Boy Interrupted

Triggers: suicide. And this is not so much a review as a re-telling and then my comments. I’ve included his suicide note. Please don’t read further if it’ll hurt too much.

More terminated than interrupted, this documentary was made by the parents of Evan Perry (Dana and Hart), who jumped to his death at age 15. Why? Bipolar … despair. My motive for watching this, is that the rate of suicide in bipolar people is much higher than the average population – I think it’s something people like me need to be aware of.

Part I

A nice looking family, with a history of mental illness and suicide, the Perrys seemed incredibly loving and caring. While they talked about his tantrums etc, I wondered how much more abused kids would act out if they weren’t abused (Evan wasn’t). He was challenging, creative, fussy, clever, charming, affectionate and also, according to his mother, could be “the darkest of souls”. He expressed suicidal ideations from about age five, apparently in a matter of fact manner. He started seeing a psychiatrist, who diagnosed depression and started him on Prozac.

“He was just scary,” said the shrink, describing the kid’s obsession with death and murder. “He was the scariest kid I’d ever seen in my life.” He would show his mother how he would kill himself; she photographed his demonstration of hanging, so that she’d be believed when she tried to get help.

The footage is home video, interspersed with interviews.

He loved Dylan, Neil Young, Nirvana and by age nine, was writing incredibly complex, rhyming and morbid songs. Journals, poetry, a play … all sad and all (like Evan in most respects) advanced well beyond his years.

At age 10 he attempted suicide at school. He was still seeing a psychiatrist and still on meds. And off he went to a mental institution, where he was diagnosed with bipolar ii (depressive bipolar). Depacote didn’t work, lithium seemed to help some and he was then sent for milieu therapy. His parents credited it with saving his life during that time.

Evan escaped, broke into a house and landed up in juvenile court. The theory then, was that Evan had been playing games to some extent and needed to be held accountable. He went back to the in patient facility for milieu therapy and things appeared to go well, partly because, “he needed to be a kid again”.

“Bipolar is not just a disorder of mood, it’s a disorder of judgment.”

After three months, he went home. He excelled at school, he made friends, had strong opinions and loved toys and cartoons. “The more happy I get, the more pissed off I’m gonna get later,” he said to a friend, showing good insight into his condition. At age 13, things seemed under control and positive. Because of his younger brother Scott’s suicide, Evan’s father was always fearful. “The pain was so profound,” said Scott’s fiancé, “I was mutilated when he died, half of me was completely dead.” Beatrice Perry (Evan’s grandmother) said “The words don’t exist to tell people how destroyed you have been.”

“A lot of the time he seemed really out of it to me,” said his half brother and under medical supervision, his lithium was decreased and stopped. He claimed not to be suicidal and was believed. “Maybe he got better at masking it,” said his psychologist. His mood dropped and his parents wondered if he ought to go back on lithium and made a psychiatrist’s appointment for the following week.

Before that could happen, one evening Evan acted out, told his mother he hated her and went to his room. His behaviour didn’t seem extreme for a 15 year old though. When his father looked in on him, he said he was doing fine. Shortly after that, he jumped out of his bedroom window, into an air shaft – and died.

He left his reasons for suicide on his laptop screen. His half brother said Evan’s perception of himself was no different to any other 15 year old’s list, but 20 000 times more intense.

things to die for:
1. fear of failing
2. lack of trust in friends
3, working hard for what?
4. never being able to fit in
5. knowing all the bad things are true; being lazy, looser, ugly, untalented, and stupid.
6. what’s the point?

things to live for:
1. potential of being something great
2. love of people i trust
3. the future
4. finding trusting friends
5. sadness brought to family
6. feeling better later

so, 6 things to live for and six things to die for

things i want:

york prep to never know why or how i died

to be forgotten

only family is invited to the funeral

for death to be painless

and finally for everyone to move on and know i am sorry but this is for the best

His psychiatrist said, “in psychiatry, bipolar is our cancer.” Of Evan’s suicide note he said, “it’s crazy, but it’s done so sanely,” and that the hypersanity of it was its insanity.

