When I’m suicidal, I’m angry at other people. They ask me to hold on, to not give up. They beg me to think of my family, my friends, who will be devastated by my death.
What right do they have to tell me what to do with my body, with my life? I think.
I suffer so much, so deeply.
When I heard Robin Williams had died of an apparent suicide, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t shocked, not even slightly. Just immensely sad, and scared.
Bipolar is deadly. Depression is deadly.
With each depressive episode, I find myself feeling helpless. I did everything I could, I think, And I still couldn’t stop this.
Or, even worse, I failed to do everything I could. I brought this on myself. I fail at life, I can’t do it.
In the moments when I have been closest to suicide, those are the words playing over and over in my head, the ones I sometimes cry out into the isolation. I can’t. I can’t do this any longer, I can’t suffer like this, I can’t cry any more, I can’t sit around and wait to be well, I can’t keep trying to live.
And then: I’m sorry.
To call my suicide selfish would be to deeply misunderstand the act. When suicidal, I hate myself for burdening the ones I love. I know my suicide would hurt them, but my depression feels like even more of a burden. I know how much it hurts them to see me struggle, and I don’t want to hurt them like that any more. I want it to be over, I want them to be able to live their lives without the burden of my pain. I want us all to be able to move on.
I don’t talk much about the times when I’ve been suicidal. I’ll bring it up occasionally, briefly, when talking about those times in my life, but I never go into detail, because I don’t want to upset anyone. Suicide is really scary. I’m not sure who it’s scarier for, the people on the outside, or the people on the inside.
The people on the outside, who have never been suicidal, they don’t understand how anyone can feel that way. They are afraid, deeply afraid of it, so they reject, minimize.
You’ll feel better. Don’t be selfish. It’s only temporary.
The people on the inside, who have reached out to touch the edge of death, we’re afraid because we’re wondering when things will get bad enough that we take the leap. More like a stumble really, because leaps take too much energy. When will we stumble over the edge into a decision we can’t take back?
When we are suicidal, nothing feels temporary. Everything is agony.
In fact, I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of suicide. I’m afraid of what comes before suicide, the pain and anguish that could eventually lead to that decision.
Robin Williams was one of the survivors. He’d been to rehab, been through numerous treatments, had every resource available to him. He’d been fighting the fight for sixty-three long years. One of the thoughts that keeps me alive in my depression is There’s still more out there. There’s more to try, more medications to test out, ECT if it comes to that. Yoga. Good food. Routine. Community. Maybe those things will finally cure me.
When there’s nothing left to try, when I find myself again incapable and broken, then what will I do?
I will do my best not to listen to the repetition in my mind: I can’t, I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m sorry, I can’t.
I will do my best to listen instead to the people around me: We love you, we will not give up on you. We love you, we will be here for you, for as long as it takes. We love you, no matter what. We love you, we will share your suffering. We love you, we do not resent you. We love you, we know this is not your fault. We love you, no matter what.
These are the things we need to say to people who are suicidal. Do not call us selfish. Do not chastise us or plague us with platitudes. Just repeat, again and again: We love you, no matter what. We love you, we love you, we love you.
If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. Talk to someone. Email me. Many, many people have felt this way, and many of us survived. You can too.
(For my friends and family, who might be concerned about a post about suicide: I’m not suicidal right now, nor am I depressed. All is well.)