What’s it like being crazy?

What’s it like being a peer?

I was asked this question today, less delicately, as “What’s it like being crazy?”

As a peer, I live this as my normality and have done so since I started having symptoms as a teen. So, that’s my basis of comparison, before and after, and this makes it easy to answer what it’s like being crazy.

For years, I could depend on knowing right from wrong, true from false, real from unreal.

Then, I couldn’t at times because a newly malfunctioning brain began lying to me.

Worse, I couldn’t tell my brain was lying. It refused to let me.

Now, I live with always the glimmer that what I’m perceiving might be wrong, false, and unreal. And I wouldn’t know it.

The real question is:


What’s it like not fully trusting your own brain?


There’s your answer as to what it’s like to be crazy.

The challenge of helping fellow peers understand saying “NO MEANS NO!” is the same as saying “Self-Care First.”

I tried to make myself dead a couple weeks ago. However, that’s not really want I want to talk about.

For the past few months a peer has insisted on confronting me about “issues and concerns” she had about me. When I plainly stated my mental health was not in a solid enough place to take on this sort of conversation, her reply was, “Well, let’s give it a try and see where it goes.” I flatly declined to do so, repeating my mental health was my prioirity.

Similarly, at a STS peer support group this year, I had a peer member call me out on expressing my difficulties and challenges. He said, “I’m very uncomfortable, Steve. You’re supposed to be our rock. I don’t think you’re being appropriate.”

The spectre of this demand upon me loomed with everpresence. My ex-gf even pressured me, saying “If you don’t talk to her, you’re going to lose her. You’re strong enough.”

Of course I have strength. I am very proud of myself for my strength. And at this time in my recovery journey, all my strength is dedicated to my wellness. I’ve made this absolutely clear.

Something I’ve recognized over time is there is a misconception I have “my shit together” at all times and in all ways. Proudly, I do carry myself well and present well. I believe people’s misconception comes from the success I have “wearing the mask” to function in society, especially when feeling kind of rough. It’s a fair assumption considering.

Yet, it’s exhausting when already exhausted. What I find most draining and disheartening is not when a Muggle says something like “You should think happy thoughts” or “Have you tried not being depressed”, it’s when peers are imposing upon me prioritizing my mental health and feel an entitlement to encroach upon – or even violate – my explicit boundary of “self-care first.” It’s exhausting.

Fellow peers not listening to my plea of “NO MEANS NO” is a pressure that depletes me and breaks my heart. I take it very seriously and very personally.

Trying to precisely define my emotions borne of peers expecting more of me than I have the strength to muster brings up feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger, weariness, exhaustion, loneliness…

If really expressing myself honestly, my emotions are a great swell of betrayal and abandonment. Betrayed and abandoned is how I feel.

These are my emotions to own and I’m confident I’ll learn ways to successfully manage the resultant symptoms. Still, it sucks feeling this way.

It’s been full-on difficult the past two months. I pushed myself harder than healthy (a constant failing of mine), my med regimen of seven years is losing efficacy, I’m not managing the symptoms of CPTSD very successfully (thank you, Susan, Paula, and MHRAC for this Disneyland of turmoil), and the holidays are simply emotionally defeating since losing my Mom in 2011.

All said, I made a best effort at killing myself two weeks ago. First time in over seven years. I’m here typing this so apparently I suck at suicide.

It’s important to know I firmly stand that it’s bipolar that led me to the (foolish) decision to try to be dead. There are always contributing stressors reinforcing mu brain’s capacity to lie me. It’s my malfunctioning brain lying to me that’s at fault and nothing else.

One crucial element for me, moving onward, is building upon learning how to express myself explicitly when I’m in crisis and learning how to ask my support network for help before the crisis turns deadly… and hoping they’ll understand the severity when I ask. It’s tough to see my distress behind the mask and it’s my responsibilty to reach out make myself understood. Pride is deadly sin for a reason.

Even more crucial is being very clear “NO MEANS NO” and not taking “No, I won’t respect your boundary, I won’t respect your health, and I won’t respect you” for an answer.

My Dad is here to help keep me alive day to day while I work with Deb on new meds, while I confer with my new therapist exploring the wonder of how much CPTSD manifests itself during my daily existence, and while I draw upon DBT skills as strongly as possible.

