Self-Harm v. Suicidal Thinking

Warning: This is a brutally honest description of some of my most destructive thoughts and behaviors. If you are in any type of emotional state right now that would leave you vulnerable to being triggered by this type of material, I’d recommend not reading this post. 

This post is something of an assignment, a question of J’s that I’ve been trying to develop an response to. How are self-harm and suicidal thoughts/gestures similar to me (if at all) and how are they different? I don’t even remember anymore why she asked, but I’m finally discovering my answer.

I find that it’s easiest for me to organize my thoughts by getting them down on paper. And now really seems like the best time to consider my response, considering in the past week I’ve had recurrence of both problems.

The way I experience it, my self-harm and my suicidal thoughts/behaviors are similar because they both reflect a high level of distress. For me to actively engage in either, my negative emotions will typically be at highest intensity and it will feel to me like those emotions are endless. In both cases, pain is often exacerbated by negative filtering, in the sense that I cannot seem to hold on to the experience of feeling well.  I am resistant to entertain any positive thoughts, especially those about myself.  I struggle greatly to recognize the progress I’ve made.

Hence, all that pain.

Self-harm is typically a reaction to something in the past that has created emotions of shame/guilt, worthlessness, or self-directed anger. I feel ashamed of something I have done wrong, angry at myself for a mistake I have made, so I think “I deserve to be punished.” Alternatively, I may think “I need to escape my pain” or “I need my pain to be visible” and if I’m feeling incredibly worthless I won’t value myself and my body enough not to resist those urges.

For me, self-harm has never been a direct means to end my life. I have not actively hurt myself with the intention that it would kill me in that moment. If I were going to follow through on an end of life plan, cutting would not be my ideal choice of action. However, as difficult as this is to admit knowing that J will read this, there have been a few times where I have cut shallowly at my wrist to see if I could handle the pain if I were to cut deeper the future. Almost like a test.

Suicidal thinking and gestures are typically by-products of self-harm, which means they equally follow shame and self-directed anger for past mistakes. I experience suicidal thoughts more in reference to the future than the past. There are accompanying thoughts of “I can’t live with myself for my past mistakes” (shame), “I am fundamentally flawed and will never get better,” (worthlessness) or “I am and will always be a stupid, terrible person who deserves to die” (anger).

However, where they differ is that I also experience suicidal ideation and planning in response to feelings of emptiness, anxiety, and sadness. The associated thoughts there are those such as “I cannot handle to continue feeling this alone” (emptiness), “I have so much fear at the idea of continuing to handle difficult situations like a job or relationship that I could fail at” (anxiety), or “I am feeling so low it is not worth living” (sadness).

It was interesting to parse that out. While some emotions seemed to me at the outset of this post like they have contributed to me hurting myself, I realized that they only do so when followed up by the previously listed anger, shame, and worthlessness as secondary emotions.

What I mean is this: While suicidal thinking is automatic to me when I am feeling sad or empty, I am not likely to actually hurt myself (or want to) because of those isolated feelings, but rather because I feel such intense anger at myself for my own actions that created the emptiness or because of my intense shame over how I’m handling my sadness.

There are a wider range of emotions that trigger the desire to die. This is unfortunate, because it feels like almost every negative emotion has very automatic suicidal thoughts attached to it, whereas my desire to hurt myself by cutting is more situation specific.

As such, I’ve found that while self-harm is usually combined with suicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts may occur without even the impulse to hurt myself. My thoughts about suicide are much more frequent, recurring nearly daily even in some small form.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed the a difference in thoughts vs. actions. Both types of thoughts are out of my control, but the suicidal ones are harder to fight back against than thoughts about self-harm. Are my suicidal thoughts more common because they have always been harder to fight? Or are they harder to fight because they have always been so common and thus I’m worn out from dealing with them? Which came first, chicken or the egg?

Anyone’s guess, really.

If you’re talking only about action, I have noticed the actual impulse to self-harm is harder to ignore than suicidal planning. That urge is more fervent and lasts for longer.  I will feel an impulse to do both, but can and do put the latter off for much longer. For example, during a very difficult week I thought both about burning myself and writing out suicide notes that I had typed. I did hurt myself, but I didn’t do the notes. While my impulse to hurt myself grew with space, the impulse to plan suicide fizzled out. My motivation just disappeared.

Why? I’m not completely sure, but the first I thought I had is I regard self-harm as less problematic in a sense. In my head, the scars are trivial. They will heal, so what’s the big deal if I slip up? Obviously this is isn’t true, but I’ve been engaged in this behavior for so long I’m almost desensitized to it.

