The last stage of bipolar disorder is not suicide

Since Robin Williams’ death I have been ripped apart inside. I am not a world-renowned comedian, or award-winning actor, I am only a data analyst and a small cog in a wheel that few people here would know. Yet there is something that he and I have–“had” seems so wrong still–in common: we have both been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and severe depression.

I am fighting about as lonely a battle as I can think of; I have not seen anybody I know this weekend, nor did I last weekend, nor will I next weekend. Robin Williams fought his amongst millions of fans, but he too was alone in his own way. Until this week we didn’t match “Robin Williams” with “bipolar” or “depression.” Somehow in my heart I knew though. By some quirk of human nature I always seem funnier to others when I am at my lowest ebb, when I need others to be around to be drawn to me. So many descriptions of Williams in these recent days remind me of that. I read of a family who ran into him while he was eating alone in a restaurant and how he regaled them with loads of funny stories and laughter. It seemed they never stopped to think–why was one of America’s foremost celebrities eating by himself in a restaurant? I have to do it all the time, and the self-loathing afterwards is horrible. You feel alone in this world.

Having been where he was, I am starting to see a dark tinge to some of the stories “defending” Williams’ suicide. I cringe to write that but I am not certain what the right term is. Articles like this one which refer to “the last stage of Robin Williams’ illness.” I am starting to see a couple of incompatible threads to the coverage:

  1. People with mental illness need help.
  2. Robin Williams’ suicide was inevitable because he was so sick.

While I agree with 1 wholeheartedly (I need help–I need help so badly I want to shout it out at inappropriate times) I need help because I do not want to end up like Williams. If we are to believe that Williams’ suicide was inevitable, then you also have to believe that my future suicide is also inevitable. I cannot believe this. There is so much I want to live for. And if I had to give up my job or my home or my family to survive, I would do this. I don’t want it to get to the point that suicide is my only option. If it gets that far, I have not received help, or I have not asked for help in the right way.

I am seeking help again. I have an appointment with my doctor, one upcoming with employee assistance, and I am going to try to get a consult with my old counselor. I am going to discuss with my boss how I can dial back from a 60-hour work week–a conversation I am not looking forward to, but one I must have if I am going to survive much longer. I am adjusting my meds and hoping something will get the balance right. I realize it might not all be enough. But I also realize failure is not inevitable. To say that suicide is inevitable in any situation is just as toxic as saying it’s the easy way out.

I don’t know what Williams was feeling right beforehand. It must have been worse than anything I’ve ever felt (and I say this as a two-time survivor of suicide attempts). But I can’t say what he did was inevitable. I don’t know what would have saved him, but I realize that something must have been possible. I wish…I wish I’d been there, you know? All those times he was there for other people, and the one time he needed someone, he was alone. Down as I am, I just wish I could have been there to say something, anything that could have helped.

Sad thing is, here I am sitting here typing this in tears, knowing I am alone too. Something tells me there will be hope one day. I don’t know where it will come from (I have recently been following an old dictum by a fellow bipolar to “live one day at a time…if you can’t, do a couple hours at a time…if not, 15 minutes at a time”). There will be hope some day. The last stage of this is not to inevitably take my own life–it could happen, but I would rather the last stage to be the breakthrough, the day I step out of the gloom.

I just wish Robin Williams, and all those others who never made it out alive, had succeeded in their journey. For now I have to save myself and one day I hope to save others, so their last stage will be a new life.


oh Cognoscant, I am just so sorry your are suffering so much. Your post title and your post are such a cry of the heart. I am so glad you are seeking help and I am so sorry things are so hard right now. Please believe you are worth it. You deserve to live and you deserve to be happy. I want so much for you to find what you need.

Hold on, sweet fellow human.

I agree that suicide is not inevitable. Severe depression (whether part of bipolar or on its own) is a chronic disease that can be fatal but isn’t always, just as something like diabetes can be fatal but isn’t always. I, too, get annoyed at people who seem all too ready to defend suicide.

I am sorry you are suffering so much and I hope you can find some help and relief soon. If discussing it here helps at all please continue to do so.

Cannot agree with this strongly enough!! There IS a light at the end of the tunnel. You may not see it now, but it IS there!

Hang on on there dude. Yes, I think there is hope. I used to suffer from pretty bad depression, but it is not nearly so bad now. I am not on meds for it, and my objective circumstances are, in some ways, a tad worse than when I was depressed, yet I do not get the deep depressions, including, sometimes, suicidal thoughts, I often used to. Our brains do change as we grow older, sometimes for the better.

I hope you get all the help you need - and get your work-week down from 60 hours, that is too much.

