I’ve spent an hour, give or take, furiously pacing the floor of my apartment. They call this “psychomotor agitation,” though I don’t know it yet.

I feel like I can’t stand to be in my skin another second, like I’m completely wired and simultaneously the most depressed I’ve ever been. They call this a “mixed episode,” though I haven’t realized that yet.

My apartment is my sanctuary. I remember when I moved into the place – the joy I felt to be downtown, to be in the heart of things. It was full of 1920s charm. It felt surreal to be in a place so nice. I put a lot of thought into how I decorated the place, down to the candles and the twinkle lights and the succulents.

It was my safe place – was, up until that moment, when suddenly the train was coming off the rails.

I abruptly stop pacing. I know what I need to do.

I grab a pad of paper and a pen, and begin to write.

I’m sorry…


“But nothing was actually wrong,” I say quietly. “I wouldn’t have changed anything about my life – just how I felt.”

I’m in group therapy for the second time that day. We all sit in a circle, wearing pajamas and hospital gowns.

Bipolar disorder doesn’t give a shit about my ‘perfect’ life,” I continue. “I had everything I wanted and I still wanted to die.”

My body trembles ever so slightly.

“It can be hard to accept that these illnesses are not always within our control,” the group facilitator says. “We can feel very vulnerable when we realize this.”

Vulnerable. Vulnerable doesn’t even begin to describe the fears that have overtaken me since my breakdown.

Was it really possible that, no matter how I arranged my life – no matter what the circumstances were and how meticulously I controlled them – I could lose my mind anyway?

I could have a career that I loved, a community of friends and partners that brought me joy, and yes, the charming little apartment, but as soon as the chemicals in my brain turned on me, all of these things were irrelevant at best.

“I thought building my perfect life could keep my illness away, could keep me safe,” I tell the group. I look down at my hospital band around my wrist, a painful reminder.

I was sorely mistaken.


I’ve gotten too drunk. Again.

This is a new habit of mine. I’ve taken to drinking in the middle of the day, drinking alone, which everyone tells me is a bad sign.

They all tell me to sober up, and I don’t listen. I don’t listen because it’s better to be drunk than to be restless, the kind of restlessness that feels like thousands of insects crawling underneath your skin.

I glance at my phone.

“We found your note, Sam,” a message reads.

The panic begins to settle in. No one was supposed to find it until after I jumped in front of the train.

“Just tell us where you are,” another message reads. “Please.”

“Almost everyone who has jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived said they regretted it immediately,” someone else says.

I already know what that regret feels like.

Seven years ago, the closest I’ve ever come to death, I felt that regret after the seizure and before I blacked out.

And in that moment, the memory of that regret scares me.


The answer is horrifyingly simple: Lithium.

The answer is not an apartment, or a relationship, or my job – the answer is lithium, and three days into my hospitalization, the chaos in my mind begins to subside.

“How are you feeling?” the psychiatrist asks me.

“I’m getting better.”

“That’s good news,” he says. “What about the voices? Are you hearing any?”

“No,” I reply. “My head is a lot clearer now.”

I should be overjoyed that the tides are turning. But I am in shock – was this really all that it took? Was it really just brain chemicals?

I don’t know whether to be glad that the answer was so simple or fearful that it was beyond my control.

Or both.


In outpatient, I sit in a support group and listen to people talking about what led to their crisis.

“I lost my job.”

“I had a terrible accident and the recovery was difficult.”

“I lost my brother and mother within six months.”

“I was in a coma.”

It’s my turn.

“I was in denial about my mental illness.”

Denial, like when you ignore all the warning signs because you don’t believe you’re sick. Denial, like when you think that if you control every element of your life, it won’t affect you. Denial, like when you’re convinced that if you take your pills every day, you’re cured.

Or when you believe that if you have everything, you won’t break down.

But the truth is, you can have everything and still want to die.

Because mental illness doesn’t care about the life you’ve built. It’s only interested in what it can take away.