As for STS peer support groups, although being called out as “uncomfortable” to the group (no member disagreed) was a tough nut to chew, it is fair and useful feedback. We’re no longer a small cog in the bigger DBSA machine. As the founder and proprietor of STS there are different expectations of me and it’s very kind and generous for the members to help me understand this. I’m honored we have a community of trust where members feel safe enough to express their needs to me.

And, to close off, I’m doing much better thanks in large part to friends who are there when I (finally) ask for help.

I was ready to kill myself yesterday. Thanks for noticing.

The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of stickiness, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in mid-August. Wait. I can do better. The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of itchiness, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in mid-August. Hold up. That still isn’t a solid enough comparisson. Give me another go. The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of pan-nausea sinus-scorching face-melting (think of skin dripping off the face, like that Sado-Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark) omnipresent stench, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in early-July and not mid-August. That does it there. Nailed it.


I’m full-on depressed.


Now established, my depressive mood is akin to that exotic Asian aroma in stenchy magnitude. Very sciencey. My depression . . . It’s everywhere, and try as I might and calling to arms every mindfulness tool, every coping strategy, and every DBT skill in my trusty depression-annihilating arsenal, I cannot escape this depression. It’s exhausting, it’s depleting, and it’s unavoidable. Mightily scouring my WRAP for any scrap of “something that worked the last time I was this depressed” insight, I found it most useful . . . as tinder in my backyard fire pit last evening. What a useless stack of collated dried pulp. The only good thing about my formerly six-meter-thick WRAP, compiled over the last eight years, is a vast forest of trees covering all of eastern Idaho died so I could compose that valueless “living document” meant to be an archival tome authored by me in order to keep me alive based on my lived experience. It’s worthlessness is almost comical, but isn’t, because I just watched Jim Jeffries on YouTube and that dude is comical. Find his two part presentation on our Second Amendment (Jim is Australian). His observations as an objective non-patriot is beyond insightful, unlike my WRAP which is now ash. If ever I compose a new WRAP, I’m just going to torch an entire national forest and cut out the middleman.

So I made it through to today, Sunday, December 8, 2019. How I just happen to still be here I’ll share with you later if I survive until the end of this article. If not, it’ll be my last and greatest unpublished folk tale. Belay that. I’ve got a smashing unfinished article about Becky’s screechy, pouty, cloaked-sexuality friend who is a peer and who claims no accountability for her symptomatic behavior. It’s all tied up in an My Chem analogy that is exceptionally clever. So, if I survive to the end of this article, I’ll consider finally topping that article off. For now, let me share that the Rolling Stones are not very good and I don’t like them and that’s my choice so, Coddled the Hutt, lay off and attempt adult maturity.

Before moving into a patchwork of circumstance and happenstance that brought me to pecking away at the keyboard, I’d like everyone to take a quick training course in “Own Your Emotions.”

How’s that sound? I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of stories and names might surface. I’m also dealing with the bitterness borne of bipolar symptoms. You know, those artificial emotions. There’s no intent to hurt feelings, and even though some Brown University healy-touchy purveyor of logically nebulous nonsense assures me I’m wrong, without any intent on my part I’m only able to lament inadvertent ouchiness felt. Bits and pieces, and, magic from my hands. Name the song. Point being, we all have our own sensitivities and this is my story.

Disclaimer down. Sigh. We live in a “World of Reaction.”

I’ve been staring at the screen for . . . 20 minutes? I’ve been in a holding pattern for a while trying to pull on just one thread to make my past few weeks unravel into a narrative. Indecisiveness, inability to organize thoughts, even some confussion. T’is uncharacteristic for me to feel so befuddled and . . .

Hey! I wrote a note to Amanda this morning whilst still in the midst of doing a Little Dutchboy on my tears. It’s the perfect framework for expository, emotive, and symptomatic throughput. I’m either clever or lazy, and since I need one in the win column, I’m jacking this in as clever.


My Sunday Morning Message to Amanda

Today, I’m making a choice which way my life goes. It’s been close to a week since we last spoke. I have called twice and neither times have you returned my call. This has been bad for my health.

I hope your communucation silence is because you decided to do as you intended, and that you are healing.

Other speculations have kept me awake. With missing my family, Thanksgiving alone, and SAD, my health is plummeting. In addition, no one has called me or checked on me all week. My dad messaged a couple times, only to check on furnace repair. My furnace froze up.