Njtt: How have you changed that you can see “objectively worse” circumstances in a positive way? Bravo to you for this!

Cognoscant, it’s good that you have taken steps to call your doctors and revist your medication dosages. In the meantime, there are people you can talk to if you want to discuss this with another person’s voice.

In the U.S. & Canada, there’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It serves both countries. Call 1-800-273-8255

In the UK, there’s Samaritans -

In Canada, they seem to do it by local crisis centers. See here for one nearby -

Here’s a partial list of a few other countries as well:
Cognoscant, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to. Even if you can’t remember the phone numbers, you can still dial 911 and they will send help. Don’t feel like you’re bothering them. That’s what they’re there for - to send help!

Good luck. You’re not alone.

Leave it to the media to give the wrong impression, right? I was sad and shocking when we first heard the news, and when we first got the confirmation of what happened but everything after that - the endless talking, the speculation - has just been TOO MUCH.

How Robin Williams ultimately dealt with his life situation as a whole is not THE inevitable conclusion, but ONE POSSIBLE conclusion. He made that choice, and millions of people suffering from depression and disease don’t make that same choice.

I hope you keep choosing not to, even if it seems like a battle every day. It’s so hard to fight that battle but I’m glad you do.

You are doing good things and right things. You have identified the steps you need to take. Please take them. The work conversation may be hard, but you need to do it. 60 hours a week is just grindingly hard to do indefinitely. You really shouldn’t have to say more than that. Your employer is not entitled to details about your health. If you feel you must, a vague statement or 2 about the stress and you need to reduce your hours.

And remember also what you noted above, sometimes it’s not about a day, but the next 15 minutes.

And you are emphatically NOT alone, although I think many of us here know how you feel that way now. Use the numbers Merneith gave you above if you need to talk to someone (or use Google to find someone in your area).

You are right that the Robin Williams coverage has made suicide seem like an inevitable ending for mental illness problems and for bipolar sufferers. I won’t judge him, but the media coverage chaps my hide. It was *his * ending, but it’s not inevitable.

Baby steps, one at a time. Stick to your plan and keep coming back to let us know how it’s going. You are NOT ALONE.

Thank you Cognoscant for having the courage to share your struggle. Keep fighting. I have been in the grips of depression. A couple of times, I even had a plan. But I refused to give in to the depression… I refuse to let it win. I refuse to let it own me. I refuse to let it define me.

Thanks to all who have written. I feel like writing out helps me in some way.

I worked five hours today, and answered my last work e-mail a few minutes ago. My work schedule is complicated. I know I am to blame for a lot of it, that I could delegate more. But I have been burned delegating things and I feel that I need to be in control of it. There are also things outside of my work requirements that I have been asked to do, though, and I am going to need clarification on those things. I will probably work about 10-11 hours tomorrow, and every day this week, until I can get help. This is not what I expected or wanted but this is what my life is turning into. I doubt I’ll be able to talk to my boss tomorrow. He cancelled our regular meeting scheduled for the morning, because he doesn’t show up to work on time to get to it. It is frustrating that I get to work two or three or even four hours before he does, then he piously tells us that we need to work harder.

I have called the hotlines before. Our local hotline is not so good. I think they would be better off with a machine that just said “Yeah…yeah…uh huh…yeah…that must be tough…OK bye.” I will try the national one which I have had some success with. I have my old area code on my phone so they send my call to that helpline exchange, which is better. It is sad that I have to call helplines now but with my wife so far away (I moved here for work, long story, I feel like I threw myself into a pit) it is better not to burden her all the time.

15 minutes at a time though. Hopefully in 15 minutes I will be asleep.

Ditto about cutting back from the 60 hours, and have something lined up to fill the free time: positive socializing, exercise to get some oxygen into your blood, etc. There’s a great quote by MLK: evil can’t be forced out, it must be crowded out.

I think maybe you’re misinterpreting the nature of the “final stage of Williams’ disease” commentary.

If I had to guess, it’s less than skilled writers thinking that it was the final stage because it was the last one before he died, not because it was the ultimate end of bipolar people. Bad writing is more likely than anything else.

I am sure you’ve thought about it, but is your job worth this? It is ok to say that this experiment did not work and start working on a plan to move back home, and find a new job. Although, again, baby steps…

It isn’t often I really feel the death of a celebrity, beyond the general sadness for the loss of a human life, but the death of Robin Williams is one that hit me hard as well, particularly because of how he died. In fact, I think for many of us, it would still be very sad if he had died from, say, a heart attack or a stroke, it is so much more tragic that we see such a man who has touched the lives of millions end in such a terrible way. The irony is that we see a man who had so much talent and gave so much joy to others could be in so much pain as to believe there is no other alternative than to end his life, but it seems that it is precisely because of that pain that he was compelled to craft his talent and bring joy to others.

