Warning: The following post contains content that is extremely uncomfortable and may provoke feelings of confusion, judgment, and censorship. This content is not suitable for all audiences. This post represents the experiences and thoughts of one individual and does not reflect the experiences of anyone else. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please consider seeking help or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
There are many reasons why I consider suicide.
I’ve struggled with my mental health for much of my life, and as someone who has read the criticisms from mental health professionals and parents about the “dangers” of the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, I’m actually offended by their asinine, ignorant, misaligned warnings to ban conversations about that show in schools. Their cries to censor the public, and more importantly their children, from this show and its corollary conversations puts more people at risk of committing suicide because it further stigmatizes mental health and sends the message that mental health is an “issue” that has no place in the public—if any place at all.
I want to emphasize that my thoughts about mental health are my own, but nonetheless I am compelled to inform other people who haven’t personally experienced severe depression to understand how a person’s mental health (in this particular case, my own) can deteriorate and why it has been so difficult for me to talk about it. When we talk about mental health, we don’t treat it the same way we would talk about the common cold, something that simply happens when the temperature drops too low and people start spreading a virus. Because that’s what depression feels like. It just happens. I don’t seek it out, and in fact I would even dare to say I’m healthy and successful with many reasons to enjoy life. Yet what is incredible is that by not talking about mental health we trivialize it while simultaneously stigmatizing it. And we rarely ask ourselves how we can help other people when we don’t think they are doing well. We, as a society, are always seeking answers to our own problems through “self help” books, yet there is no “Help Others” section in Barnes & Noble. Isn’t that strange? Shouldn’t there be more popular literature on the topic of how to be kinder to others?
I’ve never tried committing suicide, but even if I did, I would never dare call myself a “survivor of suicide” or someone who has “overcome” her inner turmoil or some other dumb thing that glamorizes how strong I am for continuing to live, what I often feel, is a shitty life. For one thing, I don’t feel as if I can ever ever shake off this “cold” one hundred percent—I do have occasional flare ups, some days much more strongly than others. Second, assuming the “survivor” narrative supports the idea that there was ever something wrong with me to begin with. Sure, I can accept scientifically supported explanations of genetic predisposition for certain mental health conditions. I can accept that I might have lower than average serotonin levels, which would be one contributing factor to my mental health. I can even accept that my perspective on life can be a bit pessimistic, jaded, or cynical. But none of those things make me defective or broken or anything less than that of a full human being, right? At least, that’s what I try tell myself every day. In fact, that is the essence of one who lives with suicidal thoughts fueled by an empty tank of self-esteem: every day is a battle to remind myself that I am enough. To accept even my own assertion of healthiness is easier on some days than others. Some days, I adamantly believe I’m fine and that I can get through whatever life throws at me. Some days, I’m happy. Other days, I get triggered by the most seemingly trivial social interactions or events that set off a flood of emotions and self-loathing. I have thoughts about suicide because I struggle to believe that nothing is wrong with me.
Yet because we have accepted that having suicidal thoughts is the textbook definition of something inherently wrong with a person, we pathologize mental health in ways that make it more destructive on those who are actually suffering internally. Because my friends and family believe that my suicidal thoughts are a symptom of your garden variety sadness, believe that there is something about me that needs to be “fixed,” I become more convinced and self-loathing of my own deficiency. How could I ever find evidence for and affirmation of my sanity, wholeness, and worth when the discourse surrounding suicide revolves around deficits. Not enough serotonin. Not enough confidence. Not enough exercise. Not enough counseling. Not enough trust in others. Not enough optimism. As if I am the one who is not trying hard enough. Whenever I become closer with someone, I reflexively start building walls around myself because I believe that I am not enough.
As genuine as I want to appear, as open as I want to be about my mental health and show everyone that I’m simply a flawed person, I always stop myself from ever opening up Pandora’s box because I ask myself, “Would people even care? Is my personal pain even something people would want to know about? Are my relationships better off with this part of me never seeing light?” Because I know that if I talk about my struggle with suicidal thoughts, I’ll be labeled as attention-seeking and narcissistic on top of being broken. Bringing forth the conversation of suicide is like a choking hazard for me because I become silenced by people’s requests that I should not take things too seriously. Last, but not least, some people even have the audacity to suggest that poor mental health is a sign of weakness, frailness, and instability. And it is strange to me when people think that those who experience suicidal thoughts don’t know where help is, as if we’re too dumb to know how to find the suicide lifeline, counseling, or a friend to talk with. We’re not dumb. We are not ignorant of our resources. Stigmas are only one aspect to my hesitation for speaking up; I choose to keep these thoughts to myself because I know those resources can’t make these thoughts go away completely. The “plethora” of resources available to me simply aren’t the help I am looking for.
