Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
In past years, I’ve hidden behind my mother’s suicide, using my “status” as a suicide survivor as my catalyst to speak on this topic. The path she walked with her mental illness is one I had no choice but to be dragged along on, and it taught me things that no child should ever have to learn. It also meant I had a little more insight and empathy for those walking the same path. It’ll be seven years on the 21st since her demons became too loud for her to bear, and I’ve spent a great deal of time since then doing everything in my power to remind others that tomorrow is worth seeing.
This year is different, however. This year I face this day as more than just someone who got caught in the backlash of someone else’s pain. I approach this day with a much different, more intimate knowledge of what it means to walk this road. In previous years, the noise inside my own head had never been so loud as it has been these past few months. I know I am my mother’s daughter in many ways, but I adamantly swore that suicide would never be one of the ways that I emulated her. I promised myself and everyone around me that I would never even consider that path.
Well. I considered it. Hell, I very nearly did much more than consider it.
A little over a month ago, on an otherwise quiet Thursday night, I spent eight hours or so staring at a bottle of pills, rolling the idea of ending my own life around in my head, in the same way you would try and decide on what to eat for breakfast in the morning.
The logical decision, of course, was a loud, resounding “fuck no”…but when you are Really, Really Tired and the noise in your head just. won’t. stop, that “fuck no” becomes a snarled “just do it and get it over with already”. When you are desperate for some quiet and to stop hurting, and absolutely nothing else is working (including your usual ill-advised coping mechanisms) , logic no longer plays as heavy a role as you’d like it to. I had hit an all time new low, where my self imposed silence and smallness had caused me to feel like I was unequivocally alone. I couldn’t take a breath without the sentient beings that Anxiety and Depression had morphed into hissing things about how much of a waste of space I was. I couldn’t dredge up a single reason as to why I shouldn’t open that bottle and just get it the fuck over with.
Fortunately (though at the time, I’m not sure I would have considered it “fortunate”), the fear of not succeeding and having to face the consequences finally beat back the overwhelming desire to give in and give up. It isn’t a glamorous or romantic reason, but it was enough of one to keep me from taking that final step. And, if we’re being entirely honest? It was 5 AM and I needed to get ready for work. So, I shuffled into the bathroom, turned the shower on and started my day, prepared to face my Friday like I hadn’t spent all night awake and fighting an internal battle over whether or not I felt like continuing to live.
This is not something I share lightly. I’m not sharing for attention, or pity, or for a pat on the back or head telling me I’m going to be okay and that life isn’t so bad. I share this because this is the reality of the world I’m living in right now.
I share this because I made the decision, however uninspired, to keep living.
I am still in a place that is dark and terrifying. I still have days where I’m convinced that there isn’t a single soul on this Earth that actually, honestly cares and isn’t just giving me lip service to make me shut up and sit down and leave them alone. I am still not sure what the other side of this is going to look like or how I’m going to get there. I still have scary moments when I wonder if it is really, honestly, truly worth continuing to fight this fight, because I am so tired of trying to rationalize with my very, very mean brain.
But still, I keep living.
I share all of this because I know this is a reality others are living as well, and I desperately, wholeheartedly, genuinely want them to know they aren’t alone. Depression is one of the biggest, meanest liars on the planet, and can convince you that you are completely, relentlessly alone, even when you are in a room full of people that you know, for a fact, care about you. Depression convinces you that you are nothing; a worthless excuse of a human being that cannot and will not ever bring anything of value to the table, so why should anyone else waste even half a second on your pathetic existence?
It’s impossible to remember that depression lies all on your own. You can’t do it by yourself. I’ve tried. I’ve tried every which way to go this alone. Hell, I’m STILL trying because the lies that have woven themselves into my being feel like truths. But I know that the real truth is that people need other people. It can be a hard thing to accept when you’ve cultivated an insane amount of independence and self sufficiency like I have, because other people have never been safe. It can be downright terrifying to look at someone and say that you need them. I’m still not capable of reaching out when I need to 99% of the time, because I am so thoroughly convinced that I don’t deserve to show up on anyone’s radar.
It took a decidedly small but emotionally monumental gesture for someone to drill a hole through the solid shell of lies and for me to believe that maybe someone did legitimately care. That hole was made by an early morning, completely unexpected text from a person who is both new to my life and new to my story, telling me that she had just heard a song for the first time that she needed me to hear. It followed up on the heels of that terrible Thursday night, and directly after a painful conversation with her that left me raw and vulnerable. When I Googled the lyrics to the song she forwarded, which was Cold Water by Major Lazer, I sat at my desk at work and cried for over an hour.
For someone like me — someone who is pretty good at convincing herself to be small and silent and that she doesn’t have a place in anyone’s life — this was not a little gesture. I can be in a room full of people that I know, logically, care about me and want to help, and still feel like staying silent and small is the only way to make sure that no one else feels the need to expend anything extra on me because I’m just. not. worth. it.
Except, despite all of that, she spent the energy anyway. In the grand scheme of things, maybe it was nothing to her, but for me, in that moment, so soon after I had grappled with whether or not I deserved keep living? It was truly monumental to me. I was overwhelmed with a kind of gratitude that I can’t even beginto describe. Someone saw me, despite my attempts to make myself as small as possible, and she let me know she saw me in a way that resonated louder than just saying the words. She was showing me that my story was important to her, in no uncertain terms. It was painful and amazing and bone-jarringly shocking to my ineffectual little brain, all at once.
I went home that evening, put the song on repeat, and threw away the pills that had been such a tempting offer of peace just a few short days ago.
Since that day, I’ve had something that I can reach for when unkind thoughts stretch themselves over my psyche, casting an impenetrable shadow over anything that looks even a little bit like sunshine. It knocks that shadow back just enough, to right before the point where I am sitting up for an entire night trying to decide whether or not to end my life. I am still in the midst of a seemingly unrelenting struggle, and I may not be able to reach out to the person herself (or anyone, for that matter), but I have something the darkness can’t touch, and that’s not something I’ve had before.
This is what I want for you. If you are like me, and you can’t fathom why anyone would want to hear your story, please take this to heart. This is me, showing you, the same way I was shown, that your story is intensely important to me. You are important to me. You are so deserving of love and empathy. You matter. I want you to know that if you feel like you’re sinking, that I will jump into cold water for you. I have been in that water. I know how it can paralyze your lungs and brain and make you feel like drowning is the only option. But I promise you, it’s not.
I want you to keep living.
I want you to find that one tiny thing that you can wrap your hand around and hold on to so tightly that even the darkness can’t take it away from you, no matter what. Even when every nerve in your body feels like its on fire because you are feeling everything and nothing all at once, keep fighting. There is a reason you are here, and you are integral to the stories of the people who love you. There are still so many more miles you need to travel. Fall leaves need to be seen from the top of a mountain you just hiked up, and puppies need to be rolled around with on the floor. There are tiny mom and pop candy shops to be discovered and hotel beds to be jumped on and cities to get purposely lost in. There are dirty jokes to be giggled at and songs to be sung at the top of your lungs and games of tag to be played.
There are people who need you to hold their hands and love them just as much as you need your hand to be held and for them to love you.
Look around and find someone who is willing to jump into cold water for you.
I’m right here if you need me to.
“And if you feel you’re sinking, I will jump right over
Into cold, cold water for you
And although time may take us into different places
I will still be patient with you
And I hope you know,
I won’t let go
I’ll be your lifeline tonight.”
Cold Water by Major Lazer