The voice is taxing and it’s telling me to jump. My rationale is telling me I don’t want to die. I turned up the volume of my music and put both headphones in.
Every day I walk the track wearing only one headphone and the other tucked into my shirt. I feel uncomfortable when I can’t hear my surroundings. I feel paranoid.
This day was different. It wasn’t my surroundings causing me paranoia. I was paranoid of myself. The voice was pushing me and I needed to drown it out. Should I jump? I thought. How did I get here? How did I end up contemplating suicide on the second floor of the indoor track at the Recreation Center?
I woke up feeling angry for no reason other than a chemical imbalance in my brain prompting an emotion beyond my control. It’s a suffering passed down to me through genetics. My mother died at a young age manic depressive and addicted to opioids.
My father was an abusive man filled with rage. I have no knowledge of what’s happened to him, whether he’s still alive or has passed away.
As a child I didn’t understand their behavior. As an adult I understand it far too well.
For the past week I’d been trying to skip my morning dose of Klonopin. It sedates me and I’m sluggish. I didn’t want to take it because I wanted to function. But when I woke to the sound of the alarm clock, I panicked and knew I needed a plan.
I cycled through my coping tools. I told myself if I could get my act together I’d be fine without the Klonopin. I got dressed, put my shoes on and headed out the door to the Recreation Center. I believed once I got my endorphins going it would shake off the weight of depression.
It didn’t work out that way.
The more laps I did around the track the more I panicked. I sped up my pace. I tried focusing on the red strips underneath my feet that divide the walking lanes. As I passed each window I looked out at the barren snow covered fields contrasted against a vigorous blue sky as it glistened in sunlight. Nothing calmed me.
The voice grew louder with every lap. The voice was winning. The voice was infinitely convincing.
I needed help. I called the clinic and asked to see the doctor right away. I took the soonest appointment available at 11:00 am.
I had two hours. I left the crowded Recreation Center and went home alone regardless of already knowing I was safer from the voice in a public space.
When I got home I caved. I took the Klonopin and the strangest thing happened. Forty five minutes later, I felt normal, whatever that means and safe.
I still went to see the Doctor. I knew I needed help. It didn’t matter how safe I felt in the moment. I knew it wasn’t physically or emotionally healthy to feel the way I sometimes do.
She increased the dose of the Klonopin. Suicidal ideation is a common symptom of Bipolar Disorder, she told me.
I don’t want to take more Klonopin.
You’re doing all the right things to take care of yourself. You’re exercising, meditating, going to counseling, eating well but some people need more than that.
She could have had me committed. Instead she was kind and compassionate. She drew a diagram of a scale indicating the spectrum of depression and mania and on the center of the scale she colored in a black bubble which signified the common bipolar symptom of suicidal ideation.
I want you to go for a psychiatric evaluation. The nurse already arranged it. They’re expecting you, she insisted.
Thirty minutes later I was sitting across from a psychiatrist. He was an older man most likely in his late seventies. His hair was white and balding and his slouch defined the hunch in his back. The skin on his face sagged and was covered with light brown spots. I found comfort in his age. With age comes experience. I’d prefer a man his age opposed to someone recently out of school diagnosing me textbook.
The evaluation lasted almost two hours. We talked and he asked me a series of questions. He was a serious man.
Do you want to harm yourself? He asked.
I looked down at the floor. No
But you did have thoughts of harming yourself that led you here, correct?
A wave of restlessness took over. Yes, but no. I mean, let’s be realistic, at best the indoor track is 30 feet above the basketball court. If I had jumped the outcome would have been looking like an idiot. I’m aware that it’s not high enough to kill me.
Do you have thoughts of harming others? he asked.
We made eye contact. So far you’ve survived 40 minutes in a room with me.
The questions shifted to risky behavior. Do you have a great deal of sex, make impulsive decisions or go on spending sprees that you can’t afford?
No, but a one point I liked every DIY page I could find on Facebook and considered knitting a sweater for a turtle. At the time it didn’t really matter to me that I don’t actually have a turtle.
He asked me if I ever take things seriously. I told him I do but would rather not admit it.
We talked a lot about the waves of anger I experience, the periods of depression and periods where I’m nonstop and can’t sleep.
He asked me to describe what my anger feels like.
What I feel is similar to witnessing what my father’s rage was like. What I feel is the rage that I saw in him.
He asked me to describe the periods of depression.
When I’m depressed I have memories of my mother lying in bed, consistently sobbing and not coming out of her bedroom for days.
There it was. I remind myself of my mother and father. I have spent my entire adulthood working hard to be nothing like them, and though I’ve mostly succeeded I’ve lacked the ability to overcome genetics.
I heard myself say the anger I feel is the rage I saw in my father. I heard myself say during bouts of depression I see in myself I saw in my mother.
I broke down and cried. It felt good. I needed to cry.
It’s been almost a year since that day at the Recreation Center. I’ve been meeting with a therapist once a week and I’m finally beginning to feel stable on medication. I used to think taking medication meant I was weak. I’m not weak. I’m brave for utilizing help to recover. My parents never got help.
Maybe in some way I do have the ability to overcome genetics after all.