Absolutely literally, I could have been dead for a week and no one would have noticed. Maybe Turquoise Lodge, but only a quick call to ask if I was coming in. However, they’ve never checked on a missed Laugh It Off gig before, not that I can recall.

I was prepared to kill myself yesterday. I thought “Well, it’s proven. My passion for helping others, it’s not been equitable exhange of support. And that’s had to be okay.” And mostly it is. Remember Chris losing his nut in the middle of group, saying something along the lines of “It’s not comfortable when you talk about you having problems. We count on you to be our rock, Steve.” With comments of that variety, it’s an easy move to feel “I’m only a tool to fix others.” But that’s selfish. I get depressed and I get selfish. Artifical thoughts and feelings. Chris has a good point, I’ve been letting people down. A lot. Inlcuding you.

It’s so cliche. The “I’m a burden, I’m a drag, I ask too much, I should be stronger, people are better off without me” thoughts prevailed. And then, the serenity. There’s the serenity, that resignation and calm knowing I can be gone and that’s okay. It’s always the finest moment where debating myself isn’t necessary. It was 4PM yesterday when I chose to kill myself.

Yesterday, I sat in the parking lot of the Eastside Shelter, ready to take Happy and Roey in so they could have a good home. I sat and waited too long. The place closed. Good thing? I asked a young mother if she would like the rabbits. She spoke only Spanish and I scared her. Dude, I must have looked like Nancy Pelosi’s head on Donald Trump’s body.

It’s hard to ask for help. Asking for help shows I’m unpforessional. I saw this at MHRAC. As soon as I went into that CPTSD tailspin, David Ley was right. I’m despicable and didn’t think things through and cmopose myself. It wasn’t that he couldn’t see the CPTSD symptoms I was having. He justly needed me to pull it together if I wanted to be on MHRAC. Nancy Konenberg the same. She said it was a peronal problem with Paula that I shouldn’t bring to MHRAC. I never know when to ask for help and it’s hard. There’s appropiriate times and inappropriate times and I always trip over the latter.

I want to call you, but you don’t need me to disturb your healing. I’ve never been selfish. It’s hard to ask for help. Still, with you gone, I thought someone might make the effort. This is coming for weeks now, thumb in dike, pressure building. I told a few memebers I spent all of Tuesday group fighting off weeping. Chris was there which thankfully reminded me I had a duty to keep things composed. It felt good saying it out loud but it made it harder yesterday because I couldn’t tell someone out loud again.

And I can’t reach out to warmline and that sucks so bad. I told you I got done with mental health court and emaiiled Mary and she said they didn’t want me “best of luck in all you do.” So . . . I guess I don’t …

Do you know the only conversations I had all week were at group (which was very hard to concentrate hence not much meaningful contact with people) and on Facebook mainly to get a solid social media presence for you and Megan. STS needs to continue. It’s a good idea although I’m not pulling my weight enough.

God, Facebook. One last ditch effort. I can’t be one of those facebook people who say “I need five friends to reply and comment or I’m done.” It would ruin STS and I need to leave something behind

One last try. I posted songs from Youtube instead.

I’m Not Okay – MCR cover

Help! – The Beatles

Adam’s Song – blink 182

Lost Like This – Oingo Boingo

English Beat – Click Click

Numb – Linkin Park

You Know My Name – Chris Cornell

Fragile Thing – Big Country

All Apologies – Nirvana

Not Enough Time – INXS

I sat and asked God, “Let just one person notice. Just one. I can’t ask social media in any other way. Please. Just one.”

One person did ask. And only one. And not from behavioral health. A random ska friend in England. And I’m alive today.

No one from behavioral health noticed. Not. A. One. What is God telling me?

It’s Sunday the 8th. I can’t call you because I can’t take the rejection. I won’t call you. So, I need to decide

Do I move on without you? Do I sit here obsessing? What is best for my health? What will keep me alive? Do I want to be?

I’ve prayed. Let’s see how this goes.

As an afterthought, I can see people in behavioral health saying, “Why didn’t he reach out? I would have been right there. He knows it’s temporary. He’s been so strong. Why didn’t he say something?”

I did say something. I did reach out. For weeks. I haven’t had strength for weeks. I really did and I felt so guilty for doing it.

