I want to take a moment to be very vulnerable and tell a story about last year. I didn’t plan on doing this at all as I have kept pretty quiet about this in some respects, maybe because there is still a small part of me that is ashamed that I hit such a low point.
Today is World Suicide awareness day, a day where different events are held to offer hope, advice, and awareness about this topic. While I was on the bus tonight, I kept mulling over where I was at last year and where I am now. Often, what we hear is that we never knew that a person was considering suicide, or they seemed so happy.
This is usually the time of year when depression comes in full force. It ran unchecked for quite a long time as I just tried to power through it. Some years, I was better at powering through than others. But last year around this time, things were falling apart. And maybe on the surface level, they may not have been a big deal, but it was one thing on top of another on top of the next thing. This, on top of the depression and anxiety that I was dealing with made me feel as though I couldn’t cope.
Then came the feeling of shame. If I were a better person, I could handle it. I should just get over it, pray my way through it, sing my way through it, read my way through it, and get my shit together. This made a cyclical thought process which only led to more feelings of shame and depression. People would walk past me in the hall at work and ask me how I was doing, and I’d say ‘Oh I’m fine. How are you?’ But I’d be calling myself a liar the whole time, because I wasn’t fine. Since I wasn’t fine, I felt even worse for not being the person that I was projecting.
I’m outgoing and put the extra in extrovert, but all I wanted to do was just go home and sleep. If I didn’t wake up, that would be sad, but at least I wouldn’t hurt anymore. Then I’d feel guilt because how would my friends feel? I wanted to protect everyone around me from me, so I kept telling the lie of being fine and hurting quietly.
It all came to a head one day at work when I explained to my best friend how I had been feeling after she asked me if I planned to hurt myself. My explanation to me felt like I was reciting memorized words. I don’t really recall having a lot of emotion in my voice because I was keeping it so locked up inside of me. She took immediate action and thus began the journey to feel better.
I naively thought that once I spilled the beans regarding my feelings, I’d feel better. Maybe it wouldn’t happen right away, but it’d be like a slow incline to better instead of being in a valley of depression. It didn’t happen that way for me. In fact, I’d say that once therapy and other things were in place, I felt a little worse. Maybe I’d built up in my head how it would be. I would say that I needed help and then I’d run in slow-motion, the music of Chariots of Fire playing as I made my way back to a mental plateau I could handle.
I’m here to tell you that there was no Chariots of Fire. What I did have, though, was my best friend and my roommate in real time. They would ask me how I was feeling, and I tried so hard to be honest with them, but I couldn’t ever get to the tough stuff because I still wanted to protect them. I would tell them only so much because how do you explain to people who would fix anything what felt like the unexplainable? I felt absolutely horrible and I didn’t know how to fix it, or tell people what they could do to help because I didn’t really know myself. Then I’d feel like a failure for not knowing how to tell people how to help me.
Then came therapy. How could I explain to my therapist that on one hand, I loved people and life and all that it could bring and yet on the other hand I felt so awful that I wanted to just take a bunch of pills? How did I articulate that I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to stop hurting?
I have those words now and I learned to be brutally honest. The great part about therapy was that I didn’t feel like I had to sugarcoat anything. I just ripped that sucker off like a bandage and let it gush.
I found people online who were dealing with some of the same struggles that I was and I found it easy to be able to express myself. I probably still protected them, but it felt good to find someone else who could relate.
My tight circle who knew what I was dealing with kept asking me how they could help, and they constantly showed up for me. The repetition helped, because it made me have to remember that there were people who absolutely gave a damn. Which I knew in my heart, but my brain was lying.
Things got a little worse before they got better due to medication that made me sick, forgetful, and oh joy, suicidal. But slowly, oh so slowly, I finally started to at least get out of such an isolated, horrible space.
While forming a suicide plan might work for people, I felt really horrible that I’d forget what the plan was during high, throat-closing, hyperventilating anxiety. I didn’t know what the first step was and I didn’t want to bother people. I just knew I needed to do something so that I’d stop drafting suicide notes on the computer and then deleting them because it felt like I was going one step too far.
What I started to do was make note of things that I would look forward to doing. “You can’t kill yourself because you’re really looking forward to convention.”, “You can’t hurt yourself because you need to get a hug from your bestie.”, “You can’t commit suicide because you have to pay your portion of the rent and don’t want your roommate to experience financial hardship.”, “You have to live because a book by your favorite author is coming out.”, “If you die, you’re going to really hate that you missed spending Thanksgiving with fun people.”, “girl, you know you’re so disorganized you probably don’t even know where the pills are anyway.”
I couldn’t tell myself that if I died, my friends and family would be hurt beyond reason. I knew that, but all that thought gave me was more anxiety and guilt for not just bucking up and dealing with life like the rest of the world, which I obviously couldn’t manage because I clearly sucked. These were the thoughts I had constantly.
I did make it to convention where a dear friend gifted me with aromatherapy gifts. I made it to Thanksgiving and spent time with people I loved. I made it to Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and getting my new guide dog, Treble. And all that time, my brain tried to tell me that I wouldn’t. It’d be a dormant thought, maybe not even something that came to fruition, then bam, there it was again. I made it out of the horrible book slump of 2018 and am rocking a book challenge. I kept telling myself that I had to stay alive to keep reading and accomplish my book goal.
I made it through this year because of people that I knew who performed kindnesses both big and small, whether they knew that some days I was just falling apart or not. I made it because of therapy. I made it because of hugs. I made it because of books. I made it because of people just letting me talk to them about important things and the things that were just silly. I made it because God gave me the strength to make it. I made it because I’m one stubborn lady. I made it because I developed a macabre sense of humor about my depression.
So here we are at the month that typically starts to go downhill and I have spent my summer where I felt good making plans that I wrote down and have on my desktop so that all I have to do is open it if I forget. But if you know me, if you see me, you may never have even known. And isn’t that how these things work. We think that there is no way that a person with specific traits or qualities could ever be suicidal.
But I was. And I’m still here.
Please know that you are loved, even when you don’t feel like it. You are worthy, even if you don’t think you are. You are cared for, even if you don’t believe it. And darling friends, if you know of someone dealing with suicidal thoughts, don’t just show up for the help part. Please be there for the awful sucky part. Because getting help, while eventually a good thing, is horribly difficult. Navigating health care, waiting for weeks for an appointment that you are supposed to live until you make it to that day is so hard. Show up for the parts in between, the parts where the Chariots of Fire should be playing but all the notes are discordant.
You may never know how much it will help, but it does. Every phone call, every practical thing, every promise kept was something that continued to propel me forward, and I am blessed that happened for me..