It's National Suicide Awareness Week, and being a mental health blog, I feel I need to at least say something this week. But the thing is...I'm not exactly sure what I should be saying.
I've shared my suicide story previously, on the anniversary of the night I was ready to take my own life. I've said time and time again that that night was actually the best night of my life. Yes it was the night I was ready to give up everything. But it was also the night I started to gain everything back. It was the first time I truly accepted the fact I needed help. I had been in a ton of denial until then. I kept thinking "I got this, I'm fine." I thought I was strong enough to deal with everything life was and had been throwing at me until that point. I became beyond angry at myself when I began to realize that wasn't true. I wasn't strong, in fact, I was so incredibly weak. I wasn't in control, I was a failure. I wasn't capable of doing great things, I was insignificant. There is only one other time in my life comparable to the smallness I felt that night. It's a time I'm not ready to talk about just yet, but I know I have to soon.
There's something unique about feeling unimportant. I'm not sure what the word for it is. It's like being humble, but a very, very, negatively conotated kind of humble. Embarrassing may be more of an accurate word? We are brought up to believe we are going to do great things. That everyone is special and deserves awards and the best life has to offer. That we are going to find a close knit group of friends that will be with you through anything. That one day you will find great love. That you are capable of doing anything you set your mind out to do. I was personally told throughout my childhood that I was the kid who was going to go on and succeed. My yearbooks are full of notes from classmates saying they couldn't wait to see me on TV or Broadway one day. Teachers told me I was going to change the world. And I believed every word. I, too, thought I was going to do something great with my life. Break out into the dance world or start my own business. Move to NYC or Chicago and become the CEO of a major creative corporation. Write a best selling book or create meaningful art sold in upscale galleries. Start a health and fitness line. Anything.
But none of that was happening. At 25 I was still living at home, in the town I grew up in. I was working in a small design firm, which I did love, but didn't see a huge opportunity for growth in. I fell into strings of unhealthy relationships and friendships. I was teaching one particular genre of dance at the studio I grew up in, and honestly in the beginning, that style wasn't even my favorite. I felt pigeon-holed and unimportant it the place that was my sanctuary throughout my childhood. And I know, 25 is still a relatively young age. I have so much time still to do something great, but nothing in my life seemed to be lining up with the expectations I had set for myself. And I know that's where a majority of my mental health issues start. Anxiety to both be great and not be great at the same time. Chasing perfection but coming short at every turn. Depression after realizing I'm not doing anything worthwhile - of realizing I may never do anything worthwhile. "Failure" after "failure" I found myself becoming more and more of a burden. More and more of a nuisance. More and more unworthy of any kind of pride or love.
There are songs and quotes about it being the darkest before the dawn. That things have to get worse before they can get better. It's shitty that that's the way life works and I wish I could change that. But I can't, and maybe it's important I can't.
There isn't one blanket answer to suicide or suicidal thoughts. There are clichés out there saying that those who commit suicide are weak and selfish. That those who even consider suicide are cowardly and perhaps, should take their own lives. It's seen as an act of desperation, an act that is morally wrong. An act that is a sin in some religions. An act that is against some laws. Suicide is considered dishonorable, especially in American culture. Here, we assume that people with suicidal tendencies and thoughts are in need of serious help and not in a "right" state of mind (whatever "right" means...). We are taught that those who commit suicide don't truly want to die, rather they are trying to "relieve themselves" of a problem they feel can't be fixed - that suicide is the drastic, spineless means to an end.
Because of these thoughts and philosophies, we have a very black and white view on suicide. Perhaps even just a black understudying of it, as so many feel it is simply just the wrong thing to do. And I personally don't think that understanding is incorrect, in simplest terms. No one should feel like suicide is their only option. No one should have to even contemplate the thought of a world without them. No situation should be so bleak and despairing that not living at all could be seen as a better option. But that isn't the world we live in. This world is full of some really messed up shit. There are acts of violence completely unspeakable. Great acts of violence like terrorism and genocides, dictatorships and ethnic cleansing. There are smaller acts of violence, like harassment and abuse. Rape and theft and small scale murders. There are acts completely out of human control like hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and earthquakes. There are car crashes that take the lives of children. Poverty and homelessness as a result of a string of bad luck. Mass shootings. Violent riots. Even trolls on the internet, telling vulnerable people to kill themselves based off of race, gender, opinion, and even high school drama.
