A long time ago, I wrote an article for The Tattooed Buddha about meditation and bipolar disorder.
After reading my piece, a young lady with BP checked out this blog and then contacted me. She was amazed that I was still going, that I’d been able to not only withstand trauma, depression, anxiety and mania, but use it as a source of creativity and understanding.
She wanted to walk the same path as me so that she could persevere as well.
We chatted for about two years, both in emails and on the phone. I offered all the methods and teachings I’d learned, as well as personal experiences. I listened. We laughed and cried. She was thankful. She said she loved me, like family.
I moved in with my grandmother. She has Alzheimer’s with stage five dementia, so I couldn’t spend as much time reaching out to her as I did.
We chatted a bit and she said she was going through a rough patch, and I let her know she could call me if she needed me, that I was available every night at 9 p.m. now.
A few days later, I messaged her and didn’t get a response. I messaged her again, and still no response. Eventually I Googled her, and—as I suspected—I found an obituary. She died at home. The obit didn’t say it, but I knew the score: she took her own life.
I checked my inbox to see if I missed something, some message from her, but there wa snothing.
I sat there, seemingly unmoved for a few minutes. Then I let the thoughts come, thoughts of the “never will be, “and suddenly wept in my pillow. As the day wore on, the news sunk deeper and deeper into me. I’m quite slow when it comes to feeling the full impact of events.
Regrets mixed with equanimity; sadness with a dash of “I don’t know what the fuck’s going on.” I just know that she’s gone, and that I’ll never hear her voice again. My fellow traveler, my friend.
Sometimes, when she was in a good space, she’d say it was almost like I was with her meditating beneath the Bodhi tree. On her bad days, she felt like she was drowning and a million miles away from everyone.
I wish I could’ve helped her; I wish I could’ve done more. But there’s a part of this path that I can’t share with you. It’s a passion, a current, a deep love for the story. If I offed myself, then that’d be it for my story. I don’t want that to be it. Even though I’ve spent so much time wanting to die, even that death wish is woven in the context of my life. It’s part of it, part of this—it’s such.
I can’t share that with you, and I couldn’t share it with her. I wish I could’ve. I can’t share it because our stories aren’t the same, even if they do have similar plots at times. I will never kill myself, no matter what. Because there’s always more, and I’m perpetually fascinated by what comes next, even if it’s terrible.
All I can do is share my stories, and the teachings and methods I’ve learned and hope that you can use them, that they make your own story something too enthralling to end.
I’m gonna miss you, J. My fan, my friend. As for the rest of you, remember that whatever you’re feeling, whatever situation you’re in, is temporary. The clouds will part, the sun will shine. And when it shines, you better get your ass in gear and study and practice so that you can be ready for those clouds when they come back.
Squirrels hoard food for the winter—practicing with mental illness is the same. We hoard Dharma food, Dharma blankets, and Dharma lanterns to keep us going through the cold winter nights, nights that sometimes seem endless. But the sun always comes up again. If there’s one thing you can count on in samsara, it’s cycles.
Unfortunately, I don’t know of any theory or method that will help you fall in love with the adventure you’re on, the mystery you’re engaging. If I stumble on it, you’ll be the first to know.