I was once told by someone who knows me only as a stereotype that I terrified them, because they figured that one day, I was going to be found hanging from a self-tied noose.
The accusation struck me as strange and absurd, because it was just so far off from my own lived experience with suicidal thoughts. I remember mentioning it once to other people who, perhaps, knew me better, hoping that they too would find it as funny as I did. They didn’t.
And perhaps part of the misunderstanding is my own fault, because my struggle with suicidal thoughts has always been a very private one. I figure that those closest to me are aware of it, but the word itself remains unspoken, buried deep in the untouched depths of our conversation, as though we think that simply ignoring it will make it all go away. I don’t even want to talk about it, to be honest – I’ve always felt that attributing the word ‘suicidal’ to myself paints a picture of a person who I am not. A suicidal person is someone who needs to be watched over, protected, kept away from their own devices at all costs because they are a hazard to themselves, and who knows what they could possibly be capable of? That was never me. Even at my absolute worst, I don’t think I was ever a real danger to myself.
There was a point where I felt convinced that my life could only end with suicide. Someday, sooner or later, something was going to happen, and that would be it. My life was not for disease or old age or even violent crime to take – it belonged only to me. It was mine to do with as I pleased, and some day, my own death would be my pleasure.
There were times – particularly when my depression was really bad – when I seriously considered making that day the present. I’d lie in bed or sit cold and abandoned on the bathroom floor, sometimes crying, sometimes not, and I’d imagine it. Imagine getting up and making my way to the kitchen to grab a knife. Imagine fashioning a rope from a scarf or a pair of pants or something (wondering all the while if that would even work). Imagine finding a way to the rooftop and jumping down. There was one time where I tried to come up with a game to stop myself – I’d imagine the world without me, and that would, of course, bring me to the conclusion that I shouldn’t do it. It didn’t. If anything, it made me realize what a burden I really was.
But the thing about those moments is, as terrible as they sound when I describe them like this, I don’t think there was ever any real danger in them. My mind, as most people’s minds are, I imagine, has always been divided between two voices – the emotional, illogical child, and the reasonable, intelligent adult. It was the child who flashed these nightmarish visions before my mind’s eye, and the adult who talked me out of it every time.
“Taking your own life is a huge decision to make,” the adult would remind me. “Give yourself some time to think about it. There will always be time to kill yourself later if that’s really what you want to do.”
And to a certain extent, as odd as that piece of self-advice might sound, it’s sort of what got me through it. I just kept dragging myself through each terrible day until, eventually, those days started to get better. Until those thoughts became less and less frequent. Until those thoughts were quite nearly gone entirely. Time and time again, I picked my hollow body off of bathroom floors, and I put myself to sleep despite the tears in my eyes, and none of that was ever done in vain.
I don’t think I’ll ever kill myself now. That inevitability died away when I made the choice to keep living. Like every other person on this planet, my death remains a mystery, giving me the oh-so-attractive options of disease, old age, accident, or (hopefully not) murder. I’ve been through too much to give into those thoughts now, even if they do come back. I know what a liar that voice is when it tells me that everyone I know would be better off without me. I know that even one moment of pure joy is worth all the pain that I otherwise endure in my life. I’ve seen it all for myself, and I’ve learned from it. Suicide poses no risk to me anymore.
And sometimes, I’m shocked that I’m even still here. I’ll be caught up in some work, approaching a milestone in my life, or even just laughing with a group of friends, and suddenly I’ll freeze and I’ll think, “I shouldn’t be here right now. In another universe, one where I made a different choice, or where just one thought failed to occur to me, I’m rotting in a pine box six feet underground, but here, I’m not. Here, I’m happy.”
I’m not saying any of this because I want sympathy or pity either. I don’t. To be honest, sympathy and pity make me uncomfortable, especially for something like this where I don’t think I earned it. No, the only reason that I am saying this is because I think that suicidal thoughts are something that our society has rendered very taboo, and so we don’t talk about it. We ignore it, reduce it to a stereotype, make it something that it’s not when, really, it’s something very personal for every person who experiences it. The stereotype of the thin, pale girl who needs to be protected from her own mind by a boy who will kiss away her tears doesn’t suit me at all, but that always feels like the way that I’m introducing myself when I admit that, yes, suicidal thoughts have occurred to me before. My mind put me in that position, and my mind got me out of it. I am my own hero, the victor of a battle that no one even realized I was fighting. And no one will ever realize how I won in my own unique, personal way unless I tell them.
As much as my suicidal thoughts are no longer with me, they will always be a part of me, something that I keep in the back of my mind as something that helped make me who I am today. Because in those moment when I realize that I should be dead right now, I’m freer than any living person on this earth. I shouldn’t be here to leave my mark anymore, but I am, and I think that means something. Even if it’s a small something, even if it’s insignificant in the grand scheme of this endless universe, at the end of the day, I should be dead and I’m not. And I’m going to find out the reason for that.