If you or anyone you know is struggling, help is available. Speak with a (free) counselor today. National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Writing this feels like I’m standing before an emotional fire squad, waiting to hear the first shot that will bring me to my knees and shove the air from my lungs. Waiting to be painfully swept from this realm to the next. In most of my mental health related posts I bring up suicide, but I tiptoe around it to be as vulnerable and informative as possible without having to open that door or to really talk about it, how it has affected me and those I love. Honestly, I’m scared to write on it. In my hometown, suicide has seemingly become an epidemic of its own. I don’t want to bring up an issue that will cause people surrounding me pain without good reason or to write something disappointing that doesn’t serve a constructive role. I know that so many of you who are kind enough to support this blog of mine have lost loved ones, or even multiple of them, to suicide. For those of you, please consider this a trigger warning, but know that I will try my hardest to be respectful, honest, and helpful as I delve into this. I have prayed about whether or not to write on suicide for months, and I feel, in light of recent events, that it is time I offer my insight into this topic and speak as openly as possible in hopes of making someone out there feel less alone in their suffering or in their healing. There have been moments in my life that stumbling upon some video or article on the internet has truly saved me. I have found that shedding light on the ugliest, worst aspects of life can oddly lessen or even completely rid them of their power to negatively control your actions or overrun your thoughts. I’m not professing to be able to do that, but I can at least try.
I have made attempts to take my own life before. More than once. Saying that is not to gain your pity or attention; it is to establish that I have been there. I can’t speak for anyone’s experiences but my own, but maybe opening up and focusing on suicide and suicidality will offer some hint of explanation as to what leads you to that place, the darkest and scariest place.
At my most depressed, I felt like I had been completely consumed by quicksand and ostensibly stuck for all of eternity. In truth, I was only pulling myself down further and further by indulging the thoughts that told me I was worthless, that I was ugly both physically and mentally, that I was completely and irrevocably alone in the world. As my brain continued with its increasingly powerful concoctions of misery and self loathing, I came to subconsciously actualize those warped beliefs — that everyone surrounding me considered me nothing but a nuisance, that I had no promise, that I just couldn’t do life. For example, I can see that my being alienated from several people was largely imagined but, most importantly, the alienation that was in fact happening was mostly my fault as I retreated further and further into this abysmal darkness. When every single thought I had concerned my death and the necessity of it, I was fully isolating myself from not just my friends but from life itself. Every second became an eternity spent in a locked room — my mind just circled around and around the topic of my worthlessness as I lay glued to the wall like a kid on one of those spinny rides at the fair that make you feel like you’re in zero gravity before barfing up fried oreos next to a mounted policeman.
Suicide is the realization of depression. I mean that literally. People talk about it as though suicide is something separate from mere depression. As someone who has battled suicidality for years, I can tell you that it isn’t really like that from a first-person perspective. It’s not some “other,” a phantom lurking in the corner. It is the logical and seemingly inevitable conclusion to a sad, hopeless story. It is the erasure of being that begins with the first symptoms of depression. When I was in that headspace, I felt like the question wasn’t “if” I were going to do it…but when. Even on marginally brighter days, I knew. I was certain of my fate. The only uncertainty surrounded when I would be able to finish the process that was already well on its way.
I’m not sure if that makes any sense at all, but my point is that there isn’t some sort of discernible switch that makes you go from just depressed to fully suicidal. There isn’t a concrete signal that indicates a progression from being sad all the time to wanting to act on those thoughts. You didn’t miss some sort of sign. It begins, spreads, and dominates in the dark.
Depression rips your sense of self out from under you, leaving a you-shaped void in the universe. Depression is emotional anti-matter. In modern physics, antimatter particles are identical to matter particles except with opposite charges and spins. The collision of matter and antimatter results in mutual annihilation — they “disappear in a burst of light.” I imagine joy as the matter to depression’s antimatter. The latter, once let loose in the brain, eradicates its positive counterparts in swathes, effectively eating away not just the pleasure but the pain as well, eventually leaving a vacuum where a person used to be. It sucks up your identity, all the parts that made you you. You disappear in a burst of light.
In order to go about your daily activities as a functional human, there is a necessary level of egocentrism , of perceiving the world primarily as it affects and relates to you, that needs to be in place. People do normal people things by orienting themselves at the center of their universe and anchoring there. You stop being able to structure the world that way when you’re depressed. Depression swallows your sense of self up entirely, so you start to see the world as nothing but a hostile agent of darkness that wants you out. You lose your grip on who you are, so you become an emotional lightning rod that can only react to and reflect the energy around you.
Depression is the absence of self. It pervades your every thought and cloaks your true soul, blinding you to the reality that you are in fact loved and that you are needed here on this earth. Your perception becomes warped by the belief that you will never find love or belonging here. There is no horizon, no promise of a brighter tomorrow. Everything betrays you. Everything disapproves of you, Everything would be better off without you. You are not yourself. You’re made a broken marionette animated by something very sinister’s hands.
I know this sounds dismal and hopeless. If you came here for some hope of relief, I’m sorry it hasn’t come yet. I just want to drive home that, for me, depression was a process of losing myself entirely. Suicide seemed to be the logical next step. I was already gone, so it seemed like there was nothing to lose by actualizing my demise in the physical realm.
Before I say this next piece, I want to make something abundantly clear — suicide is never the answer. There is a great Richard Rohr quote that says, “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” If you are experiencing these dark feelings, you have a responsibility to do what you can to address and learn from them. You can only grow upward from rock bottom. What you are doing by deciding to end your life is merely passing off the heartache you feel onto those you love, those who will be by your graveside. Even if it feels like you are alone, I promise that there will be people who carry your memory and the grief of your loss forever. What I am about to say is in no way meant to condone or shine a positive light on suicide. Do not do it.
There is, however, perhaps a silver lining…however thin and meaningless it is in the face of insurmountable grief. What suicide may bring — what I sought with my suicidal ideation — is peace. The journey of mental illness is grueling and thankless. It is an everyday battle that leaves you yearning for escape, for any way out. I choose to believe that in our loved ones’ final moments God puts them back together again. Finally, perhaps, they feel whole.
Of course this does nothing to curb the pain of a loved one willingly departing this life. To all who have been affected by this Tragedy of Tragedies, I am profoundly sorry. My heart is yours. If you yourself are battling suicidal thoughts or depression, hang on. Just hang on. It’s okay if that is the best you can do. Take life one minute at a time and make sure to be gracious with yourself. I promise that one day the weight of the world will let up. Whether it be a change in your brain chemistry over time, professional help, or a friend bending down to help bear the load, relief will come.
As a culture, I think we could all vow to cut each other a bit more slack. I am majorly guilty of allowing my anger and judgment to cloud my perception of others, but I am working on it every day. I’m trying. I urge myself just as I urge others to do the following. Look with love. Speak with love. Be with love.
The world is heavy, particularly for those of us having to battle demons both internally and externally around the clock. I try to treat everyone with the sensitivity and courtesy that I have needed in my darkest moments.
And so we beat on, boats against the current…that won’t rip off Fitzgerald no matter how much we want to. We try our best to keep it together and to amass a steadfast support network to catch us when we fall. We miss our lost loves and honor them every day. We may find comfort in believing that the sacrifice of their precious lives in this sinful, human world yielded an eternity of joy and security in the next. When our time comes, we’ll be looking for their knowing grins and open arms, ready to hear what we have suspected since they left…that they have found the place of essential peace and perfect harmony and have been waiting for us there all along.