Before that, my illness was in control of my life. I'd wake up with a sickening feeling, like my blood was sewage slowly moving through my veins. I could barely concentrate while looking for a job, and every day that went by I felt worse and worse, more ashamed of myself, more like, "Why go on?" I called my mother while sitting on a fallen tree, alone in a small patch of woods in a beautiful part of Vermont, to tell her she'd never see me again. I had to listen to her violently cry into the phone again and again and again.
I'm not sure how I did go on. I wanted so badly to kill myself. Maybe I lacked the strength even to do that. It would be comforting to think some deep, inner, core part of me wanted to live and get well, but I can't say for sure.
All I know is that I survived... and yes, people who live with mental illness should be called survivors. The Treatment Advocacy Center says, "Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with bipolar disorder, with 15 percent to 17 percent taking their own lives." I was lucky and was able, somehow, to take that first crucial step toward recovery.