We have no way of knowing whether his death was painless, but the other four things Evan said he wanted, were not adhered to. When the funeral party reached the graveyard, in the pouring rain, the hole hadn’t been dug, “oh he’s laughing,” said his mom, “you better believe it.” Somebody says firmly, “We’ll do it!” but they don’t.

“When somebody is that deep and far into depression, and in such incredible pain, there’s nothing you can do,” wept Scott’s fiancé, as the camera panned over the place where Evan died.

The end of the documentary takes place 14 months later, harking back to the intro scenes, with the family building a barn at Wellspring (where Evan was for milieu therapy) as a memorial to Evan and to help future patients.

image

Part II

No matter how much I felt for his family, it’s obvious I’d identify more with Evan.

I think Scott’s fiancé was right – there is nothing you can do, in more than a temporary way anyway. If you want fast and dirty insight into the suffering mind of someone with bipolar, imagine knives whirling round in your cranium, slicing your brain to ribbons. Not the physical pain, simply as a metaphor. His half brother was right too, about the sheer intensity of bipolar emotions. Clearly there are very good and very bad sides to that fact.

Behind the inexorable violence of that pain are lives shredded by this fucking disorder. And frankly if anyone tells you bipolar isn’t that bad, either they don’t have it, or they have a very mild version. (Yes I’m jealous.) Undiagnosed, we may have wrecked any number of things, diagnosed, our hearts are often incurably broken.

Why mask the suffering? Who knows. To appear normal perhaps, to avoid stigma, or to avoid worrying and burdening your loved ones. The latter is my reason for saying I’m fine, I rarely try to appear normal, but I totally get why some people do. It isn’t as simple as “I don’t want to worry you,” it’s the burden we sometimes get, from being a burden to you. Having cost our families money and time and caused pain and anguish and a whole host of other issues, we might be guilt stricken and ashamed. I doubt it’s just me after all. The person with bipolar and the people who really, really love them, must pass through grief as sharp as smashed glass. Lots of relationships – and some people – don’t make it through to the other side.

Finding the right meds and therapy can be quick, it can take years and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. The side effects of the meds can be horrendous and can really fuck with your mind and your quality of life. People frequently take negative attitudes when they find out you’re bipolar and even the kindest of souls sometimes treat you like a moron. Once we think we’ve ruined your lives and our own lives seem fucked beyond redemption, what is there to live for?

The takeaway? Even with a loving family, treatment on tap, good schooling – bipolar can still kill. Also – take your damn meds!

I have no idea whether you’ll find it harrowing or not. I didn’t; it all made horribly logical sense to me. It wasn’t remotely shocking, just realistic. I don’t have a moral standpoint on whether or not the parents should have made the film. I’m rather grateful that they did though.

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Published by

blahpolar

battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

36 thoughts on “Boy Interrupted”

  1. Thank you. There have been a few moments of ideation from my son over the years but even now I hold in the back of my mind that he might someday take his life. I am prepared for loss by other means but that is of a different order and probably part of my inability to set appropriate boundaries. All the same my experience, personal and professional, reminds that he has to take responsibility for himself. In fact, I watch his alcoholism as a slow mediated suicide. Also a bipolar tendency.

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    1. There can’t be anything much worse than losing a child, but unless the notorious ‘they’ either cure all this crap, or reshape society a little to make room for it, or both … wtf is the answer?

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      1. Even so, the afflicted have to be willing to accept treatment, especially when they are adults. That is the harder part of being a parent. Understanding that you have to let them walk their own path. I’m working on that part.

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          1. I sometimes wish I was dead, which is not the same thing. It is a subject I hold with a mix of understanding, attraction and sadness. But I suspect that I am not highly suicidal and it is not a feature of my family history which is good. I had a much worse wish in my black psychotic depression after my daughter was born that I hope to explore in fiction. And lately I struggle with a frustration with my life as it played out. But I don’t feel like ending it.