With suicidal gestures, it feels more grievous. I’m intricately aware of how final suicide would be, so any steps I take toward it, even if I feel the urge to do so, are scary. It’s a weird form of ambivalence pulling me in two different directions.

Maybe the part of me that believes there’s hope for the future and staying alive is larger or stronger than the part that believes I’m not deserving of punishment. I can’t say for sure, because I just can’t make complete sense of how I feel.

Both of these things are dangerous to me. They are similar in that way. Whether I’m hurting myself now or planning to hurt myself later, they only escalate my feelings and cause more distress. They reinforce themselves and have become super super hard habits to break. I know that. I want to move past them, but when the minions take hold I often feel overpowered and give in the impulses. I let them control me. I’m not proud of it, but it’s where we are at right now.

I don’t know how writing all this out with help J in our work together. Like I said, I can no longer remember what part of our conversation sparked the question. But it was an interesting thing to consider, I’ll give her that. I understand my motives and behaviors a little better.

Am I doomed to these urges? Maybe. Maybe not. What I believe right now about how things will end for me might not be what I believe in one or three or six months. I’m working hard for it to be different.

One thing is for sure. These are difficult desires to deal with and I keep that struggle so close, concealed from others for fear of judgment or failure to understand. I just want to be free of them. I just want to know what it’s like to truly value myself and my life enough to protect them.

 

 

 

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A Letter to My Suicidal Self

This prompt was suggested to me rather emphatically by J after I told her honestly just how intense and difficult my suicidal ideation has been in the last couple weeks. I had, for the first time, moved past simple thoughts and into actual plans. I think this admission scared her, and it has scared me too. The depth of my challenges has always been formidable, but lately it has felt insurmountable. 

I hoped to wait until I was in a truly stable and perhaps even positive place to write this, because I wanted some true light to contrast the darkness I feel when I am suicidal. However, the difficult days continued to linger. In fact, I spent most of the weekend in bed, chained by a depression that refused to let up. Finally, finally some relief has come in the last day, and I am hopeful that it will be enduring. Since I know the course of my disorder, I know that the pain will return at some point. When it does, I hope that this will help me in avoiding giving into the voice of temptation, as a fervent reminder about what remains here for me. 

To the part of me that is suffering in a grievous pain, whether of the past, present, or the future, I have some things I want to say to you:

I know your pain is huge. It’s a great big mammoth. Always present and easily aggravated, it threatens to spear you with its giant tusks, to step on you and squish you, at any given moment. Even when it is quiet, it is always there walking beside you. Following. Stalking. And you never know when something else will set it off into a frenzy again. It really takes so little.

Day to day living is not easy for you, I know this too. You think you’ve damaged your life with mistakes that cannot be corrected for. You look around and see the friends that you could have had, feeling a loneliness that cannot be extinguished. You feel anxious at the thought of trying to begin new friendships, and even the premise of a real romantic relationship makes you want to run in the other direction. Conflicts happen, people leave; I know you struggle to trust them because you see abandonment as a rule of relationships.

Worst of all, I know the awful names that you call yourself. You know them too, so I won’t even give them the power of speaking them aloud. I know they’re on repeat in your head, those minions telling you that you’re destined only for failure and continued pain. They retreat from even the slightest glimmers of positivity, refusing to let you feel good for even a second, instead clinging like super-glue to those terrible names.

Right now, you want to die. You want to take yourself out of this world. You have plans for this, because it feels both like a comfort and penance. It makes sense to you, I get it. But living makes sense too. There are the reasons you need to stick around and stay in the battle, even if persistence means keeping your sword drawn and hiding behind your shield for awhile just to get through.

It’s understandable that you want to escape your pain. Anyone would. But here’s the thing: There are safer ways to do that the ones your mind invents.

Think of the things that make you happy. Like how completing a difficult run is exhilarating. There are still self-imposed running records for you to break. Once, you thought you’d never be able to complete six consecutive minutes; now, you can run thirteen. You know what else brings you joy? Animals. There is a homeless cat or the dog (or both) that is waiting for you to adopt him and smother him with love. Don’t let him miss out on the chance to know you. Don’t forget how much you cherish the holidays. There’s almost nothing as special to you as the process of decorating a Christmas tree or the magic of a fireworks show. These moments are perennial; they come back to you every year, a guaranteed piece of happiness to look forward to.

So many other things go on this list. Old home videos. An apple-scented candle. Pretty much every country song on the radio right now. Sunflowers. Snoopy. Your absolute favorite meal at your favorite restaurant. Lighthouses. The Green Bay Packers. Any of those cute videos of a puppy. The moment when it just clicks in your brain and something makes sense. All of these things spark happiness.