A note on labels: Like many people with mental health struggles, I’ve experienced my fair share of misdiagnoses. Since writing this piece, I’ve finally been correctly diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and complex PTSD, which have been life-changing realizations for me. That said, I hope that the resources I created in the past can still be helpful. (Jan 2019)



  1. I also had a depressive episode over the last months and have finally come to terms with having bipolar after a good six-seven years of depressions and manias that I vehemently refused to label as what they were. I just started medication three weeks ago, for the first time in my life. It’s hard to accept that I have a mental illness and humbling to finally take these little pills that are doing what all my will power and attempts at self-control could not. But in the end, what matters is that they are helping.

    Discovering your blog these last few weeks has been giving me so much reassurance and comfort. It’s giving me a profound sense of not being alone in my bipolar and genderqueer identities, both of which are very new, tender, emerging. I have so needed the reminders to reach out for help and the reassurance that even in my worst states, I am not a burden. And you’ve been right there, giving me exactly what I needed to hear. The meds plus your blog have been steering me towards a place of hope again. It’s been such a gift, Sam, more than I can say.

    The work you do is amazing, Your writing is beautiful and delivers messages that are vital for all of us to hear. You are waking people up to truths we need to confront. And you have the rare ability to transform your own darkness and suffering into an offering that soothes other people’s raw and frightened hearts. You’ve done that for mine.

    Your honestly admitting your fears and hurts and scars helps me to sit in the rubble that is my life right now and find just a little more acceptance for myself in all my extremes, contradictions and complexity. It helps me find just a little more trust that this emptiness and suffering will pass, that there is indeed a future me to live into… and that one day I will be able to make sense of this confusion and pain and turn it into something that will help others to heal, just as you have done.

    Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be doing similar work to you and we’ll meet in person. 🙂

    Until then… thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for staying with us in this world. And thank you for helping me to stay. Thank you for being who you are.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Sam. I’m so, so, so, so glad I’ve come across your blog. I love reading what you write, you’re writing is amazing. Your story resonates so intensely with me. So many similarities… I’m trans and bipolar as well. I found out about what was really going on with me in January of 2014 when I ended up in the crisis unit. I had ridden a two year mania straight into a three year depression that ended up at some point transforming itself into this horrid mixed state. That sent me over the edge with my anxiety and I ended up unable to leave my house. Unable to check my mail. Pacing, always pacing, then suddenly I would crash, be in bed for days. Always terrified to go outside or to even check the mail. I was having obsessive paranoia and was also obsessively studying suicide methods. I couldn’t stop myself, even if I had completely wanted to.
    My best friend managed to get me into the crisis unit then, before it culminated into a suicide attempt. I got out 6 days later, took my meds for all of two months, and stopped taking them. By July of 2014 I was in the crisis unit again. I was there for 5 days, completely involuntary this time. I came out with a new set of meds that have worked pretty well, but I got my first real taste of “these meds aren’t a fix” earlier this year… I walked the highway for almost 45 minutes, gauging the traffic, trying to stop the fear enough to do it. I called my best friend to tell him goodbye, and broke down. He managed to keep me in one spot long enough for the cops to find me. That was February 9th of this year.
    All the feelings in between the story… I’m glad I’ve survived long enough to read and learn from some of the blogs I’m following, and yours is absolutely one of them. I don’t ever know what the next day will hold but right now, right now is beautiful. Right now is validation. Right now is understanding.
    The denial. I remember that. 14 years. I just had mood swings. 14 years I couldn’t hold a job, couldn’t finish school, couldn’t do so many things, disappeared on so many people. Every sign, everything destroyed, everything just swept under the rug.
    I’m sorry you are able to truly know and express the things that I have gone through, but yet, there is such comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I continue to be surprised, in awe, and validated by what you have to say.
    Thank you for what you’ve put out in the world, you’ve definitely made your time so far worth it. I read your comments, I know how many other people have learned, have been helped, no longer feel completely alone, have started healing and/or understanding, all because of your words! It’s amazing what you have done with the power of your words, and I really hope you see it, at least a little bit.
    Thank you. Also, I’m proud of you. It’s scary to put yourself so bluntly out there. I hope you have a beautiful day sunshine, and try to take gentle care of yourself.
    *hugs* (if you want them) ^.^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I want to give you the BIGGEST hug right now. Like, leap through the screen and tackle hug you. This made my heart smile, for lack of a better phrase. We aren’t alone. We are remarkably, tremendously not alone in all this. And that counts for something, truly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *hugs* *hugs* *hugs* *hugs* Absolutely ^.^ I think that’s a beautiful description, and I do think I understand what you mean. No, we aren’t alone. I guess that’s why we put ourselves out there like this huh? This crazy blog thing. To know we’re not alone, to let others know they aren’t either? That’s what it feels like for me anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When I was a little kid, sometimes I would run a weird scenario in my head. Like, if I had a GIANT megaphone that could broadcast a message out into the world – and anyone and everyone would hear it and understand – what would I say?