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              1. I too struggled after my second son was born. I always felt cheated that I was in the hospital 2 months after he was born. I don’t know what the fuck i was doing, but it was not being a good mother. Alright, we know that’s not true, but that IS the way it feels. I didn’t miss my family at all when I was in the mental hospital. That has always frightened me just a bit. :( Then again, I was completely psychotic at the time.

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            1. I’m glad to hear that. And I hear you about the frustration. Oh well, nobody said life was tidy or storyshaped. Or if they did, they weren’t the sort of ‘them’ that I trust. Ho hum.

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  2. I don’t think that other people realize how much we think about taking our own lives when we get into what I call the dark places. During that time I find it unusual to have a day that I don’t consider the possibility of suicide. It becomes the norm. I used to always tell myself that if I still felt the way i felt in a week, I would do it then, but I would always find an excuse to put it off longer. Very insightful, and I would like to watch the documentary. People don’t like to hear when I tell them that the odds say I will die by my own hand at some point, compared to natural death.

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    1. Thanks for the comments – and the documentary is on YouTube btw.

      It’s hard for people who don’t have it to understand it, no matter how much they read. And that’s totally not their fault and it isn’t our fault either. It’s bloody tricky, all in all.

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  3. I struggle with suicidal ideation even when I’m doing pretty well. It is just part of my chatter, and it terrifies me. I have had a handful of pills in hand, looking out the window, thinking, is this it? I want this to be it. Such intensity and black and white thinking and also a feeling of utter disregard for self. The intensity is terrifying. The intensity has brought so much beauty to my world and I sometimes see it as a gift but this post reminds me that the intensity can also feel like a tide has swept you under and you are thrashing! but all you can do is fill up your lungs with water because it is all around you and _it will kill you_. In all my fierce numbness in those moments I drove myself to one psych ward or another, all alone, and got admitted. The staff never seemed to understand. “You seem fine.” I can seem so god damn normal but the intensity shreds my brain into scarlet ribbons that try to tie a noose around my neck. And then there’s me and my meds, fighting them off as if they were a boa constrictor. Now it’s one of those comfy snakes that rappers wear in music videos, only I’m slightly cooler.

    I felt this post in my hurricane heart and tornado brain. I wouldn’t wish bipolar disorder on anyone.

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    1. Beautifully (and tragically) expressed – thank you. I’m sure you’re way cooler than a rapper’s comfy snake. Erm that might sound dodgy :)

      You described this thing awesomely well, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone either.

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  4. A difficult read to say the least, but I personally am extremely grateful for the opportunity to gain a little insight. It really helps me in dealing with my brother’s situation. I am deeply saddened by the thought that he may feel he is a burden to us. Our only burden is a lack of being able to understand how he feels. I would want him to know that even the worst day we may share together is profoundly better than any day where he might not exist. G-uno

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  5. I don’t have wifi but will try and see this doccie. I think more documentaries, long term documentaries (over extended periods), are needed to educate ordinary folk and validate bipolars. I watched Of Two Minds recently – huge let down. It wasn’t realistic and just confirmed the stigma. Only filming the mania – the crazy parts.

    I want to see a year in the life of – doing all the mundane things we find so difficult to perform consistently. Because its sad to say, but in my experience PEOPLE DO NOT BELIEVE ME. How are you feeling – still a bit down but thanks for asking – Still!??????? Why????????? But I thought you were taking medication????????? Are you still not better???????? oh fuck off I want to say. Just because I had a few good days in no way means I’m “cured”.

    Strangely, people expected my bipolar to disappear once my divorce was over – But your divorce is over????? they’d say in confusion. I’ve had it most of my life, it didn’t just pop up during my divorce. Watch me as I pull all my hair out.

    I want to see a documentary of me trying to get out of bed in morning, to make a decision of what to wear, to forget how to do my job, to go on a first date, to stand impatiently in a queue and fuss and fidget until I burst into a rage, to fall in love with a stranger and be utterly convinced he is ‘the one’, to join 100 support groups with the greatest of confidence and then never to return again, to talk to fast and laugh too shrill in the office, to not be able to sign my name because my hands shake so much.

