Daily Archives: September 10, 2017

World Suicide Prevention Day

My very beloved brother, Farooq, committed suicide at the age of 26. He had bipolar disorder, unfortunately he never quite got a handle on this awful illness. He went into a severe depression and we lost him forever on June 21st, 1991. One of the saddest days in my life and in the lives of my family.

That’s why this day is important, to shed light on this devastating act, to help prevent it, to help people who may be considering this tragic action. There are resources below and here is a link for resources in North America: https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/North_America/

If you are thinking about taking your own life, please don’t. It truly is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Please get help. I’m sure you will be happy that you did.


World Suicide Prevention Day 2017

Welcome to the Official World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 Website!

Every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt. Behind these statistics are the individual stories of those who have, for many different reasons, questioned the value of their own lives.

Each one of these individuals is part of a community. Some may be well linked in to this community, and have a network of family, friends and work colleagues or school mates. Others may be less well connected, and some may be quite isolated. Regardless of the circumstances, communities have an important role to play in supporting those who are vulnerable.

This sentiment is reflected in the theme of the 2017 World Suicide Prevention Day: ‘Take a minute, change a life.’ As members of communities, it is our responsibility to look out for those who may be struggling, check in with them, and encourage them to tell their story in their own way and at their own pace. Offering a gentle word of support and listening in a non-judgemental way can make all the difference.

Taking a minute can change a life

People who have lived through a suicide attempt have much to teach us about how the words and actions of others are important. They often talk movingly about reaching the point where they could see no alternative but to take their own life, and about the days, hours and minutes leading up to this. They often describe realising that they did not want to die but instead wanted someone to intervene and stop them. Many say that they actively sought someone who would sense their despair and ask them whether they were okay.

Sometimes they say that they made a pact with themselves that if someone did ask if they were okay, they would tell them everything and allow them to intervene. Sadly, they often reflect that no one asked.

The individuals telling these stories are inspirational. Many of them recount reaching the point where they did try to take their own lives, and tell about coming through it. Many of them are now working as advocates for suicide prevention. Almost universally, they say that if someone had taken a minute, the trajectory that they were on could have been interrupted.

Life is precious and sometimes precarious. Taking a minute to reach out to someone – a complete stranger or close family member or friend – can change the course of their life.

No one has to have all the answers

People are often reluctant to intervene, even if they are quite concerned about someone. There are many reasons for this, not least that they fear they will not know what to say. It is important to remember, however, that there is no hard and fast formula. Individuals who have come through an episode of severe suicidal thinking often say that they were not looking for specific advice, but that compassion and empathy from others helped to turn things around for them and point them towards recovery.

Another factor that deters people from starting the conversation is that they worry that they may make the situation worse. Again, this hesitation is understandable; broaching the topic of suicide is difficult and there is a myth that talking about suicide with someone can put the idea into their head or trigger the act.

The evidence suggests that this is not the case. Being caring and listening with a non-judgemental ear are far more likely to reduce distress than exacerbate it.

Resources are available

There are various well-established resources that are designed to equip people to communicate effectively with those who might be vulnerable to suicide. Mental Health First Aid, for example, is premised on the idea that many people know what to do if they encounter someone who has had a physical health emergency, like a heart attack (dial an ambulance, administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation), but feel out of their depth if they are faced with someone experiencing a mental or emotional crisis. Mental Health First Aid teaches a range of skills, including how to provide initial support to someone in these circumstances. There are numerous other examples too; relevant resources can be found on the websites of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (https://www.iasp.info/resources) and the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int).

Join in on World Suicide Prevention Day

2017 marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day. The day was first recognised in 2003, as an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and endorsed by the World Health Organization. World Suicide Prevention Day takes place each year on September 10.

On September 10, join with others around the world who are working towards the common goal of preventing suicide. Show your support by taking part in our Cycle Around the Globe campaign aimed at raising awareness through community action. Find out what local activities have been scheduled as well – or initiate one yourself!

Finally, if there is anyone you are concerned about, take a minute to check in with them. It could change their life.

