Chris Cornell: When Suicide Doesn’t Make Sense

Sometimes, people commit suicide and we are able to make some sense of why it happened. It’s scary and upsets our world, but on a basic level we think we understand.  Robin William’s suicide comes to mind. He had a history of depression and his health was failing. Oh how we all wish he could have found more help, but I don’t think it was as much surprising as it was devastating and sad for the millions who loved him when he died.

Then there are suicides that make no sense. The idea doesn’t fit with how we see the individual’s personal life or fit with how they describe their life in public.  The partner or other loved ones are shocked and usually vehemently deny that the person was acting suicidal. Society likes to look for something deeper when they hear that the person wasn’t outwardly suicidal. A possible secret life or maybe the person was lying to everyone.

I have a different opinion based on very personal experience that I would like to share.

There are many kinds of suicides. Some are societal or culturally based and accepted such as seppuku, part of the Japanese samurai bushido code of honor. For some, suicide is an act of loneliness and despair that fits with what is actually happening in life. This is suicide in reaction to life events.

Then there is suicide from an ill brain. I call this brain chemical suicide. These are the people who ‘have it all.’ Who are getting their jobs done and sharing their lives with the public. People like Chris Cornell.

How can people who seem to have it all possibly take their lives?

In order to answer this question, we need to better understand suicide as a symptom of an illness. Instead of thinking of suicide as a conscious choice that happens when someone doesn’t want to live anymore, we need to see the other side of suicide. The kind of suicidal life I experience.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors from an illness.

You can easily read about me online. I’m one of the top bipolar disorder writers in the world with over 450,000 books sold. I teach bipolar disorder management. I’m incredibly open about my daily struggles with this illness. By any standard, I’ve got my bipolar act together. My relationships are stable. I teach the people around me to help me. I get on with life despite many physical health obstacles. I help others who are suicidal. I know what affect my suicide would have on my readers. You would think this would keep me immune from suicidal episodes.

It doesn’t.

Last year I moved to the South of France to reach a dream. I did it! I started school and began balancing my work and school life. It was going well. One day, I was sitting in my room in Cannes. I could literally hear the waves of the Mediterranean sea outside my window. I saw gorgeous orange and yellow buildings with clay tiles. I heard the amazing sound of trains traveling from Paris going by my window. It was heaven. I had been a bit depressed for a few days, but just assumed it was from the big change I had in life. Overall, I knew I had made the right decision.

And then, I heard a overly persuasive voice say, “Julie, jump out of your window. Jump out now.” At the same time,  I had an intense feeling and belief that all would be better in my life if I just killed myself. It felt as real and normal as having an inclination to go to the beach. There was nothing and I do mean nothing personal in my life to justify this kind of feeling. If you looked at my life in the moment, it made NO sense that I was suicidal.

But there was something in my brain that made sense of the situation. My mood disorder comes with suicidal depression. It gets triggered. I don’t have to be down or upset. It just happens when it gets triggered. It feels as real as breathing. I hear the voice, have the thought and in my case see a movie of myself jumping all at once. Something in me simply yells, “Do it Julie! Do it!”

It’s visceral. It’s magnetic and hypnotic and REAL. Brain chemicals are far more powerful than any drug and when mine go off, I get suicidal. I’ve come close to dying many times.

A few minutes later, the suicide plan I created for myself 20 years ago allowed me to see through this chemical episode and I got immediate help. Not everyone has a plan to counteract chemical suicidal thoughts, but I do.

When you don’t have a plan that helps these sudden and inexplicable suicidal thoughts, the resulting suicide can never be explained by what is going on in life.

The chemicals win in these situations. The illness wins. It’s not about killing ourselves. It’s about an illness killing us.

That is a different kind of suicide.

I am not a likely suicidal candidate if you look at my life. But I am a likely suicidal candidate if you look at my illness. There was nothing going on in that room last year to in any way explain the thought of jumping out my window, except illness.

I remember sitting there alone, after I had the thought that I was going to jump out of my window. I started to cry and I said to myself, “Oh my God. I’m a lot sicker than I thought I was.” It took me a few days to figure out that I was having a chemical brain reaction to a new sleep medication. I stopped the medication and the suicidal thoughts were completely gone in two days. I was very suicidal for a week and could easily have died at one of the happiest times of my life.

