There are many truths about mental illness. These truths however, are often misunderstood or ignored in man’s quest to define something that is not easily explained. I spend my adult life writing about mental illness in an attempt to try and explain some of the more difficult aspects so people like my family can get a glimpse of the life I live. But you can’t walk in the shoes of someone who is mentally ill. You can’t truly find answers about mental illness unless you live it day in and day out. This truth makes it possible for people to be subjected to harsh criticisms, have difficult and often frustrating conversations, and learn early what to never admit. Those of us with mental illnesses don’t admit certain truths because the fall out even from our most trusted friends can be extreme. There are truths that can’t even be spoken to the therapists and doctors that we trust.
One of these truths is suicide; or in the case of this article, suicidal thoughts.
I have written about suicide before. I have tried to be open about suicidal thoughts and the relative normalcy of them in my writing. I will admit that I don’t actually speak aloud the truth of my thoughts, even to the therapist I visit every week for the last many years. I can write it because strangers read my words not those that surround me in my life. I can write about suicide because it is safe while therapeutic for me. I can’t talk about it because those in my world simply can’t handle what for me is as normal as my daily thoughts about what I will eat today. Suicidal thoughts are a daily occurrence for me. The voice in my head urging my own death is as familiar to me as my child’s laughter. But for those that surround me they are bullhorn calls for intervention. For those around me suicide thoughts is a reason to treat me as if I am fragile and desperately need whatever is available to save me. For them, I need saving. For me, I need a true sounding board.
My daily suicidal thoughts are no longer as powerful as they were at the birth of this disease. I have learned to listen to them, to accept them as part of who I am, and I have learned that one thing that makes it possible for me to fall into the voice and move on to the next. For me, there is a shiny object in my life that I can hold up and combat the very real desire to take my own life. I had to learn that finding that shiny object to combat the suicidal voices was vital to my own continual existence. I had to learn to hold up that object, to worship that object, but most of all to have an object that was powerful enough that suicide could be returned to the realm of this disease. No one thing, not even the newest medical breakthrough, will ultimately stop suicidal thoughts from becoming part of the life I lead. But a shiny object, a perfect shiny object, can give me just enough of a breath so that I can continue to breathe. Breathe through the thoughts and breathe through the reality.
I can admit that suicidal thoughts are powerful. I can even admit that despite that shiny object, there are days that suicide seems like the greatest gift I could give. Not living, not destroying, not even heading to heaven, oftentimes seems like a good answer. Dying is something I long ago learned to not only face calmly but to anticipate. It is only that shiny object, that personal golden object that keeps me going. Otherwise, to be honest, I don’t know that I would like to be on this earth anymore. I don’t like who and what I am, and without confidence or trust internally or externally, I am not sure that living makes much sense for me. But again, there is a shiny object that holds enough sway to keep me in this world. It is what works for me.
I wrote the preceding paragraphs for a reason. Yesterday, for one of the few times, that shiny object took a lot of time to work.
I never truly know when my thoughts, whether they be suicidal or not, are going to be stronger than my own self. I can’t anticipate when the voices will be screaming at me and when they will be silent enough for me to hear the laughter others find so easily. I have never woken up in the morning and thought to myself that the suicide I envision will take on the most beautiful hues. I have woken up not wanting to get out of the bed and face the world, but the voices that solely exist to convince me of my own mortality have never been a true detriment to my daily beginnings. First thoughts don’t work that way for me. And while this certainly doesn’t negate the power of those voices that will come, it does allow me to have a moment of unreality that can keep me from the certainty of those negative thoughts. It’s how my illness works. It’s how my mental illness has always worked. But when those loud and educated voices do come to speak about the darkness and relief, they can come with a whimper or a roar. It solely depends on the day and the whim of a brain I can not control.
Yesterday, it came with a roar. If you add up the last week or so you can understand why they were so loud. It’s like the craving of a forbidden drug; sometimes everything simply adds up so that two plus two equals anything but four.
I have been sick the last couple of days; just normal physical sickness that often comes with stress or even something as simple as a change in the weather. No doctor is needed and over-the-counter drugs do the job effectively. On top of that, I had planned a trip, a simple day trip, that I found I couldn’t actually go to. I often suffer from an inability to leave my home for a strange place but this time I had planned the trip for someone else and then found the ability to leave out my front door was simply beyond me. This created a disappointment that often comes in my life and yet, is continually heartbreaking. Then there is the continual stress of running a household and the people in it without finding my own pocket of joy. This is a selfish statement, but it often contributes to the stress that mental illness has a policy of making much worse. Everyday life is stressful; and sometimes that stress goes so out of bounds that the reality of the situation is actually lost.
And then there was the kicker. I have teenagers who prefer to be alone in their room than anywhere near me. This is normal. My reaction isn’t; I miss those kids that gave me so many memories. And when those kids are invited out with their friends, and I am not, it makes it even harder. Yesterday, the women I thought were my friends invited my kids out without inviting me. Again, a selfish statement. But add the stress all up and then finding a Facebook post showing all the fun my kid and my friends are having and you can see the toehold my suicidal thoughts found.
I sat in my room and cried, in a way that I try hard never to. I cried for feeling sick. I cried for all the disappointment of not going on the trip I planned. And I cried realizing that once again those that I thought were my friends saw me as nothing but a mother to a child. I have never been really good at friendships mostly because I don’t want my mental illness to ever cause trouble for them or my child. I don’t want my child to loose their friends because of who and what I am. But I thought that I had tried for these friends. I thought that I was someone they thought about like I have. I thought they would want to text, get together, and accept me for who I have been trying to be. Mental illness is very lonely, but never so lonely as when you have built a fantasy that looked a lot like reality.
I found myself hurting and desperately keeping the tears back even now. The real fear to me isn’t the suicidal thoughts but the realities that I will have to come to terms with. And while many of those so close to me won’t see the cause of my pain, in my heart every beat of hurt will be louder than the conscience thoughts to put this in context and find the truth of why my friends would cause me this pain.
I know that I have reached a point where stress, life, and hurt have coalesced to create a perfect platform to make killing myself seem something I should bow down to. I have a shiny object and it has worked each time I have lost my faith in this world; but one always has to wonder when it simply won’t have the ability to keep me from finally completing my most anticipated journey. Suicide isn’t something that my realities or the people in my life are willing to try and understand, so I will continue to hold up that object and hope it hasn’t lost it’s magic on this fifteen millionth round of my own reality. My own sacred object hasn’t failed me yet and I will try and believe just enough to make it real one more time.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255