The pain may be intense, but so is the joy. You need the one to know the beauty of the other. And you do know that beauty. Think of how proud and excited you were when you got the call with the job offer, how truly spectacular it felt to reap the benefits of your hard work. That was a joy that the pain can’t touch, no matter how hard it tries. It happened, and it’s a memory to hold on to, ammunition to fire back at the pain.

You are not alone in this world. You have people, to whom you are connected to intricately. Your parents, who really try so hard to support you despite not always understanding the way you wish they would. Your grandfather, with all his charm and humor. Your aunt and cousins, who care and check in. Your friends from graduate school, who have known you at your worst and are still there. A few friends even from undergrad, with whom the relationship is fun and silly and strong. You have H & S, who you absolutely adore. You have J too.

I know that it doesn’t always feel like enough for you. I know you long for a certain type of connection and reciprocity among your friendships. I know how much you yearn for a real intimate relationship. But what you have here is something. It’s a chance to work on feeling comfortable with people. It’s proof that you are capable of cultivating lasting relationships in a positive way. It’s evidence that you are worth the love you don’t believe you deserve.

Being with people is hard, I don’t dispute this. But you cannot discount the skills you are learning to make existing in a social world more manageable. Every interaction is an opportunity for you to learn. There are so many more people out in the world for you to meet. People who will like you for your good qualities: your kindness, generosity, and empathetic heart. It will get easier, but you must not give up. Not everyone is a winner, and not everyone can appreciate or understand perfectly, but there are many fulfilling relationships awaiting you.

I’m not encouraging you to live for them, I’m encouraging you to live for the hope and happiness that your current relationships and these potential relationships can bring you, if you keep working for them.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with your current situation and even easier to believe the cruelty of those minions.  Their voices are the loudest, because they’ve been with you for years. They tell you that you are fundamentally flawed, but we are all flawed. Your humanity doesn’t make you deserving of death.

And just because they are the easiest voices to hear, doesn’t mean there aren’t other kinder voices back there hiding. Waiting to be encouraged forward.

What you deserve is kindness. I know you don’t believe me right now. You believe you deserve punishment, for any number of reasons I’m sure. But remember that you’d never say that to anyone else on this planet. You’d try to offer them kindness on even their darkest day, to find the glimmer of hope for them, so you must do this for yourself too. And if you can’t get on board with that, remember a general rule of psychology is that positive reinforcement is so much more effective than punishment.

Be kind. Please, please, please find room for kindness and care. Look at your safety plan, because it has everything outlined to keep you safe with your feelings. Fight back against the minions with whatever you can throw at them. Meditation. Music. Running. Wrapping yourself up like a burrito in your blankets and sitting through the emotions. The intensity will pass because it always has. You’ll thank yourself  for not acting impulsively in the darkness when the clouds begin to let light in again.

When it does begin to pass, recognize that you are allowed to feel better. You are allowed to feel happiness, relief, and even hope. Especially hope. The minions will fight it, they will try to remind you of all the reasons to slip back into pain, but screw them. Take each moment of the good, however brief, and live for that.

Then curse out the minions, if you’d like. They are wrong. Don’t let them persuade you back into suicidal thinking. They’d make you live there if they could, but you can stay housed faithfully in a place of healing.

Remember that healing is not linear, and that feelings of stagnancy and struggle may precede patches of growth. You may feel very differently in a few days or weeks, if only you give yourself the opportunity to get there.

Remember that your feelings are not facts; you may feel worthless and like a lost cause, but there is so much concrete evidence to the contrary.  It’s here and here and here. It’s in the way you keep trying to be better and do better. It’s in every kind gesture you show to everyone else. It’s in your sticking with therapy, even when you want to quit.

Remember everything you want out of this life: a home, a husband, kids, travel experiences, pets, participation in your community, the ability to make a difference, and know that these aren’t doors that have closed indefinitely. These aren’t far-fetched fantasies, you can achieve them. They just may be further down on your journey.

You have spent over two years getting to know yourself and building a better life for you. I know it can really fucking suck, but its worth the fight and you know it is. Now is not the time to prematurely cut it all short.

You are worth life and all it has to offer you. Plan out the next goals you have and the steps you’ll take to get there. . Plan out a recipe for the meal you probably need to eat. Plan which shows are on the docket for tonight’s viewing. Plan a playlist for tomorrow. Plan an outing with a friend. Plan a trip to Ireland or Italy or Nashville, even.

But please, stop planning to die.

You have survived everything before this and you can keep going. You have the power to keep going. You, not the minions, are in control.

Keep fighting, okay? You’re stronger than the pain. You’ve got this.

Birthdays and Mental Illness

Trigger Warning: Suicidal thoughts

Today is my 25th birthday.

I debated posting about this at all, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk about this again after getting into a long discussion with J yesterday. Truth is, I really don’t like my birthday.