Chris Cornell talked openly about depression. It’s an illness that never really goes away. We can perform through it. Have kids and write books and songs and make millions happy with our work, but it’s always there for some of us. We understand this about diabetes and heart problems and some cancers. Why can’t we understand this about depression?

You may read about Chris Cornell and ask yourself, “How could someone who is married with three beautiful children, in one of the biggest bands in the world, who had literally just finished an incredibly successful live show go to his room and kill himself?”

If he has a brain like mine. He was sick and his brain was triggered into a suicidal episode.  It may have had nothing to do with his amazing life. Sometimes an illness is simply stronger than the person. Sometimes medications mess with our sensitive brain chemicals.

The idea that suicidal ideation leaves people alone when they create a good life is an absolute lie.

The idea that being in love and having beautiful kids you would die for is going to prevent suicidal thoughts is a lie.

Sometimes this illness is too strong and it kills someone just as if that person had died of a heart attack.

I didn’t know Chris Cornell, but I do know why some people who seem to have everything take their own lives. I have no idea what was going on in his relationships, but I do know what was going on in his brain.

I’m often overwhelmed with the doom and gloom surrounding the topic of suicide. The hushed tones and the shame are misplaced. When we understand and treat suicidal behavior as a physical illness we will truly end our suicide epidemic.

When we talk openly about the chemical side of suicidal thoughts, we teach people in the deepest moment of suicidal ideation to step back, just as if they were having the signs of a stroke and say, “Wait! This is not me and it is not what I want. I need immediate help.”

I didn’t listen to the voice telling me to jump out of the window, not because I am stronger than others. I have no more strength than anyone. I didn’t listen because I had taught myself that this is what happens when my depressed bipolar brain gets sick. We can teach others to do the same.

Chris Cornell. You will always be in my memory. You came out on stage in black leather pants with a white shirt and a camel colored jacket. You were fly. The bomb! And then you sang and my brother and I went to another world. You are loved.

Julie 

Click here to read  Chris Cornell’s Wife Issues Statement, Blames Anxiety Medicine for Suicide “When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words,” Vicky Cornell says. “He was different” from Rolling Stone Magazine. 

Join me on Facebook at Julie A. Fast and Julie A. Fast Books

After you enjoy the posts on this blog, I hope you will join me on Facebook and leave your comments on my more personal posts. I also do a weekly Q&A session on Facebook that is a lot of fun! Click here to read one of my posts about athletes and mental health. Facebook readers help me with research. Here’s an example regarding bipolar disorder and focus problems.

Click here to read a Q&A session.  The questions and answers are posted in the comments below the post.

The best way to reach me with your bipolar disorder questions is through one of my live sessions! My next session is

Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 4:00 PM PST. Details are on my Facebook page.

Julie

 

Bipolar Happens! Receives Best Individual Bipolar Disorder Blog on the Web Award from HealthLine

I have some great news. My blog BipolarHappens! received a top blog award from the HealthLine website. This is quite an honor and one I want to embrace with great gusto.

Thank you to HealthLine and congratulations to my fellow award winners.

Click here to read the full list of The Best Bipolar Disorder Blogs of the Year from HealthLine and the other great bipolar disorder bloggers including Bp Magazine!

Julie

BIPOLAR DISORDER MANIA 101: Do you know the difference between dysphoric and euphoric mania?

shopping cart mania 50Here’s the basic info about bipolar disorder mania. It’s MANIA 101!

 I’ve decided to label mania each time I talk about it. All of the different terms we use can be confusing, dysphoric, mixed and euphoric, for example!

Let’s start at the beginning.  There are two levels of mania: hypomania and full blown mania.

People with bipolar disorder II (two)  have hypomania only. People with bipolar disorder I (one)  have hyomania and the very dangerous and very life disrupting full blown mania. I have bipolar disorder two, but I’m one of the unfortunates- My type of hypomania is right on the verge of full blown mania. If I ever do move into full blown mania, I will then have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder one.  Fingers crossed that never happens!