Ride with us! World Suicide Prevention Day – Cycle Around the Globe: https://goo.gl/DFZCE3

Flesh Yogurt

After 3 weeks living in the petri dish my brain feels like flesh yogurt. Melted. Oozing Liquified. Yesterday was the proof, I had hit a wall and I spent the day in bed with a churning stomach ache, dreading the week to come. Because I tried to reason with R about the toll this minion helper thing is taking on me and he was just in his own world, as usual, smooth talking like he was the victim and I was the one trampling him and getting all these benefits. I tried to explain the instability he was passing onto me with his ‘real job, laid, off, shop, real job, et al’ was crushing me and next lay off, I won’t do it again.

Haven’t heard from him since, think maybe I pissed him off and he’s gonna tell me to fuck off. Hmm. One can hope. Losing child support did hurt, but I can adapt and make sacrifices. I’ll duct tape my damn car window up for winter if need be. It’s not worth the toll the anxiety is taking on me. Seriously, if I were stable enough to work, I’d give up the stress of praying my disability doesn’t get yanked out from under me and I’d go make at least minimum wage at a job with a real schedule that doesn’t include 3 calls between 9-11p.m. thus furth disrupting my life.

Yesterday truly scared me. I felt hungover but I wasn’t. I felt like I’d had food poisoning mixed with the flu but I didn’t. I was so wiped, it was all I could do to shamble about feeding my kid and tending to her demands and dramas. I would sit up, lay down, curl up in digestive agony, starving yet afraid to eat anything lest it make the pain worse.This has always been my physical response to too much anxiety and input. I short circuit but rather than a total breakdown, it manifests with stomach aches, headaches, grogginess, exhaustion, all over body bruise sensations.And everything felt surreal, like I was nodding off then snapping back to reality, trying to figure out if I’d nodded off 10 seconds and dreamt something rather than it actually happeing. It was scary because it’s rarely ever been like that for me, to that extent.

I need to put the brakes on. Stop caring more about his friendship than my mental well being. A true friend would see me crumbling and give enough of a damn to say, “Hey, I get it, you need to walk away for awhile.” I’ve had actual employers show that much empathy and schedule me off four days in a row just so I wouldn’t disintegrate. But because he sees it as low impact and me doing ‘nothing’ but sitting in the shop, he won’t face that even that much takes a toll on me that is unhealthy in every way.

It was all I could do to survive til bedtime yesterday and my kid was wired, of course. I managed to get us both fed and showered. By 9 p.m. I was nodding off in bed and she was still up and about every five minutes complaining she couldn’t sleep which woke me three or four times and that agitated me but not enough to keep me awake. I was tapped out. Her friend drama all day long while nursing the physical illness had really knocked me down further that rabbit hole.

Today has been slightly better, even though the stomach ache remains. I did dishes and washed 4 loads of laundry while she was at church. (And got hit on at the tobacco store which makes me nervous cos well, I don’t do social and for all I know, he’s not a serial killer or sperm donating sociopath, but hey, I’m damaged and I don’t trust people and…Yeah, I’m gonna scare him off even if I don’t mean to. But…If someone could find me appealing in my current state, I figure I should at least have a conversation with the guy…And he knows where I live cos apparently he lives out here too, so…no hiding.) I took Spook to my mom’s after church to avoid her friend drama and give myself a break. Then I took my meds and got woozy and basically, I feel like shit whereas before meds I didn’t…I am slapping a box of dollar hair dye on cos I was mistaken as my kid’s grandmother at a yard sale so yep, gray roots gotta go…

I am curious what the deal is with R, I was supposed to get a text yesterday to meet at the shop so he could prattle about what he wants done. Never came, still haven’t heard a word. Either way, whatever. I said one more week, I’ll keep my word if need be. If he tells me to fuck off…parade time. Yeah, it is that stressful.

I know I don’t ever want to have another day like yesterday and I have a feeling 5 days a week dish dwelling at the mercy of his schedule is just going to amount to a lot more of agony filled Saturdays while I try to recover and reboot. There’s a reason it’s called a disability. I have many good qualities, I am very smart and creative (well, sorta smart) but the anxiety feeds the depression so the key to battling the depression to is minimalize anxiety where I can.