There is a good question I can ask. You’ve been gone three weeks. No one asked how I was doing with you gone. No one invited me for Thanksgiving. It’s been one week without a phone call or text. From anyone. My phone log is spam. One week since I talked to you.

If people cared, why am I alone?

I prayed. I asked God, “Please, just let one person hear me. I’ve tried. Just one person.”

There was one person and only one person.

Mathew Wright, a man I never met, God sent him.

Mathew understood me asking for help through songs. It’s just like what Clare used to do to express herslf to me when words failed. Did I get the idea while praying?

So, I’m alive. Me and the dumb rabbits.

I miss you.


I was ready to kill myself yesterday. I prayed for one person to notice. One person did. Mathew Wright, a man I never met, two thirds of a continent and an ocean away.


Ahhhhhhhh-ha!!!!!!!! You see what I did there? Set up and pay off. “I was ready to kill myself yesterday. Thanks for noticing.”

You thought it was pained sarcasm. You thought it was a guiltfest. Not so! I’m not filled to the gills with Disney Princess Joy right now. I do feel more in touch with my head and the ground. From 33 years of life experience, the worst has passed.

It’s a happy ending, lads and lasses. Dude, this would actually make a really great screenplay.

I’ve saved the best images for last, screen captures straight off Facebook. Check it. Here are the few texts Mathew sent me. I could tell immediately he heard me. Immediately.

Was I ready to die? Yep. Did I know how I was going to do it? Yep. Was I able to draw upon 20 years of acquired life skills to hold on until today? Yep. Did Mathew’s kindness really help keep me breathing? Yep.

Was Mathew’s Facebook comment the one and only? Yep. He’s exactly how many people I needed to hear me.


Thanks for noticing, Mathew. Thank you for the bottom of my bottomless heart.


THIS NEEDS TO BE IT’S OWN BLOG BUT I’M JUST NOT UP TO IT SO I’LL NIP THIS OFF LATER.

A few final words I’ll share. I was close to being done. It wasn’t due to anything explicitly external. While there are always truths running through my thoughts during a symptomatic crisis, the truths and thoughts are badly distorted by a malfunctioning brain. And the organ on the fritz loves to lie to me when in a depressive episode. My brain can be such an asshole sometimes.

I haven’t shared as intimate of article in some time, I think all the way back to the Paula Burton/MHRAC/APD thing. Without question, there will be some irrate words about “You shouldn’t say everything. Learn to edit!” Okay, I appreciate your words. I counter with “Why?

When I launched this site the idea was triple-purposed. First, I wanted an in-the-moment archive of my recovery journey, a reposistory of where my mind and emotions are and quite often when I’m at my worst. Although my WRAP is now ash in my rabbits’ poop box, having the immediacy of somewhere to jot it down for later is prime source material for my WRAP. Much of what I torched I can restore from old articles on Thoughtcrimes.

The second purpose will answer the question “But why make your mental illness public at all?” C’mon. What do I do every chance I get? Like many peers, I openly share my story to help others understand what it’s like to live with bipolar, schizoaffective disorder, and CPTSD. Both for peers and Muggles. Edited material published here is a lie.

And the final purpose… I love to write, the world is fun to take part in, and I like to comment on the wacky little rock and the biotic infestation on the surface. And, as a comic, it’s an easy place to jot down potential material.

Okay, this is a must-do addendum. My very good friend Mat Tibble came by to visit because he was concerned for my wellness and safety, last Tuesday. Mat and I met inpatient at Kamp Kaseman in 2012. We’re always here for each other.

The thing is, he’s got a new squeeze in his life and he was busting to tell me about her. Recall, my dirty rotten liar of a brain had me thinking in “I’m a burden, I can’t get Mat depressed like me, toughen up” terms. So I slapped on “The Mask” and supported Mateo the way he would me. I know, I know. Oxygen mask in a crashing plane analogy. I made things worse for myself. Whatever. It’s who I am.

Of course, all of this is meaningless if I don’t survive until the end of this arti . . . spoiler alert. I survive until the end of the article.

Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes and Stand Up To Stigmabpeer support groups.

Socks

In the past STS did some work with The Rock At Noonday in Albuquerque, a center providing those experiencing homelessness with excellent services like two meals a day, clothing, showers, internet access, phone access, laundry, and even pet check ups from a local veteranarian. Our peer support group members would bring donations of clothng and I eventually asked dude-at-the-helm Pastor Danny what items would be most useful. His answer was one item:

Socks.

