Friends with no Faces

I’ve been toying with the idea of becoming an advocate for mental health issues for a while. I interact with the public everyday with my job, and to say there is a stigma about people with mental disorders is putting it mildly. I keep my mouth shut and pretend that I don’t feel an invisible slap in the face whenever a client gossips about some “crazy bipolar person”. I’ve been dealing with bipolar disorder for the majority of my life.

I have a friend who is a nurse. She’s a great friend and I like her a lot. I revealed my illness to her last summer when I was going through a particularly bad mood cycle, and she was very supportive and she still is. However. I jokingly remarked that I was afraid that no one would let my son come over to their house if it got out that I had bipolar disorder. I didn’t expect her to agree with me! She said, “Oh Lord, girl, you’d better not let that shit get out…they won’t let him”! We come from a small town, but, damn!

So, I figured I’d wait two more years until my son graduated from high school before I “outed myself”, which is stupid I know. I don’t want him to have to deal with any crap from any of these small-minded people. Right or wrong, that’s what I think is best. I never claimed to be brave.

Some things have happened since then…

Like I mentioned before, I had a rough patch last summer. It was the first time I had experienced rapid cycling. The cycles were lasting about a week and then I would start another cycle. It was horrible. I guess it went on for about a month or so before my doctor helped me get stable, and I haven’t had any major cycles since then.

Consequently, for the past year, I have had no interest in blogging myself, or reading anybody else’s blogs. I found these things extremely helpful when I was depressed. It was like a support group for people like me. I don’t know anyone outside of the blog world that has any mental issues like me. But when I’m not depressed, I think it reminds me of when I was, and I don’t want to go there. I don’t know if I’m scared it’ll trigger depression, or just make me sad. I don’t like thinking about those days. I have nothing to blog about either, so I just stayed away from this place and didn’t give much thought to it.

Then, about six weeks ago, my husband’s first cousin’s 25-year old son committed suicide. He left behind two young sons and a beautiful wife. Obviously, the whole family is devastated. They are all absolutely heartbroken. We grieved and cried and prayed. This young man struggled with addiction and mental illness his whole life. His mom refers to his “demons”. He was always fighting his demons.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and out of the blue I get an email from one of the blogs I still followed. Back in the rough days, I connected with a few bloggers, and I guess you could call us friends. Blog friends lol. This email was an announcement from someone that Ruby Pipes had died January 29th of this year. What?! She committed suicide. What?! Well, what the hell did I know? I hadn’t been on WordPress in a fucking year, so I had no idea what was going on with Ruby anymore. She was my blog friend. I couldn’t wait to tell her I bought her book on Amazon. We supported and encouraged each other when we were down. I knew the battle she was fighting and she knew mine. I know there are countless others that were friends with Ruby as well, and benefited from her kindness and encouragement. I was in shock and disbelief. Then I cried. I cried and I cried. For this person that I didn’t even know. I don’t think I even knew what she looked like.

But Ruby was like me. Like us! It’s like we’re all holding hands on the edge of a bridge trying not to jump. “Don’t do it!” “It’ll get better!” “You are loved”! “We’re here for you”, we all yell to each other.

But we lost one. She jumped. We lost a precious soul, a kind and giving soul that reached out to others to give support when she could hardly keep her own head up.

I’m thinking about Ruby, and our young cousin, and thinking about how tragic it all is. I’ve been in that place where I hurt so much I just want the pain to end. You’re tired. So tired. Mental illness is real and it’s not our fault.   We shouldn’t have to hide in the shadows and keep it a secret for fear of judgement and discrimination.

I think I should get back on my blog and try to stay involved in this little community. This little support group. After all, it’s people like me. I can offer support to others like they did for me not too long ago. If I’m going to stand up for this community in the not too far off future, I’ve got to learn how to live in this community when I’m well, not just when I’m sick. I have to be able to look at these illnesses, right in the eye, talk about them, and try to get stronger. I’ve got a lot of growing to do, and hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot more of me.

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