I should probably just crawl into a grave and pull dirt over myself, probably the only escape from this hellish anxiety disorder. God knows life isn’t going to cut me any slack nor apparently is my so called friend.

Flesh yogurt. Yum. NOT.


Have you heard about “13 Reasons Why” yet?  It’s a 2007 novel written by Jay Asher that details a teenage girl’s suicide after a series of demoralizing circumstances.  It’s been adapted to a Netflix series with thirteen episodes, each focusing on a reason the girl kills herself.  The series is being praised in some quarters for its honesty, while reviled in others because of its graphic portrayal of the suicide itself, the romantic treatment it gives the characters, and for a lack of information about mental health supports available in the community for people who feel helpless about saving themselves.     

 But I decided that instead of using my voice to denounce someone else’s artistic vision, I would use my voice to promote a more supportive and informative alternative by producing an essay that gives those of us who have considered suicide but rejected it a voice as well.

            I’ve been suicidal on several occasions but always one or more of these reasons held me back from going through with it.  I’ve written them down as a list that I keep around reminding me that my life is worth living.  The key is to list as many reasons as your age as a way to honor each year you’ve spent living on this earth.  So some lists may be 40, others 54, or 38 or 13.

My scariest suicidal attempt was in 2010.   I’ve never shot myself, slit my wrists, or overdosed on drugs.  But one day in November 2010, I did make a serious attempt to end my life.

            I hadn’t been hospitalized that spring, and it was unusual for me to be depressed in the fall.  But I was having trouble in my writing (I wasn’t working on a project—no inspiration) and was getting a lot of rejection from various agents and journals that I was sending queries out to.   Plus the upcoming holidays usually stressed me out somewhat trying to get ready and get everything done that the American Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays seem to require.  I can tell from my journal at the time that I was feeling overwhelmed, taken for granted at home, and very, very stressed. 

            On the tenth, I finally just gave up.  I woke up that morning with no idea what I was going to do with myself.  I had already been accepted for a teaching job the next spring but was feeling very, very down, so down that I didn’t even write in my journal.  At some point after my husband left for work, I decided to see how well the enclosed-garage-with-the-motor-running trick would work.   I went and topped off my tank in my van, then came back to the house, closing the garage door behind me. 

I went inside, picked out an ocean-waves CD, grabbed my favorite quilt and a pillow, and took an extra Klonopin pill (a sedative I take for anxiety).  I went out to the van, turned on the ignition, put in the CD, laid down in the back seat, and covered myself with the quilt.  I was used to going to sleep in the mornings after everyone left, and I figured I’d be asleep and then dead in no time at all.

But I couldn’t go to sleep.  My brain was working overtime wondering what dying would feel like.  I didn’t feel the least bit sleepy—I kept trying to concentrate on the music playing, but it was hard to hear over the motor running in the enclosed garage.  I went to the front of the van and turned it up so I could hear it better, but I still couldn’t seem to settle down.  I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable lying down on the cold car seats. 

I now know my manic symptoms were finally working in my favor.  I couldn’t settle down, and by the time the CD finished playing, I was frustrated with myself and my attempt to end it all. 

I stumbled to the front of the van and turned the ignition off.  I was unsteady on my feet, and vaguely realized that I really probably didn’t have that long to get out of the van before the fumes overcame me.  I climbed out the driver’s door and hit the button to raise the garage door, letting fresh air rush into the garage.  I went outside and took a few deep breaths, then came inside, mad and frustrated with my abortive attempt to kill myself. 

After an hour, I started feeling better physically as the fresh air worked its way into my system.   I didn’t tell my husband what had happened once he got home for lunch—I was over the impulse to kill myself and didn’t want to ruin Thanksgiving by being in the hospital.  So went my only serious attempt to kill myself.

