I Went Looking For Tall Bridges Where There Were No Rivers

“…you can die tonight,
doesn’t mean you’ll smile tomorrow.”


“I have this recurring nightmare.
In it I’m laughing.
That’s it.
It’s a nightmare because,
When I wake up,
I wish I were still asleep.”

Just before my collapse back in 2003 I was having ten separate suicide fantasy’s before breakfast. Everyday. It generally got worse from there. There is nothing you can do to prevent the fantasy’s from coming, they are a part of the disease and you know this because no one you know has them. Maybe, maybe, one of your friends had one complete fantasy where they could feel the knife moving across their wrist. One, brief exhausting moment which made them think about seeing a psychiatrist. But they don’t really remember it, and they never did get around to seeing a doctor about it.

For everyone else suicide is something to move away from, it’s their ultimate bottom end when absolutely everything has fallen apart, it’s a consideration and then a warning: “Sweet Fucking Monkey, I’ve fallen so far that I just thought about ending it all. Holy shit, I need a beer and some of mom’s pea soup.” But it’s rare to find even one person in your life who either had these feelings or is willing to admit to them. For those who have had them it was a single momentary lapse of reason leading to a single momentary glimpse at no tomorrows leading to a recoil back into reason. And no one who has fallen this far, who believes they’ve collapsed as low as they can plummet, wants to hear that it’s still a thousand steps straight down before finding the door that leads to the hole where your bottom can be found.

They don’t want to hear about your thirty suicide fantasies this week, because they know the only suicide fantasy they ever had really, really fucking hurt. “Actually, now that you mention is, it was the worst fucking second on the worst fucking day in my entire life, now get me some fucking pea soup.” They cannot understand that, for some of us, that one-second glimpse they had into a world without them, is the singular moment you and I get stuck in for minutes, days, hours, seconds, over and over and over and over again.

How can they know? Where can they find understanding when only 20% of people in this country have, once — one time — in their lives, suffered a Depressive Episode deep enough to seek medical help? That’s what it means when they flash those mental health commercials saying 1 in 5 people have been clinically depressed. Twenty per cent of the entire population have been seriously depressed once over an extended period.

Suicide fantasies are not you attempting suicide, they’re not even you attempting to work out the particulars of a future post-suicide funeral (“should she be crying, or wringing her hands?”), suicide fantasies are waking nightmares. They are the most recurring aspect of our disease, and the further we slide downwards the greater the frequency and the greater the risk for a very real attempt.

When I moved in with my brother I still had a little hope in my life, I could still see a few ways out of my situation. I still had one more deadline to meet. In three weeks I wrote the first half of an 80,000 word project. Every inch I moved I felt like I was crawling through mud. It was all I could do to find an Internet connection and send the fucking thing to my editor. She emailed back later that week to tell me she, and my publisher, were ecstatic (or at least ‘very pleased’ with it so far) and that was that. It was like everything I had left inside me just collapsed.

I honestly don’t understand how I survived. When I think about that time I see myself paralysed on his couch in the near-dark. On the occasions my brother would come home he’d make a “Jawa” joke because I was always wearing my oversized hoodie. He was working, but made barely enough to cover his cigarette costs and our rent. I had been unemployed for a year at that point and my savings was gone, the first two advances from my publisher had gone towards travel expenses and research for the project. The only money I had coming in on a regular basis was my lithium money from my mother, but she was begging me not to ask for anymore and I was spending it all on discount chicken parts and cigarettes. She was in semi-retirement at that point, working for the government, and the $120/month was a burden. I think it was more the phone calls at weird hours asking for cash than the actual amount.

My poverty wasn’t new (maybe this level was but I’ve been extremely shit-poor before) but the intensity and frequency of the suicide fantasies was insane. Every time I was alone or with someone else, sitting, standing, breathing, I was seeing my death, feeling my death, believing — absolutely evangelically believing — that I was going to die that day, that morning, that moment. I held knives to my wrists, I took long walks to relatively high bridges, on several occasions I was stopped by concerned police who usually offered to help in some way.

I have a photo I took of myself, it’s a mirror shot. I had just spent forty-five minutes staring into the sink, trying to decide between killing myself (pills, I had a lot of T3’s lying around) and getting a haircut. So, after I decided, I took a photo of myself. I don’t like it. Makes my cheeks look pudgy. Also, I think, I look like I’m about to cry.

When you’re lying down and there’s one five-pound weight sitting on your chest, it’s noticeable but you can still breath. Every one of those fucking fantasies is like another five-pound weight, then another and another and another and now it’s hard to breath and another and another and now it’s getting painful please take a few off and another and another and another and holy christ please i can’t breathe and another and another please it’s crushing my ribs and another and now we’ll leave it like that for a few days but i can’t breathe well there’s this pill but it takes two weeks to take effect please i’m dying… no you’re not, it’s just a fantasy.

You have suicide fantasies. I have suicide fantasies. There is only one way to make sure you don’t have suicide fantasies, TAKE THE FUCKING MEDICATIONS. You can’t talk them away, even with a Doctor, even with your family, even with your boyfriend, even with your sister, and you can’t avoid them with alcohol or drugs. Medication is the only way to stop from killing yourself in your head everyday in every conceivable manner. People can live with Manic Depression the same way people can live with cancer, but without treatment you’re living at the whim of a tumour and it doesn’t really know you — you know, the inner softer you — so what the fuck does it care? Medication is the only way to prevent the delusion of people understanding, through your death, the pain you feel. The medications are the only way to stop yourself from taking the knife and running it across your wrists.