I never knew about his loneliness growing up, that he was bullied as a kid, that he was remarkably shy, that he had multiple failed marriages. He saw humor as a way to connect with other people, to improve his own self-worth in the eyes of others. He had resulted to substance abuse, likely as a form of self-medication and had largely recovered until a relapse after 20 some years. He had gotten to a point of destitution, working more and more, selling off his memorabilia, and in the end, he felt abandoned by the very people who were supposed to love him.

I think this is why his death has touched so many of us. People who have struggled with depression, lack of self-worth, know to some extent what it’s like to be in that place. Put up a facade of strength, of gregariousness, of humor, of all of these things, desperately seeking that connection with humanity, all the while silently suffering beneath. Having that shell can help for a while, perhaps even a long time, but always being “on” is beyond exhausting and it can’t last forever. But suicide is absolutely not the necessary end. We see the tragic results here, one of the all-time greats lost because he never really felt loved, and humanity weeps, but we can honor his memory by learning from his mistakes.

So I say to those who do suffer from depression, seek help, no one should suffer in silence; you are not alone. Don’t just hide your pain behind a facade, or by working countless hours or whatever other means, there are many out there ready and willing to help. And more importantly than the call to those who suffer from depression, is the call to those who do not. Chances are, you know someone like Robin Williams. Someone who is just always “on”, and you very well may be surprised to learn that they suffer from depression, just as many of us were with Robin Williams. Maybe you just don’t understand, that’s okay, but if we’re all more aware, maybe we can see these signs sooner, maybe we can offer those in the throes of depression the help they need that Robin Williams didn’t get.
And to the OP specifically, you are brave to share your story and it sounds like you are on a good path forward, seeking counselling and cutting back on your at work hours. As you say, one day at a time, and also remember you have kindred spirits here.

My friends was always “on”. I was a bit envious of her at times, because she made friends so easily. I can honestly say there are at least 4 other people (maybe more) who call her their best friend. That’s an admirable achievement, but having so many “best friends” must be very exhausting.

The day after Robin Williams died my friend took her life. I don’t believe it was a copycat suicide. I believe she covered her depression for many years and had an especially difficult year. From what I know and believe in my heart, things just came to a head and she “just couldn’t fake it anymore”.

I may be wrong, but survivors of suicide are left with so many unanswered questions that we have to just decide on the answer that feels best in our heart in order to heal.

Cognoscant, I can say “get help” until the cows come home, but please try to do something.
Step back and look at the big picture. Nobody should be working 60 hours a week. Nobody should be living away from their wife.
Have you confided in your wife or to others who truly love you? My friend did not and kept things very well hidden and we are all gutted that she chose to deal with this alone. She may have been ashamed and liked the image of the “well put together woman”.
Please look outside yourself and see that all you really need in life is love, food, shelter and to feel needed.
Yes, definitely see a counselor and see if adjustments can be made to your medication. Would it be possible to take a medical leave? It sounds like you just work and sleep the pain away. Take a leave and see your wife or spend time with other family. Go to a relaxing place. Tell someone who loves you. Spend time with friends and family doing volunteer work or something fulfilling.
Please don’t think any of this is impossible to do right now. Nothing else in your life is any priority right now. Not your job, your 60 hours, your annoying boss, co-workers.
I’m talking to you, but I’m talking to my friend too. It’s too late for her. Today is her viewing. I can only imagine the funeral home will be jam packed. Her husband just posted on Facebook “Every task is impossible right now”. He just wants to roll over and sleep his grief away, but my friend left behind a 9 year old son who is very confused right now.
I’m sorry I’m rambling, but my heart is raw and if anything I say gives you a tinge of hope then it’s worth it.
If it takes, quitting your job, reuniting with your wife and living off the land in the woods somewhere then do it. If something else would ease your stress and surround you with people who love you, then do it.
When you picture a good life, what do you see? What are things that you enjoyed in the past? If someone you loved was struggling, what would you tell them?

I’ve had two people I was very close to end their lives and looking back, the first one tried to talk to me about his feelings, but he’d pull back at the last minute and say, “Oh! Nevermind!” When I would press him to please talk to me, he would say, “I will someday soon.” It used to frustrate me. Now that he’s ended his life I feel he felt ashamed to reveal his desire to end it all. Maybe I would’ve dismissed it or said, “Snap out of it!” or distanced my self from him. Those may have been his fears. Instead he chose to keep it to himself and end his life, shocking all who loved him.