 My suicidal urges have taken different forms over the years.  So it’s only right that my reasons now for living are as varied and unique as I am.  Your mileage may vary.  But if I remind you of one reason to stick around in this life, then the list has done its job.  Move to http://www.46ReasonsWhyNot.wordpress.com and click on “Julie Whitehead” in the categories section to see my list.    

What I Wish My Loved Ones Understood When I’m Suicidal

You may not understand my pain, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.

I Don’t Want to Write About #Suicide for #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

Poem recalling suicide of extended family member and my own suicidality at 18…

Shortchanged: Bipolar Disorder and Money

I don’t know any rich people with bipolar, aside from the celebrities who struggle with it and go public. There may be some out there – there must be, statistically – but I don’t know any of them. I’m relatively well off – home, car, most bills paid, work – but even I live paycheck to paycheck. And have lived no-paycheck-to-no-paycheck in the past.

Let’s face it, having bipolar is expensive. And not conducive to making money. Here are some of the hurdles that I’ve noticed.

Insurance. The biggie. Right now I have insurance and, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it covers mental health conditions. My previous insurance, which was more expensive, and crappier, and came through my husband’s employment, did too, but not nearly as well.

So, I’m covered, but not all my doctors take my brand of insurance. Some of them will accept reduced fees (if you ask) or have a special self-pay rate. But even that doesn’t always help much. My previous psychiatrist charged me $95 and my current one $75 – and those are just for 15-minute med checks, not full 50-minute sessions. My therapist accepted $30 per for that, so I was lucky, but had no official insurance document stating that she had to give me that rate.

Medication. The other biggie. I am currently on four or five psychotropic medications, depending on how you count (and no, you don’t need to know what they are: http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-u1). One of them – you can probably guess which one – cost $800 per month when it was first prescribed to me. I got a coupon from GoodRx.com that brought it down to around $200 per month which was, if not exactly reasonable, more doable. Finally, a generic came out and the ACA kicked in, and I get the drug for $45 per month now. That would have seemed high at one time, but now sounds comparatively reasonable. But if you’re on a fixed income, watch out. Fixed income and no insurance, you’re screwed.

SSDI. Which brings us to the topic of Disability, the “safety net” that’s supposed to catch those of us who are so disabled by our mental (or physical) conditions that we’re unable to work. Good luck getting it. Most people who apply are rejected, sometimes more than once. Practically speaking, you need a lawyer to navigate the shoals for you, and one who works on contingency at that. The hoops and red tape are massive. If you’ve got depression, to pick just one example, cutting through and jumping through may be beyond your capabilities. You’d think they planned it that way, just to cut down on the number of claims they have to pay.

Mental illnesses are particularly difficult to get SSDI for. They’re “invisible illnesses,” not like blindness or paraplegia that one can’t help but notice. When and if you do get approved, the monthly payment is meager and fixed (see above), unless there is a cost-of-living raise which, given the current economy and political leadership, is increasingly unlikely.

Bipolarity. Then there’s the disease itself. Anyone with mania can probably tell you about the sometimes-ruinous spending sprees that accompany racing moods. Hell, I only get hypomania and I’ve got five custom-made dresses in my closet that I’ve never worn and now can’t because of weight gain from my psychotropics.

You’d think depression would not have much effect on your spending. But it does have a profound effect on your income. People with bipolar depression who can work part-time or from home are lucky. Others not so much. There was a period of several years when I was unable to work at all, and we ran through our savings and retirement accounts rapidly. My husband could still work, but one income quickly became insufficient to meet the bills. (Fortunately, my bipolar depression lifted enough that I’m now able to do part-time, at-home, freelance gigs, which are about as unstable as I am.)

Retirement. No IRAs left. No savings. That means Social Security, delayed as long as possible, and the aforementioned fixed income. Basically, I can never retire. I can’t afford to.

Frankly, I can’t see any of this changing anyways soon. Money trouble is just one of those things that you have to deal with along with your mental disorder. And there’s nothing like stress to make your symptoms worse.

Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, depression, disability, finances, freelance work, health insurance, mental illness, my experiences, working at home

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today, Sunday, September 10, 2017 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Started in 2003, this day is meant to educate the public about causes of suicide and how to help prevent it. Every year some 40,000 Americans take their own lives, and there are up to 25 times as many who attempt suicide or are overcome with suicidal thoughts to the point that they seek medical attention.