    I’m ranting. Because stigma will always persist and people will never believe and because of that children and adults will continue to choose death. We can try to educate all we want, but the permeating attitude to mental illness (in my experience) is – she’s acting, she needs to get over herself, she needs to move on. WE love and support the afflicted, but the world responds on fear based prejudice and ignorance. I don’t know how to change stigma of if we even can

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    1. Write the documentary yourself? I’m sure you could. And now I’m thinking of Andy Warhol making films of hours and hours and hours of sleep etc. I’m glad you ranted, twas a very fine rant indeed. Also, as my brain is pure sludge at the moment, at least I know that you’re ranting and I don’t have to.

      Does this ring true to you … when I’m in this down and fearful state, I try far too hard to be funny. Sometimes my mind even tells me, ‘I’m dancing as fast as I can’.

      Tell the Spanish inquisition to shove all those questionarks up their collective ass …

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      1. yes, I’m so fearful of judgement I try to make everyone laugh – mostly making fun at myself. Isn’t is sad, we are so intent at drawing attention away from our confuddled state, we (or I at least) make fun of myself like a schoolyard bully. And I perpetuate the stigma on myself because we all laugh and laugh. But yes, I do try very hard to be funny and I feel like a liar and a fraud

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          1. What? Ahhhhh come on….. “if you can imagine it you can achieve it …..

            AND THEN YOU CAN FUCK OFF

            Well, not you personally. Them, its them I meant. Paranoid? No I’m not paranoid. Why, has someone hacked into my computer? IT’S A CONSPIRACY I TELL YOU !!! Hang on, lemme speak to god about it

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            1. Hello, god speaking, how may I help? Conspiracy? Yes honey that’s right. How? Well, draw a pentagram with turmeric, click your heels and … wait what were we talking about?

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  6. That suicide note really contains the essence of it. It feels so universal. Take away the fluff and really that’s what it boils down to. Tough reading but I couldn’t stop reading it.

    I said that to people before. That ultimately the decision is ours, kind souls (although essential) cannot prevent anything a stubborn and determined mind devises. They can only show alternatives and dampen the pain.

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  7. If like to first say to Pieces of Bipolar, your rant (this phone won’t let me copy and paste it) in your post above really clicked for me. That whole thing of “trying to get up in the morning, figure out how to get dressed, not remembering how to do your job, laughing too loudly” ALL of those things I could have written myself with my own hand. So defined what I go through every damn day, every God-forsaken day. And I’m so sick of the doctor asking me: “suicidal?” No, I’m not suicidal. I know how I would do it, I know where I would do it, and yes, there is a slight bit of “good timing” involved in the “when” category, but no, I’m not suicidal because I just WON’T.

    But put these feelings into the body and mind of a 15 year old child…and I cannot imagine the grief, I can’t even imagine the grief of the family. I don’t think I could ever survive afterward…

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  8. I ended up reading this post for a second time today. It is an excellent , truthful, and emotionally exposed piece .

    My daughter’s therapist had some suspicion that she might have bipolar disorder. That is why I wanted to read your post again. I am working on getting her evaluated but i have been struggling through the bureaucracy and the system to get approved for her to see a psychiatrist.

    This post is terrifying to me and reminds me that i have to fight harder to advocate for her. She is 18 and i do not want her to suffer if she needs meds and does not get them in time.

    You have a poweful voice to advocate for people suffering from bipolar disorder. Thank you from my heart for this post. Even though it was triggering to my own ptsd, i have to feel enough fear to be able to get back up and fight the system again.
    Annie

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    1. The thing that pissed me off in the documentary was the psychiatrist saying he was a scary kid. That’s bs, shitloads of us have had suicidal ideations as kids and it sure ain’t because we are scary.

      Thank you so much for your lovely words. Your daughter is lucky to have you for a mom too – I’m very glad you’re pushing to get her a psychiatrist. As far as meds go, that takes time to get right anyway. And what makes the difference at 1st, I think, is awareness – and whatever the diagnosis, you are aware she needs help etc. Too many people don’t get help; you’re doing all the right things.

      And you are brave to push through the triggers too.

      Thanks again xxx

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