Within these levels of hypomania and mania, there are two types of mania: Euphoric and Dysphoric mania. It’s simple to describe the difference between the two.

 

What are the signs and symptoms of euphoric mania?

Elips speech red 50uphoric mania feels better than the greatest sex a person can have. It feels like falling in love, getting a dream job, winning an Oscar, traveling the world and seeing flowers bloom.  You get the picture.  People with bipolar disorder  get these feelings without any of the actual events. People tell me that cocaine has a similar feeling, but unless you have experienced euphoric mania, you will not understand how good it feels. It feels so good it gets people with bipolar disorder into a lot of trouble. I met my boyfriends and two husbands while manic- then they had to deal with my depression! Wonderful guys- they stuck with me- until I left! Often when manic. (In case this sounds stressful- I should let you know that this is NOT my pattern now. The Health Cards helped me cure that manic behavior!) 

When the euphoric mania strikes,  I’m more artistic, sing karaoke with no stage awkwardness, talk with anyone and I mean anyone, can pick up any guy and talk so fast it’s hard to stop myself, but I donl’t really want to stop because it feels so darn good!

 What are the signs and symptoms of dysphoric mania?

 Now for the tough, tough, awful dysphoric hypomania and mania. It’s easy to describe this mania  as well- it’s often called a MIXED STATE because it’s a combination of the very high energy of hypomania and mania combined with agitated depression. There is no feeling of good will or peace or fun- it never feels good.  The body is restless, jumpy and the mind is always irritated, often aggressive and swirling like a blender full of ickiness! Once again, there is little way to describe it unless you have experienced it.

mania dysphoric

Dysphoric mania is often mean, accusatory, unreasonable and fickle. Nothing is every right with life when you are dysphoric manic. I had a big episode a few years ago where almost every moment of the day I thought- I have to leave Portland. I must get out. My life is terrible -people are terrible- moving is all I can do. Luckily, I once again had the Health Cards and they got me through it. Much of this episode was internal. I wrote about it in my Bp Magazine column.  Dysphoric mania has a high rate of road rage and suicide. Most of the people in jail who have bipolar disorder are there because of a full blown dysphoric manic episode. 

Both levels of mania and both types of mania have some very specific and shared symptoms.  1. It’s extremely and I do mean extremely hard to see that you’re manic. 2. Pressured speech. That’s why I used the mouth graphic for this blog post! 3. Need a lot less sleep, but are never tired the next day. 4. Increase in non thought through and unsafe behaviors- such as driving way too fast or sleeping with someone you don’t know- something you would not do normally. 4. The behavior is not part of your life while stable.

There are many more symptoms of course, but those are the main ones the two have in common!  One thing I should add- there is one very big difference between the levels of mania: people in a full blown manic episode often have full blown psychosis. This is especially true with dysphoric full blown mania. Hypomania rarely has any psychosis.

My book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder has an excellent description of mania- as well as a management plan. To be honest, I work well when I’m mildly to moderately depressed- but mania! Wow, like anxiety, it’s tough to recognize and treat. This is why preventing euphoric and dysphoric hypomania and mania is the ONLY treatment path that works!

If you have mania, I wrote a lot on my Julie A. Fast Facebook page about my last euphoric and very funny episode – involving the picture below.  Mania can be managed, but it has a nasty way of slipping back into your life when you least expect it!

Julie

 

PS: Mania and Depression are two side of the bipolar disorder coin. One is not better or worse than the other- they are both BAD. I’m putting this picture on here again. I write books on bipolar disorder. I’m pretty good at managing my symptoms, but mania is a tricky, tricky mood swing- I look at the cart below and realize I went merrily through an entire store and didn’t realize I was manic until I woke up out of my daze at the check out stand. Wow, we have to have a plan in place to stay stable- mania is too strong to just wait and see what happens!

shopping cart mania 50

 

 

 

 

Bipolar Disorder and Psychosis: Yes, we can have paranoid delusions!

Here is an example the BipolarHappens.com Newsletter   

Today’s Topic:  Bipolar Disorder and Paranoid Delusions

 

by Julie A. Fast

Paranoia is a type of psychosis called a delusion. A delusion is a false belief.