I understand wanting not to live anymore. I've gotten to that point three times in my life. I've pictured my own death in a non-suicidal way hundreds of times. A semi-truck crashing into me on the highway. Being drugged at a bar, leading to an accidental overdose that put me into a coma. Even getting shot as a result of being in the wrong place in the wrong time. I've thought of all these things, ways to end the pain and demons in my brain without personally destroying the ones I care about. This way it wouldn't be my fault. No one could be mad at me for getting caught in a standoff or for getting struck by a drunk driver. I've also considered the options of taking my own life. Purposeful overdose, cutting my wrists, starvation and purging in hopes of a heart attack. These options always leading to tears and eventual numbness. These options were always paired with the worst of my inner demons. Taunts and jests from them, making me believe I truly didn't have a place here in this life.
I think what's most important to me when it comes to suicide is open-mindedness. Not that we need to be open minded to the concept of suicide being a "good thing." Because again, I don't want another person to feel like there's nothing left for them in this life. That isn't right or even the slightest bit okay. Rather I need the world to quit thinking those who are considering suicide to be a problem. And even more so I need the people in this world to quit telling others that they should commit suicide - even if in a joking tone. I need us to stop saying that those who do take that tragic course deserved that outcome if they wanted to "run away from their problems." I need us to create safe and open spaces so those suffering can ask for help. I need the good parents out there to know they haven't failed us and to not to get upset with us when we try to come to you. I need the good friends out there to know you are still good friends. I need everyone to know that this is our own problem and we just don't know how to talk about it without upsetting everyone else. Because that is one of the worst situations I have ever been in. Trying to tell a friend the things I was feeling, and was immediately attacked by that friend for being so selfish. They made my issues about them, and in turn I ended up consoling that friend and had to tell them how great they were and how much I loved them. It was an experience that made me never want to ask for help again because the guilt they made me feel was almost unbearable.
We (generally speaking) are not cowards. We are not weak. We are not insane. We are, however, sad. We are going through a torturous life, cause by our own inner workings manifested by the things that have happened to us. We are isolated. We feel defeated. We feel we are a burden. We feel as though our presence only causes others pain. We feel our being is synonymous with negativity, sadness, and disappointment. We truly feel, after the initial sting of our absence, every one else would be better off. That our self sacrifice will only allow our loved ones to thrive. It's a very messy and ugly way of thinking, but after years depression, anxiety, PTSD, what-have-you, it's the only way we can think anymore - that is our "stable" and "right" mind.
To my friends out there considering the worst. Please. Stay. Please. Don't do it. It may seem easy, me sitting behind a computer screen telling you the clichés you've heard before:
"Suicide is not the only option."
"Think of your family."
"There are people who love you."
"Think of all the lives you've touched."
"Think about all the great things you have accomplished."
"You have so much to live for."
I know how easy it is to scoff at those phrases. I know because they've all been told to me. And I still wanted to kill myself anyway. I know how easy it is to think those people saying these things only feel sorry for you. I know how easy it is to take those truths as lies. I know how twisted your mind can be to make you hold onto every criticism and every negative thing ever spoken about you. I've done it. I've been there. When I was starting to get help, my mom would out of the blue say she loved me or was proud of me. Words to show me how much I was cared for. And internally all I could think was, "Yea well I still ruin lives and have been told I should kill myself - so much to be proud of." I held onto the worst time and time again. But holding onto the worst is like holding onto an anchor in the ocean. Holding onto the worst makes you sink. You have to let go of that anchor - even when that anchor is all you know, even when that anchor is simultaneously and ironically your safety net. You need to grab onto that life jacket, you need to start accepting love. It is love that will save you. It is love that will bring you back to shore.
Speaking from the other side, there is so much to be proud of. There are butterfly effects that stem from the positive things you have done in your life. A compliment here, sitting with the new kid or adult in the office there. Getting to know and befriending the boy who gets picked on. Helping the girl who is overwhelmed take a few breaths and encouraging her to continue and push on. It's the smallest acts of kindness that create the biggest change. The greatest journey is composed of millions of steps. All those clichés ring some truth to them. I want you to start believing them. You are loved. You are unique. You are worthy and deserving of love. You are worthy and deserving of being here.
I want you to continue to be here. I want you to reach out. I want you to acknowledge you are struggling. Struggling does not make you weak. Choosing help is the greatest strength you could ever hope for. Choosing help is Herculean. I want you to stop saying you're fine when you know you aren't. I want you to talk. I want you to ask for the hug you need. These problems won't get resolved overnight, but they get solved much easier and quicker with an army behind you. But you have to make the choice to rally the troops.
I want you to know how much you are loved.
I want you to know how much you deserve.
I want you to bask in the light after days, months, and years in darkness.