Nineteen years ago – at about this time of the year – my brother made a suicide attempt.
Thank all the gods, he had second thoughts and called 911 before it was too late.
I had called my parents just to say hello and check in – and that was how I found out.
“S is in the hospital,” my dad said. And later – when I asked what happened: “He tried to kill himself.”
I was stunned. I never would have suspected. My little brother always seemed to me to be in a disgustingly good mood – even when nobody else thought the circumstances warranted it.
He was always the funniest guy in the room. He’s super-smart, and a smartass as well. In my family, if you’re considered a smartass, that’s a compliment. As S himself once said, it’s better to be a smartass than a dumbass.
So – a suicide attempt? I always thought I was the one who might end up doing that. At that time I was just out of my tempestuous 20s (preceded by my teen years, just as difficult.) I also suffered from episodes of depression from time to time.
But as I learned more about bipolar disorder, the pieces started to fit.
Symptoms of a manic episode:
– excessive happiness
– increased energy
– less need for sleep
– racing thoughts
– high sex drive
– tendency to make grand and unattainable plans.
And from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH)
Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include:
– An overly long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood
– Extreme irritability.
– Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
– Being unusually distracted
– Increasing activities, such as taking on multiple new projects
– Being overly restless
– Sleeping little or not being tired
– Having an unrealistic belief in your abilities
– Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors.
Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:
– An overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless
– Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
– Feeling overly tired or “slowed down”
– Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
– Being restless or irritable
– Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
– Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.
Yeah. It fitted with some of the things S did.
Staying up really late (like 3:00 AM on a weeknight) with no apparent ill effects.
Having so many cool ideas all at once that it was impossible to catch all of them – but being determined to try. Even the far-fetched ones.
Being so funny that he could have blown away the audience at a comedy club. Just off-the-cuff, high energy humor with no punches pulled.
Being crazy optimistic. Even when optimism was not realistic.
In S’s case – running up huge debts.
That was the S I knew. And apparently, when he got very energetic and optimistic – that was probably a manic episode.
I almost never saw him on the down side of the cycle. Sure, he got in some bad moods as a teen – but don’t we all? Just as I thought his energy and optimism and humor were his normal personality – I also chalked up his lows as the normal blue moods that hit everybody – but especially people in their teens and 20s.
His story has a good sequel: he got the treatment he needed. He’s now almost 45 years old, a successful professional with two master’s degrees, a homeowner, and a proud dad of two.
If you know somebody whose behavior sounds like this – or if you see it in yourself – PLEASE get it checked out. Start with your primary care doctor and ask about bipolar disorder.
S was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t lose S – and I don’t want to lose anyone else.
Posted by SmartKat at 09:04 on July 1st, 2014 at 9:04AM
This Blog Entry’s Comment Board (2 comments)
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Posted on 08:51PM on Aug 25th, 2014
Hi Kat – my wife was diagnosed with it among a numbes of other things – she’s usually in the depressed stage but today is the 10th anniversary of a major manic phase that put her in hospital.
Thanks for this – it’s nice but also sad that someone else understands.
Posted on 07:02PM on Oct 7th, 2014
had a girlfriend like that for 5 years too