I want to like it. I do. Honestly though, I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to my birthday. Right now, as I sit here typing this, I do not feel any bit celebratory or excited.

Birthdays are notorious for being days of celebration. There’s an expectation for the birthday person to have a good time. There’s pressure to do something, to be surrounded by people and feel the love. To feel special.

There is also this subtle and nearly invisible but very palpable idea that if you are special, other people will step up to make sure you feel that way on your birthday. Or maybe that’s just my BPD minion talking.

I don’t like to have to take control of the birthday planning. I don’t like to have to ask my friends if they’d like to celebrate me by going out or doing something else for multiple reasons. First, its a reminder that I don’t have a lot of people that I am close with right now to invite in the first place. Second, if I have to ask them to participate in birthday festivities, it feels artificial and more forced than if they bring it up themselves, like they’re coming out of obligation. Finally, when a friend or two inevitably tell me that they cannot attend said event, I feel a surge of disappointment that reinforces my perception that I am unworthy of being celebrated and makes me want to avoid asking at all.

For example, I have a friend who has routinely said no to birthday plans for the last three years. While she always has a good reason, namely family matters, I feel the sting of rejection each time. Like if I mattered more, was more special to her, she’d find a way to be there.

This sounds incredibly selfish, doesn’t it? It feels needy and childish. I am 25 years old, why do I need other people to rally around me and build me up and make me feel loved? I should be able to cultivate these feelings myself, I should be able…to want…to celebrate myself.

I don’t though. It feels weird and uncomfortable to be the center of attention, to have all eyes on me. In theory, I love the idea of it. Having people want to be there for me and make some grand gesture in celebration with me as the person of honor is appealing. Yet when I’m in the midst of it, I don’t know what to do with all the attention. I am overcome with anxiety about how to respond to others. I feel incredibly awkward and self-conscious, as if I will choose wrong, make the wrong move and those people will realize I am not worth celebrating at all.

Then they will leave. Not be present for future birthdays. Because of me and my innate lack of specialness. The ever-present BPD fear.

J and I were talking yesterday about how I have historically had difficulty with birthdays. When I was little, up until I was about 9, my parents would host parties in the backyard of our house. Both sides of my family would come, we’d have food, and they’d watch me open presents.

Like clockwork, once the cake came out, I would panic at the idea of being sung happy birthday. One year, my grandmother started singing and everyone joined in. Within 3 seconds, I cried, took off running, and had to be coaxed back from where I hid by my swingset. We have video evidence of this, because my grandfather would tape those parties every year. So being the center of attention was confusing and scary, even as a kid.

As I got older, occasional parties with friends took the place of family get-togethers. There was a shared party with a friend when I turned 9, where I twisted my ankle, felt physically miserable, and ended up crying in bed at home afterwords. A pool party at home. I remember feeling short of breath at my sweet sixteen and having a friend take me outside for air.

It wasn’t all bad of course.  On my 16th birthday, my best friend also threw me a small surprise party with our small tight-knit group. My 17th birthday was nice too. That was the year my two friends filled my room with balloons and my other friends had a cake for me. That may also have been the year another friend threw me another surprise party? And on my 18th, a friend and I that shared our birthday had friends over, where we had a paint fight and food.

What’s funny? I haven’t thought of any of those in years. I forgot about them until right now. It’s very hard for me to hold on to the positive memories from years past, but I struggle with this in general.

Anyway, I don’t remember a single year, aside from my 21st, that my friends from undergrad ever did more wish me happy birthday. We never celebrated. The last couple years, I have gone out with my friends from grad school. That’s been fine enough I suppose.

See the problem, especially with BPD, is those damn expectations. We of the BPD clan have ridiculously high expectations of everything. So even if I have plans, it never rises to the level of enough for me. I still always end up yearning for more, feeling like I’ve come up short in the birthday department.  Like I should have more people who care, more exciting plans, more in my life to celebrate.

So you see, the mental illness minions do not make it easy for me. I’d love for them to take the day off. I’d love to look at this day with something other than dread and ambivalence.

I even tried that a little bit this morning. Honestly, I really did. J had told me to try to find joy in small moments, to try to be mindful of the times where I could really allow myself to feel special and celebrated. And I did. My parents got me balloons and some nice gifts. The little girls I babysit wrote me a nice note and sang to me. I was feeling okay, even thinking about trying to have some people over tonight instead of waiting for tomorrow.

Then I found out secondhand that I didn’t get the job that I wanted. My best friend got it. I found out from my supervisor, who thought I knew. My best friend couldn’t even be the one to tell me. That was both humiliating and crushing. I am so discouraged.