His answer was surprising. Explaining, he said that for someone like me, I can keep socks for years because I don’t wear them all day, and I’m not always walking from shelter to meals to services. Plus, being able to wash socks makes a huge difference in how long they last.

Now, our group members bring lots of socks, including mismatched socks.

Stigma this. Stigma that.

There’s this dude on Facebook I greatly respect who shared his thoughts on mental health stigmas and their lack of impact on how he views himself. In better part, I agree fully that how a person might feel about me or how they might treat me knowing I have bipolar and CPTSD doesn’t affect how I feel about myself. I’m very comfortable with who I know I am . . . even with those tiny demons tugging at tiny insecurities inside my mind.

Still, it’s one thing to be affected by others’ personal opinion of those with mental health conditions. The issue with stigmatization comes when these opinions deny peers opportunities and when these opinions define policies and statutes that affect only peers. Hurt feelings versus violating constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties is where confronting stigmatization holds importance.

Sometimes, stigmatization has real-world consequences: renting an apartment, applying for a job, acquiring security clearance, interacting with law enforcement. When stigmatization becomes unavoidable in how a peer lives their life, this is where standing up to stigma is both crucial and essential.

“What group are you with?” Stand Up To Stigma explained

A number of folks I’ve recently met asked “Are you with NAMI?” or “Are you with DBSA?” or ‘Are you with MHRAC?” or “Are you with ____?”

The answer is “No.” I’ve resigned from each board and committee of all organizations where once I held leadership positions and I am focusing exclusively on Stand Up To Stigma peer education programs, peer focus groups, and peer support groups. These are the projects important to me and my close friends and to be most responsive to the needs of our communities we must be a fully independent peer collaborative.

What I learned is behavioral health solutions must be innovative and opportunistic. The enemy of innovation is asking someone else for permission to do what you KNOW is right in your heart.

When I was 46 the State of New Mexico honored me with an award for Lifetime Achievement in Behavioral Health Innovation. I’m stoked by the opportinities DBSA, NAMI, MHRAC, APD, BCFIC, and other organizations/acronyms provided me. What I realized is what was being honored was the advocacy stuff I was accomplishing independent of existing organizations.

So, the longer answer is it’s great collaborating with good folks like NAMI and DBSA, and it’s doing stuff as a completely peer-developed, peer-managed, and peer-led organization where I feel most useful in mental health advocacy.

My friends and I work best where growth, community, and innovation are encouraged and nurtured.

We’ll be talking a lot more about STS’s mission as we move forward with our support of our community.

Letter to the Psychiatric Times editor: Mania and Hypomania: The Latest Thinking on Duration of Episodes and Other Features

Dear editor,

In response to the October 29, 2019, article by Dr. David Osser, I would like to share insight into diagnostic modeling from the patient perspective.

https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/article/mania-and-hypomania-latest-thinking-duration-episodes-and-other-features

I’ve got bipolar. Both I and II. And schizoaffective disorder. And . . . anything else diagnosed in that 15 minute span of presentation at the ER, which is where I received each of these diagnoses.

For me, an initial diagnosis is a great place to start deciding how to treat my symptoms. After that, the game plan is to treat my specific symptoms and not the diagnosis. Providers sometimes miss this essential progression in treating peers because of adherence to diagnostic criteria.

My significant issue with bickering about manic durations is that showing symptoms for too short a span (it appears 7 days for mania and 4 days for hypomania) serves the primary medical rationale “We might treat it wrong if we don’t have the proper diagnostic definition.”

I’ve been riding this rodeo since 1987, diagnosed in 1999. I’ve had rapid cycling with frequencies every hour and not days. Some providers question the existence of mixed episodes. I’ve had a provider insist I treat psychosis first because of the schizoaffective diagnosis, when the psychosis is consequential of severe depression. Treat the depression, the psychosis goes away.

In all this time messing about with treatment, there is one constant:


All mental health treatment is trial and error.


So, does it really matter about the duration of mania in treatment? I’m showing mania-oid symptoms that happen to last three days. Try me out on some LiCO3. If my mania-oid symptons abate, bam, good job. It’s mania. If not, then . . . let’s trial and error other treatment options.