About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Classic, crazy people with no pants, Depression, Health, Humor, Humour, Lithium, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Ottawa, Poverty, Publishing, Punk. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to I Went Looking For Tall Bridges Where There Were No Rivers

  1. mercurial scribe says:

    Just had to say that i found your site through another blog and am so glad i did.

    i’d say “fucking brilliant!” but that just means you know i’ve been there too.

    Keep on Fighting.

  2. Bryan says:

    I just started blogging about my insights and experiences.

    I completely relate to suicidal fantasies, it can really fuck you up when your trying to be a productive member of society.

  3. Gabriel says:

    It’s hard to be “part of the gang” when half the time you’re in your cubicle you’re thinking about killing yourself, or worried you might start thinking about killing yourself, or trying to forget the last twenty times you thought about killing yourself.

    Good luck, and be as honest as you can in your blog Bryan.

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  8. Nicholas says:

    I am a sixty four year old man, sho has been fighting manic depression all my life. I was diagnosed with bi-polar when I was 45 years old. Went to a child pychiatrist for nearly 5 years. To finally put a label on what was wrong with me, helped to make me stronger. Trouble is that I go through stages of manic where I am feeling very strong and havae the feeling tthat I can do anything. Then out of ther blue I wake up and feel depression that overwhelms me and I start to fall deeper and deeper into depression.

    The pain and agony of losing the high I was on, just adds to the depression. I think of suiside all the time and retreat into overwelming depression. I hide in the house and feel I am worth nothing. Its the lose of control and the wonders of the manic stag, that just disappears. I have tried suidie twice. The only reason I have servived this epasode is that I am married to a wonderful women who, at the monment is still willing to stay with me. We have been married for four years.

    I am on seriquil at the moment, I thought it helps, but when I am depressed, nothing seems to help. The constant thoughts going threw my mind ( all bad) are constantly effecting the way I live. The only time I am at peace in my mind is when I go to bed and take my sleeping pill and smoke a little marajuana. My mind stops being active and I sleep fairly soundly.

    I thik more study should be made on marajuana and its effects. I try to control my thinking bad thoughts till I go to bed. The only time the pain gos away. I ont smoke duringf the day, and olny at night.

    My kidneys shut down in dec of 2010 and the doctor at the hospital took me off lithium completly. I was expeeriencing lithium poisioning. In the first week of Jan 2011 I ws in my manic stag and feeling unbelievely strodng and positive. I felt like I could couquire the world. I find it hard to control the feeling. I never seem to understand that total depression seems to follow. I have lost all my confidence and feel unable to face people or the world outside.

    Is thaer anybody out there who has any suggestions to conquer this stag. I need support from people who are like myself. No one else understands. I am at a lost , again. It never gets easier.

    • Gabriel... says:

      Hi Nicholas… it can get easier, it just takes a lot of time, and it’s hard to notice.

      It’s surprising how much optimism a simple diagnosis can give us. But it’s still important to make sure the diagnosis is correct… or as correct as it can be. You are the most important person in your recovery, so you have to be as honest as you can with your doctor.

      And always be willing to seek out another opinion.

      We’re also the biggest hindrance to our recovery. Our manic and depressive states actively work against our recovery. It can take months for any noticeable effects from treatment, and in that time you can have dozens of manic phases.

      You can know you’re sick one minute, believe you’re superman the next, and then spend three days in your bedroom convinced everyone hates you. It can be difficult, even next to impossible.

      But becoming aware of your phases does help. Being aware of your lucid moments helps even more, because that’s when you can plan for your recovery.

      I take Seroquel as well. It’s a minimal dose, just 50mg, to help me sleep. Seroquel is not an anti-depressant. It’s used to sedate, you should talk to your doctor about maybe reducing the dose so you’ll maybe have more energy. You might want to talk to him about changing when you take the dose.

      Taking the Seroquel before bed might work better than taking it during the day. Definitely, taking Seroquel, plus a sleeping pill as well as smoking pot to sleep is not a good idea.

      You’re right though, there should be more research into pot.

      Taking you off a mood stabilizer without a replacement is almost never a good idea. It’s almost like giving heroin to someone who has been clean for a few years — the symptoms of manic depression come back quickly, and you’re not used to them anymore.

      You know this now, but Lithium needs to be monitored. Kidney damage is a risk after long term use.

      There are a lot of resources in my sidebar you can use in your recovery, most of the bloggers in there are in various stages of recovery, and their stories could help.

      But the most important thing you can do is find help in the real world. A psychiatrist, especially. They’re difficult to find, but start with your family doctor, or a doctor at a drop-in clinic (as I did), and be honest with them.

      Don’t be afraid to admit yourself into a hospital (as I did), once you’re in the system you can be treated as an out-patient. It’s an excellent way to have your medications monitored, and available.

      You were strong enough, and determined enough, to leave a long comment here, so you’re definitely still fighting.

      It does get easier. Eventually.

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