        This was before the internet was really a thing. I obviously had no idea that I’d end up having a megaphone of my own in the form of a blog when I grew up.

        When I was a kid, I had all sorts of things that I wanted to shout into the megaphone. But as an adult, I think it’s really simple – I want people to know they aren’t the only ones.

        I’d like to think that child Sam would be really content knowing that he’s reaching people that need to be reached. It’s not a magical megaphone, but it’s the next best thing, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s exactly what it is though! I think it’s more of a magical megaphone than little you could have ever imagined. A megaphone can reach blocks. Your blog reaches the world. Could young you ever imagine having people in other countries listen to what you have to say?
        It totally is this amazing magical megaphone, more astounding then we could have ever possibly imagined as kids!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Through Ivy's Eyes and commented:
    Sam is an astounding writer and so amazingly puts into words things in a way I wish I could grasp. I was in a situation much like this in January of 2014. I had a partner that wasn’t abusive, I had my hormones, I had everything that I wanted, and it didn’t matter. I ended up in a crisis unit anyway. Sam states it well when he says “Because mental illness doesn’t care about the life you’ve built. It’s only interested in what it can take away.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So many in our communities go through situations like this. Your courage in sharing your story has already helped as a couple heartfelt comments illustrate. Here’s a big fairy bear hug for you. Thanks for shining a light in the darkness. 🌅

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sam, this is such an important kind of message, not just for those with mental illness and those who love them, but for the vast numbers who really don’t understand. I’m thinking how much suffering could be avoided or shortened if stories like this were part of school curriculum. Thank you, Sam. reblogging

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for putting this out there.

    It’s been two years and a week since my attempt. I’m glad I didn’t struggle with the cop, although the thought did enter my mind at the time.

    What has been hard for me, on top of all the other recovery stuff, has been coming to terms with the fact that I must be on meds for the rest of my life. That kind of dependency goes against my grain in a huge way. Still working on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Up until this last hospitalization, there was a thought in the back of my mind that maybe I’d come off of my medications some day – I had even been working with a psychiatrist months prior to come off of some of them already.

      And then, you know, reality hit me right in the face and reminded me that it’s just not safe to be without them. I’m still processing that.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ve always hoped that I wouldn’t have to be on meds my whole life, but I think it’s inevitable. I have a hard enough time WITH them, much less without. I have the same issue with having to be dependent on these little bitty pills to be able to lead some essence of a normal life. I still like to dream that some day, I won’t need to be on them anymore. I wonder if it’s an internal struggle that most of us requiring meds long term have.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Sam. I really needed to read your article and I didn’t know it. You put into words many of my thoughts and feelings. These last months have been so tough… My life was great and I still wanted to die. It feels so good to realize that I am not the only one who has felt like this. It makes you feel less alone and takes a lot of weight off yours shoulders. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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