Same with my girlfriend who just died. She had revealed to me many years ago that she contemplated suicide at one time. If I brought it up recently, she’d wave it off like she was just being dramatic and didn’t really mean it. I could see the embarrassment in her eyes.

Maybe with Robin Williams death, people will stop being so hush hush about clinical depression. Maybe the name should be changed, since true clinical depression is not something you can snap out of or just smile about to make it go away.

Both of my friends who committed suicide, their families have requested that we don’t reveal their cause of death to people who ask. I disagree with this. It needs to quit being so secretive. If people open up about it, maybe someone contemplating suicide wouldn’t be so leery to admit to it.

Anyway, I’m sorry it’s so long, but please just have a REAL conversation with someone about your fears and despair.
I wish you well. ~Hugs~

I feel at this point I almost have to come back to this thread to assure people that I’m OK and still with you. I was away from here for a long time not so long ago and I am afraid now an absence might be treated as a bad sign.

A frustrating day today, another 11 hour work day, got a lot done but there is so much left undone every day. I got a library card but still no word from employee assistance, and no chance to call the counselor. (They monitor our out-bound calls here–we have to pay for any personal calls we make!–so a call to a counselor is a bad idea. But standing out in stifling heat to make a cellphone call is almost as impossible as my counselor’s secretary cannot understand me very well.) Did not get to talk to my boss today although the secretary asked me how long I worked today, and I was honest. I think she is nervous about my work schedule too.

MissSwitac’s post almost made me cry. I don’t want to be here, I do want to be back with my family. But I am stuck here for the next seven months. The contract I am on states that if I leave before a year I have to repay my moving expenses, which were large because I was allowed to keep what was left over, and I can’t afford to repay them without decimating my savings, which I would need to live on if I moved back. So I am stuck. A few weeks ago one of my employees lost a friend to cancer. As she told me about it she started crying, telling me I needed to move back, to be with my wife and kids, and I wanted so much to say, yes, I want to do that too. But for the purposes of my job I couldn’t do that. I live in some level of terror that something will happen to my wife and my kids and I will be thrown into turmoil. (Sad to say the same is not true with me, they would go on without me now, my kids are starting to forget who I am even with some regular contact.)

I wish I could say, “Look, this didn’t work, it’s time for me to go home and start again.” But for my kids’ future, I can’t do that. I am sacrificing their present for their future, and that’s killing me inside. And I fear for my marriage; although the last time my wife visited we were OK, there were still long uneasy silences. She has learned not to ask me about too many things like what I do after work, so we talk about her life, and what I ate, and she goes through a list of what I need to do like cleaning the bedroom and finishing the laundry.

I realize now that in my relief at getting away from my previous job, where things were turning disastrous–and I know now I would have been the first on the chopping block had I stayed, because I knew too much about my future boss–I didn’t prepare myself for being away from my family. I had this vision that I would write a novel (chickened out six chapters in, realizing the main character was uncomfortably like myself), beat Oblivion (was getting there, then the game file corrupted and I found it boring the second go around), learn a programming language or two (still potential there). Instead I sit here counting the days until a year is up at my job and wonder how I can get out of here then. And 200+ days are a lot to count…too many when you are so mentally sick that, yes, every 15 minutes are a struggle. (This afternoon I was at my desk and I realized “25 minutes left in the day…what do I do now?”)

When I last talked to my wife I talked about some of these things, and about Robin Williams. She said to me, well, he was on alcohol and drugs, you are drug-free (well other than prescribed ones), you have a chance. Besides the doctor had told me, you were the most resilient and determined patient he had. Mind you this was the doctor from the mental hospital, so this is something like getting an award for the nicest murderer. But I worry my chances are running low now. Miami is close to a foreign city to me, I don’t know where to turn for help, and the doctor and I shuffle my medicine without seeming to come up with a winning hand.

I think, after I go on the treadmill (two lots of 15 minutes down) and talk to my wife I will call one of the national helplines. I want the thread title to be true.

I don’t have the answers for all that troubles you, but I wanted to address this.

I had a father who worked long hours, who spent a lot of time away, who missed a lot of holidays. Yes, it was hard, particularly when I was younger, and I didn’t always take it well but at a certain point, even before my teen years, I did start to understand that day was sacrificing for the family. I didn’t always show my understanding or appreciation (especially as a teen!) but every year that went by the more I came to comprehend that my father loved us well enough to subject himself to that pain so we would all have a better future. He took on pain to spare me pain. That’s what a loving father does.

It is terribly hard while you’re doing it, but the sacrifice is for a purpose. I wish you could, indeed, pull the plug on what has turned out to be a bad detour for you, but remember that detours are temporary side-tracks and sometimes necessary when building a better road. This will end. Stick it out. Do what you have to do to get through it.