Being practically cynical, adhering to a minimum episodic duration means peers like me won’t receive the proper treatment of mania because I don’t meet the diagnostic criteria. This is exactly the contrary argument being debated for a revised two day episodic duration . . . even with the proposed revision, my true treatment needs again fall outside the diagnostic capture zone.

Being fully cynical, I often believe the DSM is a billing manual more than a diagnostic treatment manual. This is borne primarily from years of trial and error treatment efficacy frustrations and probably isn’t a reflection of actual purpose.

All said, my sincere recommendation for providers is treat the person and the empirical symptoms and not the diagnosis and diagnostic criteria. This is what works best for me in my recovery journey.

Kindest regards

Steve Bringe
Founder, Stand Up To Stigma

Opinion: Behavioral health services for New Mexico peers FIRST

As an involved mental health peer & who has served advisory and leadership roles
in the New Mexico community for 10 years, I question currently proposed immigration policy and its impact on our peer services.

New Mexico is a “Border State” and a large influx of undocumented immigrants will greatly strain already negligently supported programs in the state. It is reasobable to project this influx will endure funding stretched beyond a social Hooke’s constant and generate longer waiting periods for the limited number of providers in New Mexico.

A typical waiting period for an outpatient behavioral health appointment is three to six months. Our homeless population is underserved with an ever growing population – obviously, housing needs are a HUGE issues for our community. Inpatient stays are revolving doors because inpatient treatment is about immediate stablization and not sustained outpatient success in recovery and wellness.

Why? Funding. Or more specifically, lack of funding. New Mexico doesn’t have a lot of money. Providing every behavioral health service needed for our community takes money. We don’t have enough.

This is an entirely unpopular platform and I’ve been called “heartless”, “racist”, “anti-immigrant”, “white supremicist” (my ancestry makes me one quarter Chinese and one quarter Tahitian – first generation born in America), and a number of other rhetorical barbs designed to shame me for my strong beliefs on social services in New Mexico.

This is an unpopular platform – I openly own this – and I have zero qualms sharing my belief.

With underserved peers and families who are citizens of the United States of America, our citizens’ behavioral health needs must come first. These peers are our priority and our responsibility. When our peers’ behavioral health needs are fully provided, only then should we consider offering services to a significant foreign immigrant population.

We have such a limited amount of funds. I can name a half dozen essential services in Albuquerque who turn away peers because of being underfunded. This is completely wrong.

In an ideal world we could afford to welcome all needful people to benefit from our services. Sadly, doing so would divert services away from our citizens and our peers already underserved. Our peers are our prioirty. This is the reality. Humanitarian support must be offered to our peers at home to ensure all their behavioral health needs are fulfilled.

It’s an unpopular platform and someone has to say it.

Kindly reprinted from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Police kill themselves, too – Insight on police suicide

By Steve Bringe
Founder, Stand Up To Stigma

A very sad and troubling article came across my feed concerning police officer suicides in New York City.

NYPD suicide problem grows as eighth officer takes own life this year

I’d enjoy sharing an insight on the great need for safe, protected mental health services in the law enforcement community. Trust me. This is good stuff. It’s useful information gleaned from a firsthand perspective.

When I was developing CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) for the Albuquerque Police Department, part of what was created was internal mental health services for the officers AND their families. This is an excellent service tbat carries an amount of unrecognized cultural complexity.

Having given numerous CIT presentations for APD and having been tasked with recruiting peer presenters, I’ve had the unique opportunity to speak openly with police officers on the crucial conversation of mental health in a safe, honest, and vulnerable setting. And, having been invited to participate in the full 40 hours of CIT training, I’ve gained direct empathetic understanding of the police perspective in crisis situations. This is because APD officers shared their law enforcement stories with me and our peer presenters.


Observation: Being a cop is a rough and high-stress job and cops aren’t proactive in seeking out mental health treatment.


The issue – as I see it – is there’s a self-stigmatizing critique in the law enforcement culture that to seek mental health services is a weakness and shameful. By making the services internal to APD the hope is more officers will get immediate help with the support of their colleagues.

As a peer who has bipolar and severe PTSD, as well as a history of trying to kill myself, if I didn’t have the excellent services I have now, suicide as a mental health treatment solution would continue to be part of my life. It’s no different for cops who experience horror on the job.