Conversely, I am not baring my thoughts with the intention of wanting “help,” per se, but there are things that people can do to help alleviate the pain of this ordeal. My insecurities are not a cry for help. They are a call for kindness, compassion, and patience. I don’t want people to tell me not to think a certain way as if I’m doing something wrong. Not to worry, not to stress, not to cry. I don’t want people to ask me if I’m okay because the answer will almost never be a simple yes or no. I am okay, but I’m not. When someone becomes so hurt by everyone they had trusted, how can you expect them to simply ask any random stranger for help? I am not delegitimizing the potential benefits of counseling services, but I also don’t believe they can ever truly undo the knots inside my heart. I’ve thought about suicide because the same people who are supposed to help me are the ones who hurt me in the first place. The people who were supposed to be the solution were the root of the problem in the end. All I want is for people to remind me that I’m enough, to know that someone out there cares enough to listen and give kindness without needing to be asked for it. To know that I am a human being with feelings that get hurt sometimes. Because when people forget that, am I really worth anything?
There are many reasons I choose to stay alive. These are the thoughts that rescue me in the middle of the night when the idea of death pays a visit. But the thoughts that keep me from killing myself are not the reasons you might think they are. They are not always positive reasons to be alive. I choose not to kill myself because I don’t want people to know how much I hate myself. To think that I am weak. To think that I am broken. Even though I don’t think there is anything broken about me, it still feels like there is. Even though I don’t want to call it a struggle and invoke the persona of the traumatized survivor, it still feels like a struggle. Plus, I don’t want my family to have to contend with the aftermath of my death because, newsflash, grief is not the only problem to deal with once a person dies. They would have to move my shit out, throw away said shit, figure out what to do with my dumb, dead body, and probably feel like they had wasted their money, time, and energy on me. Those are the things I think about as I mentally plan my own death. Those are the burdens that I would never want to impart on someone else. Call it guilt. Call it compassion. Call it pragmatism. I call them reasons to stay alive. I would rather suffer on my own than wreck other people’s lives.
As hard as I try to find some meaning to these struggles, to point a finger at something other than myself so I can feel less guilty about what seems like my own goddam fault, I falter. I keep blaming myself. No other explanation is ever sufficient enough except for the one that points the finger at me. Yet, I know that the mental health crisis at large is not rooted in the individual any more than the cold is the fault of the person who got caught in a room full of sick people. People passed on and encouraged that ability to loathe oneself. Sometimes I think I just got dealt a bad hand. And fuck everyone who tells me that death is not an option. That “suicide is not the answer.” The last thing a suicidal person needs is to be reminded of the “choice” to be happy, as if it’s a switch that I can turn on as I’m wallowing away in the pitch black dungeon that is my mind. I already have a library of reasons not to live, and someone is going to take away my choice not to live, too? That’s a rather pretentious and tactless way to save my life.
Depression and suicide are touchy subjects the same way that cancer can be a touchy subject. How much should we acknowledge this and dance around it? How do we become more comfortable talking about these topics without trivializing them? How am I, as someone who has personally experienced these things, allowed to talk about it? Sometimes I can’t help but poke fun at my own mental health and even poke fun at the thoughts of my own suicide, but that just makes others, well, uncomfortable. My suicidal thoughts are going to be as much a part of me as any other disease (again, not the word I would like to use), and how can I talk about it as anything less than that? How do I tell people that this will always be a part of me no matter how much I treat it? That it will always be present, and it’s hard, most likely impossible, to make vanish. Since I’m already being honest here, I’m just tired of holding this in, of feeling like I have to keep this part of my identity tucked away in the dark crawl spaces of my mind. I just need some space to talk about it or else I’ll never feel like a whole person in front of everyone. That’s all I need.