I was one of the latter. Those of you who have read my blog for a few years will remember how close I came to ending my life in the fall of 2014. I had lost my job, my  place in the community, and I was in the process of becoming homeless as well. I got to the point where I couldn’t face the wreck of my life anymore; I felt responsible for the suffering my husband was going through along with me. I also came to believe I was a burden to my family and friends, and that they would be better off if they didn’t have to worry about me anymore.

One morning I locked myself in the bathroom while Will was running errands in town, and I was ready to do it right then—the only thing that held me back was which method to use. I had enough pills to kill me three times over, and then there was the .38 in my dresser drawer. I knew the gun would be quicker, but where to place the shot? I imagined myself caressing my temple with it, then pointing it directly at my heart. On the other hand, I was afraid I’d screw it up somehow and live—probably spending years existing in a nursing home bed, unable to feed myself or use the bathroom on my own. And, if truth be told, I didn’t want Will to come home and find a mess.

Somehow I made it through that day. But the next day was even worse, and I finally told him how I was feeling. “I want to hurt myself,” I remember saying. His reaction was typical of a person who’s well-meaning but doesn’t know how to help: “No you don’t! Don’t say that!” But then he urged me to call my psychiatrist and said he would do it if I refused to; at this point I was so worn out and so defeated that I agreed to go to the hospital. To this day, I remain convinced that if I hadn’t been admitted, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story. That hospitalization saved my life.

Now, in spite of all I’ve been through the past 14 months, I am far from being the desperately ill woman I was then. I have not been suicidal for so much as a minute since Will passed away; as much as I miss him, I’m in no hurry to join him. There’s still a lot to be experienced here in this life. And while there’s certainly no guarantee that I’ll never fall into a serious depression again, I live with a son who knows what to look for and a son-in law who’s not afraid to tell me what he sees. I also have a few very special friends who know how to help me.

My sincere hope on this World Suicide Prevention Day is that people all over the world will make the effort to learn how to help someone in danger of dying by their own hand. Forty thousand suicides per year is forty thousand too many. But sometimes all it takes to prevent one is for you to reach out and ask someone you think might be in distress if they’re OK. And if you yourself are in trouble, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the Crisis Text Line and text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to talk to a person who is trained to help you. Don’t become a statistic!


Recovery for Introverts

I went on a business trip for 3 days to our corporate office in So. cal. I live in N. Cal. Thankfully a short and sweet plane ride. However, much longer working days than I’m used to as well as having to “perform” in a way. The role at my current job is a bit of a solo gig. Our office is quite small.
The office down south is much busier. A bustling HR department with lots of would be candidates for direct care staff coming and going. Interviews. Applications. Phones ringing off the hook. I can be bipolar bubbly and gregarious when I need to be. I know my game and can speak well when the time comes. I have over 20 years of experience in my field. I carry myself well. But, really. Truly. I’m an introvert. Perfectionist is also in my resume.
So each morning I arrived earlier than needed. Stayed longer than needed. Smiled bigger than needed. I can only work part time these days. 24 hours. My first day with travel was 12 hours and my last day with travel was 12 hours. The in between day was a solid 8 hours. I was buzzing. Running on adrenaline and expectation. On the inside. On the outside I wore my badge. Took notes. Shared information, both personal and professional. Smiled some more.
Today I am home. I slept fairly well last night. Got a great workout in. Cleaned the house a bit. But….about 3pm I crashed. I sent my husband off to a baseball game thinking I needed “me” time. But within me, myself and I, sometimes, is not the place to be. Racing thoughts I didnt present well. Intrusive thoughts of self harm. Some visions. Some voices.
Ya know. I ask myself if I’m trying to be more than I can be? Should I have known it would be too much? Was the trip truly too much? Maybe I just need more rest, less expectations for a few days. Recovery. Allow myself the idea of recovery.
Its okay. I know I did the best that I could. I may have even done better!