A note before you read: This post discusses suicidal ideation in the context of ongoing recovery from depression. The author is not actively suicidal and is mostly dealing with her issues. If you struggle with depression, please get help. Reach out to a friend, look for a therapist (try Googling “low cost therapy in <your city>” for affordable resources) or see your family physician. If you are actively suicidal, please call the National Hope Network (1-800-SUICIDE) or the National Suicide Prevention Network (1-800-273-TALK). If someone you know is threatening suicide, please call 911 so they can get the help they need immediately. If someone you know seems to be struggling, invite them for a walk or a cup of coffee, listen to them non-judgmentally, let them know you are worried, and offer to help them find resources to deal with whatever they are facing. If they don’t feel like sharing, don’t push. Just let them know you’re there.
Also, I’m probably going to regret posting this.
Sometimes, I think about killing myself.
Not the most cheerful start to a blog post, or the most socially acceptable I suppose. Mostly, I’ve learned to deal with it. I was depressed for a long time, during which I mostly thought about killing myself. Then, things were getting better, but it was such a struggle to make them better that I still thought about it sometimes when I got tired or lonely or inexplicably sad. Now, mostly, I think about anything but killing myself. I think about classes and books and what I’ve read that day. I speculate about the plotline of the next NCIS episode and wonder what I should make for dinner that night. I decide what to blog about before bed.
But sometimes, something happens that stirs up all those old voices, and I think about killing myself.
Before you get too upset, I suppose I should reassure you that I’m not actually going to do it. I don’t have a plan, and I never have. I’m generally quite convinced that my life is good and even improving. I know well enough by now that if I go to sleep (and maybe have a bit of a cry first) that I will wake up tomorrow feeling better. I know that. There’s no reason to kill myself.
But . . . sometimes I do something stupid or someone says something cutting, and I pick up those old thought patterns and turn them over in my head. I get sidetracked by the worry stone of those ideas, and it paralyzes me.
I’ve known this liturgy for so long. It’s almost as comforting to me as the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm, the only bits of repetitive anything in our Pentecostal tradition. “Stupid, selfish, worthless, failure. You’ve already lost. It’s already over. You’re never going to amount to anything because you are already ruined.” It’s as familiar as John 3:16, if not quite as liberating.
I spent over a year in therapy, trying to beat these thoughts. I took a little blue pill every night for most of that period, trying to make room to breathe. I have written page after page, song after song, poem after poem, trying to exorcise them onto paper, but the words are only faint copies, and the thoughts always come back.
I don’t want this to be my response. I don’t want to find myself small and sad and voiceless in the face of challenges. I hate that my first instinct is to believe that I can solve the problem by erasing myself. I hate that I have bought in so much to the voices of my past that I will speak for them. I want to be stronger than this. I want the voice of my hope to be louder than that of my self-hatred and fear.
So tonight instead of killing myself, I will go to bed. Tomorrow I will be braver and stronger. Tomorrow I will think about better things.