Natasha Tracy is my “go to” blogger for helpful insights both on dealing with Bipolar Disorder and on educating people about it who have no idea what it’s about. (Hat-tip to Donna for introducing me to Natasha Tracy’s blog.) Because I also have Asperger Syndrome, it is really hard for me to understand that other people don’t just ‘know’ the things I know, so it’s hard for me to understand that other people don’t just ‘know’ what it’s like to have Bipolar Disorder. When I see Natasha Tracy explaining things to people who don’t have Bipolar Disorder, a light bulb always goes off in my head as I realize, hey, I knew something about that, but other people don’t! I guess maybe even that is hard for you to understand, but suffice it to say, she is very good at what she does. Her post on levels of suicidality is a good example of what I am talking about.
Because she has written that, and only because she has written it, I can tell you this without your freaking out on me (I think). I am always suicidal, to a certain extent. I would not be able to tell you that if not for her post explaining the levels of suicidality, because someone would call the police on me immediately when it’s not really necessary. Here are the levels as she describes them.
Here’s my completely unscientific suggestion for a suicidal self-assessment. This suicide scale is based on my own experiences and on generalities; please note everyone is different.
- 0 – No thoughts of suicide. The word suicide doesn’t even enter your head unless provoked. This is how your average person feels about suicide.
- 1 – Occasional thoughts of suicide. Suicidal thoughts are not frequent and suicidal thoughts don’t cause distress. Thoughts of suicide are mostly academic.
- 2 – Thoughts of suicide start to become more frequent and begin to feel more personal.
- 3 – Suicidal thoughts are frequent and are sometimes accompanied by the feeling you might actually commit suicide. Sometimes you feel you want to die.
- 4 – Thoughts of suicide are frequent and you consistently feel like you want to die.
- 5 – Thoughts of suicide occur every day. Almost everything reminds you of suicide and death.
- 6 – Thoughts of suicide, death and dying occur every day and cause you great distress.
- 7 – You’re obsessed with thoughts of suicide, dying and you start making a plan on how to commit suicide. You have a strong desire to die / end suffering.
- 8 – You begin putting your suicide plan into place; you are convinced you will commit suicide. You feel you have nothing to live for / others would be better without you.
- 9 – You write a suicide note and say goodbye to the people in your life. You might feel a sense of relief knowing that you will soon be dead. You might give away your possessions.
- 10 – You’re in the midst of implementing your plan for suicide. You’re determined to commit suicide.
I am always at least at Level One. As I write, I am at Level Three. I have been to the Crisis Stablization Unit three times in my life for being as high as Level Seven. Once, I was at Level Eight. Because of my experience with myself on this, I know that if I ever get to Level Four or Five, I need to get professional help immediately. This is what it is, to me, in my subjective experience, to have Bipolar Disorder. There is never a time when I am not “suicidal,” technically speaking, but there are levels that I have not ever reached yet in my life. I also know at what point I need to call professionals, and I know that if it were not for the Crisis Stabilization Unit, I would probably be dead now. It’s because they are there for me that I am alive. I have no doubts whatsoever about that.
I think that most people who do not deal with mental illness get the idea that people “snap” and just kill themselves. Perhaps that does happen sometimes, but not with most people. If you have Bipolar Disorder, you were born with it, and you have likely suffered at some level for your entire life. There is no cure, so it will be for your entire life that you will carry this in you, but thankfully, there are a lot of things you can do to make it better. Natasha Tracy has many good tips for you as do, I’m sure, a lot of other resources online.
We all need someone who can be there for us. My brother called me a couple of days ago and I poured out my problems to him. He is always there for me to do that, when I need to. My pet peeve was that so many people had, in one day, asked me, “How are you doing?” He understands how hard it is for me when people say, “How are you doing?” How am I supposed to respond to that question? I usually say, “I’m about the same as I usually am.” When I say that, it means things are going as well as they can. I am never “okay.” But people don’t ever want to hear that you’re not okay. I think we need to come up with a new greeting because “How are you doing?” is not a good one, in my book. I could say that I am rejoicing in my sufferings because I know that this is where Jesus is, and in Him I am happy, but I’ve also come to understand that a large percentage of the people I meet are either not well versed in redemptive suffering or they don’t believe in it at all. So, that answer is not what they are looking for, either. When I give them the answer they are looking for, I am not being honest. Yes, I know that I don’t have to please everyone, but receiving unpleasant responses to things I say isn’t exactly healthy for me, either. It cuts both ways.
That is why things like this have to be talked about, so that more understanding can flow. I trust that the more these things are talked about openly, the better it will be for everyone. For now, though, I want to thank Natasha Tracy for the levels of suicidality post as an example of something simple that you can learn if you don’t understand this issue. It explains things very well. Please do give it a read, and bookmark her blog if you think you will have more questions on this topic. She explains the nature of Bipolar Disorder much better than I ever could.