For example, paranoia can be the belief that you have done something wrong and that a person or an organization is upset with you. This is a scary experience as it feels so real.

Paranoia used to really cause me a lot of trouble. I’ve worked hard so that I can at least recognize paranoia before it makes me do something stupid.

I often get the feeling that my friends are ignoring me and that they have met friends they like a lot better than myself. It’s a terrible experience. Luckily, I know the signs of paranoia and don’t act on them, instead I call my friends and ask them to hang out.  When they say yes, I know that all is fine. My friends are the type who will tell me if something is wrong- so my paranoia is always rooted in bipolar disorder and not reality.

Paranoid delusions are FALSE, but you have to be careful because they are VERY sneaky. 

– Paranoid worry is often based on at least some factual evidence which makes it hard to figure out what is really happening. 

– Paranoia does not stand up to factual questioning- but for the person in the paranoid episode, it feels more real than anything they have ever experienced. If you try to talk a paranoid person out of their beliefs, it won’t work.  It’s like trying to convince someone that the sky isn’t blue.

Here are some examples of paranoia. Have you seen these in yourself or your loved ones?

1. Believing that someone is standing across the street staring at you through your apartment window, but when you look outside, there is no one there.

2. Feeling with great certainty that your coworkers have a plan to get you fired. You know this because when they are in a group and you walk up to them, they all scatter in different directions without saying hi.

3. Once, when my former partner Ivan was in the hospital, he was very, very paranoid. I went in one day to say hello and he looked at me and said, “Why is your face so red? Have you been doing something wrong that you aren’t telling me?” True paranoia. He told me later that he really believed  I was seeing someone while he was in the hospital. 

When you are well, these thoughts never even come up. You know there is no one outside and you know that your colleagues wouldn’t have time to plot against you even if they wanted to! They simply go back to their desks when they finish a conversation. You are not the focus of their day.

Paranoia is dangerous when the person takes action such as calling the cops on a neighbor or trying to break into their own office building to find cameras directed at their desk. 

What is the best treatment for paranoia? The first step is a symptom management plan like I teach in the Health Cards and Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder. Once you have identified the symptoms, you can get help.  I use a combination of my trigger management plan, lifestyle changes and medications to manage my psychosis. Anti psychotics work well- the lower the dose the better due to the side effects. Paranoid symptoms must be caught early so they don’t move into destructive behavior.

Education and prevention are key!

This is what I have done, so it’s possible to stay stable and steady when you live with psychosis. 

Julie

PS: There is a nice man I sit next to in Starbucks who has a lot of paranoia. It mostly comes out when he is reading the paper. He says all of this very quietly. 

They are rearranging everything to see you.  It’s the big pharmaceutical companies. What are they not telling you? Look at that picture all of those men. Too much stuff. It’s garbage. It’s all it can be. There is no reason to be there anyway. There is no reason to be there. It’s a prison.  All that stuff- 10s of billions. (Laughs.)  I’m not gonna hang around for Obama Clinton.  They do not acknowledge a single one- not one. Like the Tea Party. My mind is made up.

When he talks with friends- he still has the paranoid thinking, but it sounds more like an average conversation. His paranoia is around big pharma and I can understand that! 

 

Julie 

               

 

 

What I Do When I Can Tell I’m Getting Depressed or Manic

1. I feel a bit sad for myself and upset and worried and lonely and scared and bummed out and pissed and…… you get the idea.

2. I ALWAYS look for a trigger. If I can find the trigger, I change the trigger. This is always upsetting because my trigger is usually doing too much work and I LOVE to work.

3. If it’s depression, I do everything possible to stay out of bed and keep myself from isolating. I use the ideas in Get it Done When You’re Depressed ever minute I’m depressed. There are a lot of ideas in this book that work immediately and I truly use them.

4. If it’s mania, I work on my sleep first. If I can’t get it to calm down with my management plan, I take 5mg of lithium orotate and that often knocks is out.

I HATE getting sick. But it’s ok. I will survive. I stop it early now. I am so much better than in the past.

I have to adapt to the hand that life deals me.

Julie

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