As said, I was also invited to take the full 40 hours of CIT, and not only the two hours I developed. The insight I’ve shared – redacting specific officer stories which were shared on a personal level – speaks from my understanding of the training and ingrained responsibilities officers hold in mental health crisis situations. As their job description requires, cops are placed in environments most folks can’t appreciate as unavoidably emotionally rattling. This happens at crime scenes that aren’t pretty or heart warming. As a layperson, some of the stories officers shared with me are terrifying.

These unimaginable on-the-job life events and the psychologically damaging consequences don’t clock out at the end of the shift. The jolting effects follow the cop home and are there when the cop wakes up the next day and the next day and all the next days to come.


The inherent mental
health-impacting job stress in law enforcement can be crippling and exhausting day after day, and suicide is one natural conclusion to untreated PTSD.


Purposely, I saved the PTSD acronym for the last.

Here’s the insight on the law enforcement culture I want people to realize and understand. My feeling is suicide shouldn’t be exasperated by cultural competency. The law enforcement community is incredibly loyal and tightly insular, and the law enforcement community contends with its own internally propogated stigmatization. Police officers both need and deserve specific and special services for their mental health wellness. And, seeking out these critical services must be accepted, supported, and destigmatized to be effective.


The Albuquerquue Police Department is providing these services. Let’s see what happens with the culturally internal stigma about getting mental health services.


I applaud with both hands and both feet – as well as the hands and feet of the (occasional) make believe people in my head – the forward-thinking and active-solution of the Albuquerque Police Department. I applaud the department’s dedication to the officers’ and the responsibility shown in dispensing the permeating self-sigmatization in law enforcement culture. And, in talking with officers on the street whom I trained, these services are being openly utilized. Score.

As a closing comment, I’ve spoken primarily of the mental health needs of law enforcement officers as being consequential of their employment. It’s equally important to address bipolar, schizophrenia, DID, depression, and any other mental health issue with the same considerations as everyone else on the planet. These mental health needs are also part of APD’s in house services. Just so you know. Score.

By the by, I aced the CIT exam. 100% is my score. Bonus.

Kindly reprinted from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Dragging Me Kicking and Screaming.

My divorce . . . I wasn’t fond of my divorce. The only difference between my divorce and a bloody, puss-filled, and inflamed hemorrhoidal tissue is nothing. It was icky and messy, it hurt really really really bad, and it was a world-class pain in my arsecrack. So uncomfortable, so ouchy.

After my divorce, I did that most natural of bipolar activities. I isolated. Big time. Calls went unanswered and window shades unopened. The thought of retrieving mail brought on such anxiety-ridden bouts of sleeplessness and self-doubt I questioned my ability or willingness to breathe. My Blanket Fortress was in a perpetual threatened state of being saturated in urine because, in practical terms, it would be easier to change my sheets later than to take on the Himalayan expedition of crawling to the bathroom to use the toilet. I kid you not. This was a serious debate I had each day. My divorce left me in razor-thin mortal existence and my bipolar depressive symptoms were insistent on knocking me off this ragged edge.

I have friends. And, with some of these friends, I was missed. This longing for my presence elicited concern and this longing also elicited an unsolicited visit to my home. I have friends, and I have very good friends who know about my bipolar symptoms and I have very good friends who like me alive. One such friend is Michael.

After a month of completely ignoring the world, Michael and his boyfriend came to my home and kept unrelentedly ringing the doorbell, and despite my bipolar depression sensibilities, I had to answer the door just so I could murder whoever was incessantly leaning on the doorbell button. No, I don’t want another copy of The Watchtower. I appreciate you dropping by. Oh, yes. Stand very still. You have to be murdered.

Drats. It was Michael at the door with Geoffrey. They were smiling, although Geoffrey appeared nauseous over my appearance and aroma. Yes, I was nasty gross from weeks of hygienic neglect. Still, don’t invest too much weight in Geoffrey’s reaction because a used bandaid floating in a public pool triggers Geoffrey’s gag reflex so badly that he dry heaves until his entire body is turned inside-out.

Michael said, “Get ready. You’re going out with us tonight.”

I said, “Michael, leave me alone. I feel like shit.”

Michael said, “No choice, buddy. Get in the shower.”

I said, “Michael, I don’t have the energy for a shower. Just go away.”

