Content warning: frank discussion of suicidal ideation and behaviours
Alright, so, here we go. As it will shock no one, I was wrong about a lot of things when I was 18, and suicidality was one of those many. This post is one of the first ones I wanted to write when I started my blog but, as you can see, I’ve put it off for a while. It’s pretty embarrassing.
I don’t know how many doctors I told, ‘Oh, I’m not at risk of suicidal thoughts, I talked a lot about mental health growing up, so I know enough that I know it doesn’t solve anything.’
I mean, it’s so dumb I’m almost laughing. Almost. Because, well, here I am, 22 years old, and freshly released from the hospital after intentionally driving my car into a post during one of my many suicidal episodes. And if I could say one thing to 18-year-old me, I’d tell her that no one is safe from suicidal thoughts. It’s not about smart or dumb, informed or ignorant, it’s about pain and desperation.
The truth is, I never thought I’d still be struggling almost four years later. I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that anything could lead me to a place where I really thought there was no other way out. And maybe that’s the problem. If you’ve never been suicidal, how are you supposed to know what it’s like?
If you can never, ever, ever imagine being in a place like that, why wouldn’t you assume that it’s about ignorance, attention, or instability? But here’s the thing, if you’ve never been suicidal, take a moment and imagine what it would take for you to intentionally put your life in danger. If you can’t think of anything, then lucky you, but I’m sure that you could think of at least one far-fetched situation. A loved one in danger, the chance of saving many others, or a diagnosis of a terminal illness. All far-fetched, painful, troubling situations.
So, maybe apply that to the suicidal. How unbelievable is it that these people are in such pain and hardship that they have no faith in any other way out? How painful must it be to be in a place where you believe that there is no other way to get out? Because that’s what it was like for me to be suicidal.
I have things to live for: I have a growing group of amazing people as friends; I have an outstandingly supportive family; I have two little cats and a sweet dog that depend on and love me. But none of that has outweighed the pain, desperation, and helplessness that I’ve felt in my episodes of suicidal thoughts. Feeling that way adds guilt onto all of the other negative feelings that I already had, but even that couldn’t stop me.
The thought that I would be leaving my teenaged brother and sister, my mother and father, with a dead sister and daughter was heartbreaking, but still not enough to outweigh the desire to hurt myself.
I drove into the first post I could find, as fast as I could, without any hesitation. I plowed it over and I was furious that barely anything had happened to me. There was no physical pain distracting me. No broken bones or cuts that caused a pain that I could actually explain. There was no relief. I screamed and punched my car, throwing a tantrum at how well it had protected me.
Yet, now, I’m too afraid to drive my car. Because those thoughts are still there. And even though a new, more accurate diagnosis came out of my time in the hospital, I still feel hopeless. I still wake up and go to sleep worrying that I’ll never get relief and that I’ll never recover enough to reach my goals.
Because as smart as I may think I am, and as obnoxious as 18-year-old me was, I still feel the inescapable pain. I’m still desperate for my pain to stop, or for it to at least make sense.
This is a short post, but I’ve said all I wanted to, and I hope it’s as poignant as it was cathartic.
What would you tell pre-mental-illness you?