Disappearances are a part of life. The misplacement of car keys and reading glasses or the runaway of a beloved pet. Possibly one of the greatest disappearances in life is death and transcendence to the world beyond. Mental illness is tragically responsible for many of these disappearances. Several sources, including the National Institute of Mental Health, cite the suicide rate for bipolar disorder as anywhere from 15% to 20%, and close to 50% of people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once. Suicide is not the only force causing the disappearance of those with bipolar disorder and mental illness. People afflicted with mental illnesses often times experience multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, mysteriously leaving school, work places, social circles. Hospitalizations are debilitating, preventing individuals from pursuing their previous endeavors and forcing them instead to succumb to the world that is the mental health treatment system. It involves the revolving door of inpatient and outpatient treatment, psychotherapy, and medication therapy, abounding with numerous side effects further limiting quality of life.
Recently, Ned Vizzini, the author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story and several other books, committed suicide at the age of 32. His novels reflect his experience with mental illness, including hospitalization in his early twenties, forming the basis for his novel It’s Kind of a Funny Story. I profoundly identify with Ned Vizzini, and I am not entirely sure why. Perhaps it is because we have similar stories. I started to experience psychiatric hospitalizations at the age of fourteen, and it has been a revolving door since, with the total of hospitalizations now teetering at ten. We also share a similar diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
However I believe that these are the superficial aspects of my identification with Ned Vizzini. He spent much of his mid to later life battling suicidal ideation and the desire to end his life, which he finally acted upon. Since my early to mid teens, I have, too, battled this impulse with such intensity, my desires rolling in and out like the tides of the ocean. It is something that never completely disappears, sitting quietly in the back of my mind until it has a conniption fit and comes screaming forward. I know that deep within I am not ready to transcend this existence to the next world, but at times the possibility to be without suffering is enticing. Though I connect with Ned Vizzini’s death, I use it as an impetus to live. I can honor his memory by surviving and thriving where he could not and finding the inherent beauty in life that inspires the will to live.
The disappearances I have made in this life – numerous hospitalizations, disappearing from all high school social circles and leaving the institution early, struggling to stay abreast in college while fighting a debilitating illness and its ravaging effects – have greatly challenged my ability to live and thrive in this life, but what is of utmost importance, in my opinion, is that I am still here. I am sure that I will have numerous disappearances in my life to come, but I will return, as I have thus far. I will be the car keys, the reading glasses, eventually found and put to use as if they had never disappeared.