Michael said, “Fine. We’ll give you a bath.”

I said, “Michael, I’ve told you a trillion times, I’m not gay and regardless of sexual preference I’m not into threesomes.”

Michael said, “You can’t insult me until I go away. Off to the bath.”

I said, “Fine.”

Geoffrey said, “Uggggg!!! I just threw up a little bit in the back of my throat!”

I said, “You had to wait to say that until my clothes were off? What an excellent ego boost you offer.”

Michael said, “Grow up. And don’t bother deciding on your outfit for the night. We have something special set for you.”

For Michael and Geoffrey, the outfit was more important than hygiene, but only just. What they had planned for me involved many razors and many parts of my body. It involved the makeup aisle at Walmart. It involved a trip to Savers. It involved viewing clothing sized “14” rather than sized “L.”


I was being dolled up in drag and taken on the town.


Shit. I hate my friends.

After the rigorous scrubbing so I didn’t smell like a dumpster fire in the alley behind a curry house, I had so little energy to argue or struggle. I just said, “Shit, Michael. Fine. Whatever. I have only one demand or I’m not going.”

“And what’s that?” inquired Michael, already boasting a smile that wouldn’t fade.


“I’m only going if you promise to keep anyone from hitting on me tonight. I’m severely depressed. I can’t take that kind of attention from anyone.”


With no hesitation, Michael and Geoffrey agreed to my non-negotiable. Perhaps demanding EVERYONE hit on me would have made them go away.

Painted up with cheap, vibrant face makeup so I looked like a Teletubby vomited a bag of Skittles on my head, and spruced up in a Prince-purple discoball sequined full length prom dress and electric-shock blonde wig, Michael and Geoffrey shared we were going to dinner at my favorite restaurant at the time (Trombino’s on Academy, still a fave) and then off we’d go to shake the night away at Pulse (admittedly, the best dance club with the best dance music in Q-Town). I barely picked at my thick and rich chicken/pasta plate. I barely had the energy to lift my chin above 24 degrees off my chest. How the hell was I supposed to go dancing to a bass-soaked 350 bpm reimaging of INXS’s “Need You To Night”? Collapse was imminent. I didn’t drive myself, effectively without escape. I was screwed.

“I’m not kidding, Michael. Nobody better hit on me tonight. Get the word around as soon as we get to Pulse.” My mood sucked and I was exhausted from bipolar depression increasing the gravitational constant of the universe for only me. I had nothing left in me to ward off unwanted romantic attention. It’d be easier to melt into a puddle of infected off-green sinus-goo and take residence in a CDC petri dish for all eternity. Michael sighed his reply.


“I heard you and we agreed to protect your chastity. Don’t worry.”


We got to Pulse and I wearily pleaded with Michael and Geoffrey to crack the window and leave me in the car. No go. Michael is slim and Geoffrey is short. How they hauled my 6’3″ nearly-dead weight frame into the club and kept me upright on the dance floor for three hours is Herculean and I learned that night that either bloke could kick my ass if wanted, even when I am at full strength. Very humbling, although it did make me feel very safe and protected. This was important.

The three hours were the worst three hours I’ve ever spent immediately following a meal at Trombino’s while dressed up like a prom date drunk on steroids. It couldn’t end soon enough and it didn’t. The saving grace is Michael and Geoffrey were true to my demand and I wasn’t hit on all night.

Finally, my upright misery could turn into prone misery as Michael and Geoffrey ferried me back to my house and the safety of my Blanket Fortress. It was the first time I was out of the house in over three weeks, and truth told I didn’t hate being out of the house. This is entirely credited to the love and caring Michael and Geoffrey showed me. This sort of adoration is energizing I’ve come to appreciate in my very best friends.

Collapsed in the back seat of their Prius, I forcibly mumbled out, “Hey, guys. Thanks for getting me out of the house. And really thanks for honoring my wish. No one hit on me all night and that means everything. Thank you.”

Michael looked at Geoffrey and Geoffrey looked at Michael as if thumb wrestling to decide who would acknowledge my gratitude. It was Michael who lost.


“Um, Steve. We didn’t have anything to do with that. You just make a really ugly woman.”


After leveling that devastating full-body ego slam, my friends stayed the night to make sure I didn’t kill myself.

It was one of the best nights of my life.

Kindly reprinted from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.