There is a dangerous peace in deciding that you want to commit suicide. My closest friends and family know my history with depression, but I’ve kept one thing to myself for several years now. It was always too overwhelming to acknowledge, but at 23 and healthy, it doesn’t affect me the same way anymore. I was 16 and miserable. There were several things going on in my personal life that I couldn’t handle anymore. I had cut before, never that deep where I could die, but enough that I still have fading scars to this day. I was beside myself in my room and thought life could not and would not improve. Aside from my dog, I was home alone. I was in such pain and could physically feel the weight of imbalance like it was a migraine going through my whole body. Before I knew it, I was out of my room and walking to the kitchen. I opened a drawer, and pulled out the sharpest knife I could find. I passed it between my hands like a tennis ball, weightless and with ease. For the first time in weeks, I could breathe; things would be okay again. I placed the knife really gently on my forearm, and pulled it away slowly, spinning it around my fingers. Then my dog barked, and I dropped the knife on the floor. It clattered, and I was taken out of the peace, stepping away from the knife like it was fire. I burst into sobs, and I cried on my kitchen floor for an hour. I cried for what could have happened, for my family, but most of all, I cried for myself. I had never been so alone, so incapable of existing, in my life. I know now that it was nothing to be ashamed of, but I put that night out of my head for a while because it was too embarrassing. Years later, when I lost my father to suicide in 2011, my eyes opened to the dangers of no suicide prevention, and the stigma around mental illness.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. For the past three years, it’s become my early preparation for grieving my father’s death on October 2nd. I tend to do my grieving, and countless recounting of the night’s events, by myself. That seems to be how I handle most of my emotions, and it really is practice when it comes to understanding that it’s okay to talk to people about your “feelings”. I work on that everyday, or at least I try to. Since 13, when some awful, gross kid in 7th grade told me I was ugly, I’ve struggled with depression. There’s only so many years of bad skin, braces, and an erratic home life that a girl can handle. Nowadays, I’m sure of myself. Everyone has their moments, but I’m the best I can be for where my life is right now. I have anxiety that builds up if I’m not proactive about it, I have nightmares about hearing the gun shot, and I spent a long time in denial. Luckily, I entered therapy last year, and I am much better. But no matter what I may feel, what my family feels, it really won’t ever be the same. Loss is loss, but it’s important to learn from it.
The stigma around mental illness is astounding. During my father’s wake, a woman I barely knew said to me, “But he was such a good guy.” Even at that time, when I could’ve easily slipped into anger toward my father and agreed with her, I could not believe what I was hearing. Since when does killing yourself make you a bad person? Hearing that was an early push toward acknowledging that there was a lot of work to do. Because of that, I feel compelled to speak on behalf of my father and others any chance I get. In the recent death of Robin Williams, a man who reminded me a lot of my father, I saw an onslaught of negativity and ignorance toward mental health. I can’t imagine someone at my cousin’s services, a beautiful young boy that succumbed to cancer in 2001, saying, “He should have just tried harder.” It’s not even a question because cancer is a truly horrible disease. That obvious understanding is exactly how we need to view people who have committed suicide, attempt it, or simply consider it. They are sick, and too sick sometimes, to help themselves. If as a society, we could create a safe space for those who struggle, then think of how many people wouldn’t take their own lives? Much like when you don’t treat the flu, it’s going to get worse. When you have the flu, you go to the doctor. It’s a standard procedure of events. But what if your brain was sick? So chemically imbalanced that you had to tell your mother, your best friend, your partner, “I want to die”, and they clamp up with, “That’s crazy” or “How could you feel that way?”
I’m thankful I never went through with taking my life, but having been there, knowing that moment well, it has helped me understand my father more, and doing all I can to spread the importance of suicide prevention. Just one moment of peace isn’t worth the lifetime of impact you leave behind if you succeed in taking your own life, but the suicidal can’t see it that way. That is why the stable, or the ones who’ve survived and feel up to it, have to do their part.
It is very easy to drape a veil over what’s inside you. I love making my friends laugh, I enjoy looking like an idiot, and I’m personable. If you didn’t know my history, you wouldn’t think I’ve struggled that much. I’m not always a perfect person, but I do credit myself with the hard work I’ve done to get to a healthier place. There’s always been this idea that the funniest people have lead the most difficult lives. I’m sure there’s truth to that. If you’ve suffered, what else is there to do but try and make the most of life? My father was the same exact way, but just because I survived and he didn’t, should not matter on how he is judged. He lived in a society that didn’t allow him to admit he wasn’t okay, but we don’t have to live that way anymore. We need the ones who are hurting to know that we understand them. That when someone admits wanting to die, we make it clear that we believe the severity of their situation. Having faith in someone’s honesty is such a huge part of suicide prevention. For me at least, knowing someone validated my sickness helped me start my battle for stability.
You’re not your depression, you’re not your sickness, and it can be overcome. But you shouldn’t have to do it alone.