The Reality Check.

When I write these articles I often find that the therapeutic value to me insulates me to the reality of my bipolar to a great degree.  I find solace when I am down and joy during my up days and when people are kind enough to email me with their comments about an article, there is a sense of maybe helping some one at the same time.

This week reality reared its ugly head and I felt guilty at sometimes forgetting the amount of pain out there among my fellow friends and sufferers and their families.

The first instance came from an email written by a mother trying to cope with the suicide of her 14 year old daughter a few months ago.  She had seen my article ‘Suicide Is Painless’ on the Bipolarworld site and it had struck home with her as she and the family are trying to come to terms with this tragedy.

Here is an extract used with permission with identifying names, country and location etc., taken out.

I read your article on the bipolar web site. You are the only person that I have read about and referred to the MASH theme song.


My 14 year old daughter, suicided 12 weeks ago on the 4th of August this year. We played that song at her funeral and raised a few eyebrows. To me it was her song and she truly believed suicide was painless, maybe for her but not for us.


We are devastated by her death, we had 3 girls and she was the youngest.


She was not diagnosed with any illness but I have been reading a fair bit and now I wonder. I don’t know 'why' and never will. Of course this haunts me as I constantly think was there something we could have done.


We moved 20 months ago and she had to change schools. To me that was the trigger, she hated our new home and use to tell us so and disliked her new school and also told us this fact. We just never realised how much.


She loved the MASH episodes and had the MASH movie on video. The words to, 'Suicide is Painless', was printed out on her wall in her room. We even put a copy in her coffin with her.


‘Through early morning fog I see, changes that are meant to be’ is a line from the song, to me this signifies why she suicided in winter at approx. 2.00-3.00am and outside. This song had a profound effect on her and I now find it very difficult to watch any episodes of MASH.

I get quite a few emails but this one really got through my guard.  I sat at the computer and read and re-read it a number of times.  Finally, through the tears welling up in my eyes, I tried to compose a reply to this distraught mother.

I saw through this email the scene that my family would have faced if I had have gone ahead with my plan and had not been distracted.  I felt again the anguish and pain of not knowing ‘why’; and the ‘what if’s’ that they would have been going through.  And I felt guilty that I had become perhaps, too distanced from the real reason I write, that is, to help others find something in common and to share, so that life becomes easier.  Was I becoming too focussed on what I get out of the writing?

That short email back to the family was the hardest piece of writing that I have ever done!  I just hope and pray that what I wrote may have been of some help,

The next reality check was yesterday at work.  For those who don’t know – I run a security team at an oil refinery and have to organise extra staff when ships come and go into our wharves.  Don’t laugh!  Being slightly paranoid actually helps in this industry!!!

Anyway, one of my guards who was rostered on to work a normal 12 hour shift last night rang me very upset and distraught.   You see, he had just found out as he got to get ready for the night shift, that a good friend of his, also in the industry, had killed himself on Friday.

He knew that his friend had been depressed at being out of work for a while but had no idea that he felt that bad.  The usual sense of guilt came out as he talked about how he should have known something was wrong and should have visited him the day before and maybe he wouldn’t have done it then.  I think you understand what was going through his mind.

I tried to put him at rest a little and assured him that his shift would be covered.  The only good thing that came out of this situation was finding out that his daughter has bipolar and so we spoke about some common things.

I was shaken up quite a bit by these two situations and as I have been at work today, on a quiet Sunday, I realised how fragile my mortality is.  How fragile sometimes my grip on life really is when faced with what can be thrown at me.

How I need to never take things for granted and to enjoy every day that turns out okay.  To be grateful for every day that I wake up – even if it is a real struggle through the day, for it means that I have succeeded in living another day.

My life has taken on an aspect I haven’t felt for long time, one of caution, wariness and yet of hope.  I have been re-evaluating my life for a while, as I am sure we are all prone to do, and realised that I need to care more about the really important things and less about the more intrusive but less important issues that clog my life at times.

Issues such as taking time out to help others when I can, and to be grateful for the help I receive when I need it.  Making sure that I allow time for my batteries to recharge too as well and any thing else.

These two reality checks have helped cement a decision that my wife and I have been thinking about for a long while.  That is; we are planning to take 18 months to 2 years time out next year to do volunteer work that we wanted to do when we retire, and not leave it too late.  No this is not the mania or; fatalism talking.  We just feel that it is time for us.

The unfortunate thing for my lucky readers is that I’m sorry – I will still be writing my ramblings for you!  So just when you thought it was safe to check Bipolarworld – I will still be here!!!

The real moral of this article is very simple:  1. Don’t blame yourself for situations that you have no control over and; 2. Let some one know if you are not coping, crack the mask and let them in before it is too late.  PLEASE.

Graham Brown

2 November 2003

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