I ended up crying to the mom of the kids I babysit, who was sort of helpful but then made a comment about something I’d done “wrong” in the past that sent me on an anxiety tailspin. I got home and agreed to still go out to dinner. Mostly to make my parents happy, because my mom gave up and told me I didn’t want to feel better when I wasn’t responding the way she wanted to her comfort.  The waiter messed up my order, so it came probably 10 minutes later than everyone else’s.

It’s like the universe is screaming at me. Give the fuck up already. 

Now I’m here, back at the house where I babysit. They’ve left for vacation today and I’m on dog duty. Alone. Which is just where I want to be, because I’m in such an awful, awful place today. Except also not where I want to be, because being alone is very lonely.

I tried to cancel my session for Monday, because I honestly don’t see the fucking point. She’s just going to spout some positive nonsense about kindness and I no longer care because I know better than to believe her silver linings crap now.

J picked up on the fact that something was wrong. She wouldn’t outright accept my cancellation and told me she’d check in Sunday to see if I’d changed my mind. She also told me that if everything wasn’t okay, it would be soon.

That’s a fucking lie if I ever heard one.

This is perhaps the worst birthday I’ve ever had. I’ve spent most of it feeling morose and utterly defeated. Suicide has been at the forefront of my mind. Thoughts. Plans. It’s a miracle I haven’t found a weapon to use against myself yet. I’m about as far gone on the lack of fucks scale as I’ve ever been.

I can’t do anything right. I am a failure. This is as true at 25 as it was at 24. Why would I have ever thought one measly day could change anything?

Mental illness and birthdays. They really do not go together.

Stop Calling Suicide “Selfish”

Listen up, readers. I’ve got a bone to pick with the world. Something I’m so damn tired of having to say every time this topic begins to circulate the news.

SUICIDE. IS. NOT. A. SELFISH. DECISION.

We had two notable people take their own lives this week. Apparently that’s created a platform for others to utilize their right speak freely. I support free speech. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I believe that.

However, it makes me really sad and disheartened to hear some of the things people choose to say and believe.

I know Val Kilmer has made some comments. I’m not even going to read them because I don’t feel like being triggered again today. That is not the moment that set me off on this rant. No, what got me all up in arms was when the mother of the family I babysit for wanted to talk about Anthony Bourdain and then proceeded to tell me how she felt like suicide was a selfish decision. She maintained that she felt this way because she’d been on the other side of it: her sister made an attempt many years ago.

Clearly, she’s got lingering and anger and hurt about her sister’s actions. I understand this. I understand the shock of learning you almost lost someone. I understand how someone’s confusion and fear about how a person could actually choose to end their life might translate into hurt and anger.

That’s honestly what I think causes most people to make this assertion of selfishness. A lack of visceral understanding. They have not experienced the thoughts and feelings of the suicidal individual. Suicidality is a place few people truly take up residence, and without living there you can’t adequately wrap your mind around the darkness and debilitating nature of the experience. To those on the outside, it just doesn’t compute.

Without that exposure, they focus on the feelings they have been gifted with when their loved one tries to or successfully kills himself. They assume that person’s motives were entirely self-serving, that those left behind should have been a greater factor in the decision. Surely, if they’d just thought about the people in their life a little more, they wouldn’t have made such an awful choice.

She left behind children whose lives will never be the same. He left behind a wife who is broken by this. How selfish. How terrible. 

Do you know what selfish means? I’m going to tell you what selfish means. I looked it up, because I think the specificity of the definition is important when we tend to throw words haphazardly around in this society and those words only marginally fit what we mean to say.

Selfish: Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.

See, here’s the thing. As someone who has battled intense, recurrent suicidal thoughts for a period of years, I can tell you that most people considering suicide aren’t making this choice or even just thinking about suicide in absence of those around them. They aren’t sitting there thinking forget about my parents or my kid will just have to deal. No, what they’re thinking is that their loved one will be better off without them. What they’re thinking is that they have absolutely no value to add to that person’s life, and that they deserve better.

When I think about suicide, I am wholly convinced that people will be sad for a short time, but that ultimately they will move on and be better for it without me to burden them. No amount of reasoning will convince me otherwise.

Suicidal individuals are thinking about their families and friends all the time. They’re constantly weighing the fierceness of their love up against a voice that’s constantly reminding them of their worthlessness and the hopelessness of their circumstances. Trying to decide when the scale has tipped in favor of that voice, when the intense pain has won out.

If anything, they hang on as long as they do because of the people that they love.

It’s honestly ridiculous to suggest anything different. As if people who consider or commit suicide just forget the rest of the world to focus on the the pleasure or advantage of their choice. This isn’t abandoning your co-workers so that you can spend an afternoon at the beach. This is death.

