I, and was always making plans. Some he’d follow through with and others he’d continue talking about with no plan of action. But he was fun, vivacious, and seemingly productive. He would sleep, but seemed to have much more motivation than I after much less sleep. I recognize only now that those weeks that appeared better, happier and carefree were more likely periods of hypomania. But they didn’t appear to hurt him. He wasn’t suffering, he felt great. He was social, more so than usual, and up and about. I believe that had we recognized these minor highs as part of an illness in those earlier days, treatment would have prevented the extreme suffering he came to endure years later.
Bipolar Disorder is noted by many professionals, and in many articles as a degenerative brain disease, meaning the illness gets worse over time(if left untreated) and it can cause brain damage. In a study completed at the San Francisco VA Medical Center suggests people with bipolar disorder may suffer brain damage as the illness progresses. The study from the American Journal of Psychiatry notes”“For the first time, our study supports the idea that there may be on-going damage to certain regions of the brain as the illness progresses,” (2003, Raymond Deicken).
Maybe if he had been diagnosed and sought treatment in his earlier 20’s, he wouldn’t have had to go through everything he did. The voices, hallucinations and delusions when manic. The awful lies his mind told him when depressed.
His psychiatrist warned us that with each episode there would be lasting brain damage, so it was important the condition be managed. As the illness progressed without treatment, each episode became less manageable, lasted longer and was more difficult for him to hide.
He needed a crutch and so he turned to alcohol and marijuana as a means to cope with his suffering. Only, the relief these provided were temporary and they made the illness worse.
I seen the pain in his eyes, I watched him suffer through unimaginable delusions, and devastating depression. I watched him turn on his family, friends and lose our home because the illness wouldn’t let him believe he was sick. I watched helplessly as he suffered, and so I suffered too. We were once so happy and in love before he got sick. We had a whole life together. Then he became ill.
Then he died.
The illness made him choose death. He succumbed to the lies that we’d be better off without him. His being dead may have stopped his own pain, but now, those left behind have to carry the weight without him. His suicide made me wish for death too, and made me question my own existence.
I suffer without him. I carry the pain now. The emotional torment I feel some days wondering what could’ve or should’ve been or what I could have done differently probably doesn’t even touch how he felt on a regular basis, but it’s suffocating nonetheless.
His death only dispersed his emotional pain among those he left behind. It didn’t end it. We now have the cross to bear navigating through the world without him. The children won’t have him at their weddings, or when their own children are born. Christmas will be forever changed, and our birthdays will be missing something so important. The simple daily things; a craft our daughter made at school, a new game our son played on the PS4, or the new music we may never hear because he’s not here to share it with us. We miss his singing “Sleep” and “Tree hugger” at night while putting our daughter to bed. The snuggling on the couch watching our favorite shows; Netflix binges and nachos will never be the same. I miss seeing his face in the mornings, the way he smelt and hearing him breath at night. . .
His nieces and nephews will never get to see their fun loving, giving , kind and gentle uncle at family events. His eldest niece will go without him at her wedding as well. He was a father figure to her. His sisters now grieve both the death of their mother, and their brother, and no longer have him to lean on. His cousins will miss his laugh during nights of playing board games, and Killer Bunnies. His aunt’s and uncles will miss their highly intelligent nephew, and hearing him talk about science and facts that only he knew about. His father now has to carry with him the scar of losing his only son, his child. His best friends will miss his conversations and knowledge sharing at beer and wing nights. And we will all miss his goofiness that made us laugh authentically. He was a beautiful man.
And these are the things that are going to make us suffer until our own time has come. Bipolar is a bitch and I hate it. I hate that I have to live the rest of my life without him in this world. I hate that my children have to as well. I hate that his dad has become physically unwell because his grief was so deep. I hate that we all have to carry this with us daily.
But I made a promise, so I need to honour it even when my own suffering becomes too much. I promise to honour him during these difficult times; by listening to his favorite music, walking by the river, by talking about him, or by making amends with those who have hurt me or our children. I promise to remember him for who he was, not what the illness made him.
And I promise to continue to talk openly and honestly about suicide, mental illness, my grief in hopes the conversations will bring awareness to others. I made the pact and I will do my best to keep it, even when my own suffering from missing him leaves me paralyzed in bed.
If you are considering suicide, please get help. Please know, your pain won’t end when you die, it will continue to be carried by those left behind, and it will run so much deeper than you will ever know. Reach out, let those who love you help you carry your pain now, while you are here. Wait. It can get better. Reach out and get support and help. You don’t have to suffer alone.