 This, to me, is why the “selfish” moniker doesn’t fit.

I’ve said this before, but if people want to accuse those who kill themselves of being selfish for leaving other people behind and causing hurt, they’d better take a look in the mirror and admit that they are equally “selfish” for being exclusively concerned with their own hurt without any regard for the emotional pain of the person who hurt so badly that they took their own life. 

You try living amidst chronic battles with intense oscillating emotions that you cannot regulate and that began causing broken relationships, isolation, and emptiness as far back as high school. You try pushing forward when the voice of self-hatred in your head pushes back with loathing comments that just increase your fears that you truly will never be happy or successful and deserve the suffering you experience. You try feeling like you’re boxed in a corner, alone and out of options, unsure if the skills you’re learning now can ever compensate for the mistakes you made then. You try knowing the painful depression and anxiety will always come back. You might feel the desire kill yourself too, to disrupt the cycle of pain and finally find peace.

That doesn’t make us selfish. It makes us people who feel helpless, out of control. It makes us people who feel desperate.

By the way, I am in no way advocating that people should kill themselves. This is not a message purporting that we shouldn’t encourage others to seek help and try to overcome their demons. Of course, I want to find ways to decrease the number of people who commit suicide each year. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t still be here. Suicide is a rising problem that needs to be prevented.

What I am advocating is the way we use our voices, the message we send about suicide, so that we can better prevent it. How do we do that? This is what I believe:

First, stop calling people selfish. Especially those who have survived an attempt. It doesn’t help anyone or instill any motivation to keep fighting. You don’t shame someone into keeping them around by accusing them of not thinking of their loved ones. You don’t shame them after their death for not having the mental sustenance to keep fighting.

Instead, in the face of suicide, I think it’s important what we should really try to recognize the pain, fear, and confusion that person must be or have been feeling.  Genuinely try to find it within yourself to accept another person’s pain and listen to their perspective, even if you do not completely understand it. I’m not implying people can’t be hurt or angry when they lose someone. Hurt and tolerance can exist at the same time in the same mind.

The more the word selfish flies around, the more the stigma on suicide continues, the less willing people are going to be to actually ask for help. Why would a person admit to feeling suicidal if they feel that they will receive admonishment and anger in return? I know that as open as I am with others about my struggles, my suicidal thoughts are not a topic I’m willing to broach with almost anyone because I will not take the risk of being judged or criticized.

People need to be allowed to speak their truth, as hurtful as their words might be to hear. We have to be willing to hear and validate. People who consider suicide have enough self-directed shame and guilt, they don’t need any more added on from the people they are close to. Don’t give legs to the dozens of hurtful statements their inner voice is already screaming at them.

They need the kindness and love of others. They need to know that thinking about killing themselves doesn’t make them less deserving of support on the basis of “selfishness.”

Be present. When someone confesses to having suicidal ideation, be a source of support. Sit with the person. Remind them that they are not alone, as much as needed. Remind them of their importance to you.

You don’t have to say the right thing, just be with them.

Don’t abandon them because you’re overwhelmed by something you don’t get. That’s selfish, too. Be there.

Know the resources. If you don’t know how to help, direct that person to a person who can. Help them call a counselor or a doctor or another family member.

When that mother made that comment earlier, I stood there quietly, trying to decide whether or not to be honest about the depth at which her words hurt me. I wanted her to know that what she’d said was so far off the mark, and that I was now wracked with anxiety thinking that I was a selfish, bad person for having those thoughts. I didn’t say anything, because she doesn’t know about my history with suicide and I was afraid it would hurt our relationship if she did know.

No one should ever have to feel that way.

So think before you speak. Think before you assign the label of selfish to a story you don’t know the half of. You never know who is fighting what battle. Suicidal ideation is invisible to the eyes of others, and it will stay that way unless we as a society begin to change the way we approach the topic.

Image result for national suicide hotline

Back at Zero

Prior warning, this post is all over the place.

I’ve come up upon another snag, another rough patch, another roadblock in my writing. All week, I have thought about sitting down to write and just come to a pause. So much to say, but also nothing to say. Nothing new, anyway.

A stomach virus came for me earlier in the week, so that knocked me off my feet for a couple days. Throughout this, I was plagued with overwhelming guilt and anger about missing work. Even though I knew I didn’t have a choice, and needed the rest, it killed me to lay listlessly in bed when I knew there were reports to write, meetings to attend, and opportunities I was missing. Worse, I was missing my time with the girls, which never fails to at least distract me.

I felt miserable, but I didn’t cut. I tried to maintain some sense of a positive voice and remind myself I had to take care of myself. And when all else failed, I listened to music and slept.

Then, as I was feeling better, I had a blowout fight with my mother that just shattered me. It was basically just a ton of yelling back and forth, recycling old arguments and giving them another go. We didn’t resolve anything, and ultimately I walked away in tears feeling more defeated about our relationship than ever before. I ended up staying the night at someone else’s house, because I just couldn’t bear to feel like I was trapped in my room all night.

Still, I didn’t cut during that time. I got myself away from all of it and made sure I ate something and packed things that comforted me. Then, the next day I tolerated the overwhelming anxiety I felt and walked back into that house with J’s encouragement.

I don’t know how I would characterize my relationship with my mother now. When I came home, we hugged and made up, but it felt like a band-aid fix. Unfortunately, I don’t think we can ever completely get past the ocean of differences between us, so I’m kind of in a place now where I’m just trying to hold onto the good moments between us and push the rest of it away.

I should probably write more about that, but I don’t have the energy right now.

Good news. In the last week, I did get the courage to start searching for jobs. I even started an application for one. This is progress. I still want to disappear every time that conversation comes up, but I am taking baby steps. You’d think I’d be proud of that, and I am. But I’m also constantly remembering that this means change. Change might mean I can’t continue babysitting the girls I love dearly. Worse, it might mean the end of things with J.

I can’t fathom the end of things with J, it makes the walls start to close in. And as wonderful as she is, she doesn’t seem to have any words of comfort for me when I relay this fear to her. No follow-up questions, just a sympathetic look.

Yeah, yeah, I know we aren’t there yet. Cross the bridge when we get there. If we get there. But it’s scary. I really don’t respond well to transition and the next few months feel like they are going to be a never ending series of transitions.

So there’s a lot in my head right now. There’s always a lot. I’m surviving, I’m pushing through like I always do. It’s just hard and it’s continuously pushing me to the breaking point.

J asked me the other day to explain to her my suicidal feelings. What I said was this: Imagine that you wake up in an unfamiliar place. A dark room with no walls and a doorway. You learn that you’re trapped in an unfamiliar building, one with a maze of hallways and rooms. You can get out, you can, but you have to find your way to the exit on your own. And each time you go through a door, it closes and locks behind you, so you really only get one shot. So you try. Of course you try. You navigate your way from room to room, doors closing behind you. Then you turn around and realize you’ve trapped yourself in a room with no other exit. The door just slammed shut behind you.

You’re stuck. You may not have meant to, but you took the wrong path and there’s no going back. The light was out there, and you missed your chance to get back to it. So you can sit here, alone in this room with no way out, or you can choose to end it.

Have all the doors closed behind me? I’m finishing my externship, about to graduate, applying for jobs. It should feel like I’m almost free in the world, yet it really feels like I’m trapped in that room with only the one choice.

This is where my head is presently. I am trying, harder than in the past, to use my skills.My new favorite way of trying to stay mindful is to remind myself to stop time traveling to the past or the future. I’m noticing that some of the kinder thoughts do come to me more easily, more automatically than before. I’m even using my self-care box. Which is good. Gold star for me.

It does help, but it does not help enough. I pulled a puzzle book from the self-care box did sudoku for almost three hours. I lit a candle. Yet a very minor comment from my mother undid me, and the tension was too much to handle.

I broke my streak, grabbed my razor without hesitating.

So here I am, back at zero. Life really is too much sometimes.

 

Just Surviving

Earlier today I sat in my room with clothes, makeup, books and all types of other shit piled up around me. I had so much to do but not a single bit of motivation to do it. Laundry. Ironing. Making lunch. Shower. Wrapping gifts. It seemed like an insurmountable task to just do even one of them.

So I sat there for awhile. I told myself I’d move in 10 minutes. Then in 15. Then 20. It was like playing chicken with myself, and somewhere along the line I eventually gave in and was able to get some of the things done.

I feel a little better now than I did earlier, but I’ve felt awful for the majority of the week. I feel like I’m so deep in this latest bout of depression that I don’t know how to get out of it. To give you an example of how rock bottom I am, I panicked earlier today when I couldn’t find my razor. I still haven’t found it and so now I’ve resorted to scissors and I know how bad that sounds

I’m supposed to be writing in a free association type of way. That’s what therapist suggested when I saw her on Thursday and told her I haven’t really been able to write lately. So I’m trying. I’m trying even though it doesn’t seem like it’s going to help. Because there’s no point, it seems. Everything feels hopeless. So much so that I came upon the frightening revelation today that maybe therapist can’t even help me. Maybe I’m too much of a problem for her to solve.

When I said this to her last week, she said that maybe the problem is that I don’t think I can help myself.

Which, she may have a point. But I don’t think that eliminates mine. What if she isn’t truly equipped to handle me? What if I need something she can’t provide? I don’t see myself starting over with anyone else at this point. And thinking of that just causes me to spiral further downward.

In a way, I’ve been trying to help myself. I was keeping a list of my triggers for a few days, but I managed to throw my phone in the washing machine today so now I don’t even have that to look at when therapy time comes on Thursday. It feels kind of like the universe is trying to tell me to just give up and stop making an effort to be better because I’m not meant for anything but failure.

I know how crazy that sounds, but it feels true to me in the moment.

This is the first time in my life that I really don’t have a plan for where I will be a year from now. There is a lot of opportunity in that, but for me it’s really scary. Therapist keeps reminding me that the major transition I’ve been going through with my career is dredging up these insecurities and probably what’s triggering this depressive relapse. I’ve always had a plan, always known what’s coming next.

I’ve always been a student, where there are certain types of expectations, but also a very heavy structure. This whole independence with a career and my own place to live thing is something I really want but don’t feel like I can have. It feels like I’m destined for failure. Like why should I even bother? Why confirm all my fears that I won’t make it?

I know this post is all over the place, but I was told to just get it out so that’s what I’m doing. Just getting it out and trying very desperately not to care how it will be read by other people. I’m usually so quick to edit my thoughts and have them be read a certain way on here. This goes against my instincts, but I’m trying.

Jeez, how many times have I said that throughout this post? I’m not going to count, but I know it’s a lot. I say it to therapist all the time too. I’m trying. Who am I really trying to convince?

And am I really trying hard enough?

All of this and more swirling around in my head has led to dangerous thoughts and bad behavior. The pattern has started again. Daily harm to soothe the storm. The scariest part is that it does help and then I become reliant on it.

Suicide is a very consistent thought for me. I don’t have a plan or anything, because I feel like I can’t. I have a grandfather who depends on me helping him go through his mail, write out checks, and keep the house in order. There are two little girls who expect me to be there when they get off the bus every day. I am my parents’ only kid and even though it’s hard to admit sometimes, I know it would hurt them. I have a friend who tells me she would be devastated if I did that, although sometimes it’s hard to believe her.

So I feel like I can’t. Which makes me mad and feel even more trapped. And makes me mad at myself for not being able to get out of this depression. Therapist tells me that this blame isn’t helpful, but I don’t see what acceptance of my feelings gets me either. Seems like either way I’m screwed.

I wish that I could be more positive. I know the tone of my writing has been extremely low. But that’s where I’m at right now. Especially on a Sunday, when there’s a whole week laid out ahead of me. It feels like more than I can take. I just want to stay in bed and call out, but I know I can’t.

I’m still here, not really living, just trying to get through the day to day. Just surviving.

 

If

It’s not that I think they wouldn’t care.

No, I think they’d care. In the beginning. They’d care the way people do when something is fresh and raw. To some, it would be a shock. To others, maybe not so much. They’d grieve openly. Say things like “it’s a shame” or “she had so much to live for.” Probably never to understand. It doesn’t always make a lot of sense to me. They’d grieve, at a level that is normal to anyone who loses someone.

But that would be the immediacy of it. With time, as with anything, the pain would fade. It’s the brains coping mechanism for surviving, for keeping on. If the pain stayed that intense, if it permeated their lives, it would make existing too difficult. People adjust, they cope by letting go. Moving on is a necessary evil to function, it is a part of being human.

So I know that no matter how much there would be an immediate sense of loss for some people, in the grand scheme of things it would not really matter. Because people let go. They move on. They don’t forget, but the impact lessens. We have to.

They would be okay if I did it. If.

And besides, shouldn’t I be living for me and not for them?

Even as I’m talking to other people with these feelings, encouraging them to see the merits of life, I just feel a greater pull of myself towards what I’m telling them not to do. It seems so simple to me that they have things to live for. I see it clearly, whereas I see myself much differently. I feel like I have so little, and am failing so many. I feel like every move I make is wrong.

So even if they cared, even if they hurt from it, maybe it would be in their best interest. Maybe I’m just beyond repair.

It’s kind of a weird feeling to be actively suicidal. To have stuff like that feel like a comfort, a great fallback option. To know it’s there if and when you can’t come back from all your failure.

To anyone else it sounds incomprehensible. But to me it makes perfect sense.

It hurts to exist right now. I’m stuck in it, on an endless loop. Feeling okay then going deep in the bad feelings. Spirals of good, okay, bad, worse, and utter shit.

That’s me right now.

Spiraling.

I think about the people in my life. I think about what it would feel like to leave them, what it would feel like for them to get left behind. I think about myself spiraling, descending into this black hole.

I know they’d care, but I don’t know if it would be enough to stop me if the day came.