TW: suicide, self harm
I used to say that I did not fear my own death. I was thinking I would die – hopefully peacefully – “when my time comes.” It might be painful, it might be scary, but there would be something beyond. I expected to find peace in death, or if not peace, a new life to live. Or a new form of existence. Somewhere deep inside, I still hope that’s what death will mean for me.
I used to say my biggest fear was losing the people I love. But then 3 of the 4 people I lived with and loved as a child died. My grandparents died. My father’s side of the family abandoned me. My friends moved away and I lost contact with them. The classmates I once felt a connection with have moved on with their lives. I broke up with the first person I thought I’d spend my life with (not Fox, we’re still together). I came to realize that my mother has never been able to truly meet my emotional needs because she’s hurting too much. My uncle died, my college mentor died, and Schmoozer (my pet rat) died – all in the same year. I came to realize that, although my remaining family may love me, I don’t really have a connection with them most of the time. I don’t reach out to them enough and they don’t reach out to me enough, either. We all have separate lives.
It’s painful. It’s scary. But I know I can survive losing the people I love. I don’t want to lose them. I will work very hard to strengthen and maintain what connections I can. But I’ve accepted that people move in and out of my life and I need to let them go.
In a nutshell, what I fear the most is that I will give up on myself. I sort of did it for a while and got lost in video games. I was isolated, miserable, with no job, no outside activities or responsibilities, and I’d stopped making music. But people could – and did – pull me back from that. I had to do something: answer the phone, drive to where they were, invite them over … but they were there. Wakana has been there, lighting a fire under my butt whenever necessary. I haven’t really given up on myself. Not yet.
Now I’m slightly less isolated, considerably less miserable, with no job, minimal outside activities, motivation to complete my degree program and enter my career of choice, and I’m making music again. I’m also facing an illness that, left to its own devices, will only get worse. I have my ups, but the downs are murder. I hate the thought of taking medication and I want to pretend I don’t need to… but I’m clinging to every good or decent day in fear of having a truly bad day / week / month / quarter/ year again. I need some semblance of stability.
Then I get up the courage to reach out to psychiatrists and the only one who responds isn’t available until July 31st. I wasn’t even trying to reach the person I have an appointment with on purpose; the practice Fox and I set up our marriage counseling with offered to schedule individual psychiatric evaluations. I have no idea how I’ll be in a month. How I feel, what I can remember, the affect I show on that day will determine the diagnosis and thus medication I receive; it could be months or years before we figure out what I actually need and will benefit from. And in the meantime, my whole life is washing down the drain…
I think about hurting myself regularly. At least once most days. On days when I’m not thinking about or feeling an urge to hurt myself, there is often at least one point when I’m frustrated, angry, tired, and/or bored enough to visualize a knife piercing my skin. I become more aware of the underside of my left forearm; on good days I rub it with my right palm and hug myself. On some level it’s really that I want to break – or, well, cut – my way out of a feeling (or lack of feeling) that I don’t want to tolerate. But brain, come on! We need to come up with better, less painful imagery. Other times I think it’s at least partially an expression of what I feel is happening to me: someone/thing is cutting into me and hurting me, violating my final and most basic boundary. There are days when I think Mom and Fox would cut me open and climb inside me if they could.
If I hurt myself, my body will heal. There may be a scar, but honestly I don’t think I’d self-harm in a way that would do lasting damage or risk limiting my ability to do the things I love. If I’m self-harming, I still have a sense of self-preservation. I still intend and expect to live; I wouldn’t do anything to myself that I couldn’t imagine living with.
What I fear the most is that, on one of the horrifically bad days, I will actually try to kill myself. I will decide that there is nothing worth living for, not even the little things that have kept me going before. Not even composing. Not even love. I will decide that I am incapable of achieving any of my dreams. I will decide that I can never experience joy again. I will decide that I am not worth the air I breathe. I will decide that I do not deserve to be part of the Universe. That I do not deserve to be connected to anyone or anything. That I’m worse than nothing. That I never should have existed.
And worse than deciding all these things, I will act on that decision.
From what I’ve heard it won’t be one of the days when depression has sapped all of my energy and I can’t get out of bed. Then I’ll just be miserable, and it will suck. I fear I will commit suicide on a day when I have the energy to do something drastic, probably when I’m very, very angry. I’ll have to have stopped caring, not just about myself (that’s too easy) but about my loved ones as well. Or, more realistically, I’ll have to have a lapse in caring; it could be a moment when my impulses take over. (Which is why I’ll never own a gun.) Or maybe I’ll decide that, despite the pain and serious psychological issues my suicide would cause, my loved ones would be better off without me. To the point where pushing them away is not enough. To the point where I have enough days thinking like this to make and carry out a plan.
It’s a dark, terrifying place. I imagine anyone would be afraid to imagine someone else feeling and thinking this way. I imagine most people have never thought about themselves feeling and thinking this way. It’s just too horrific. Too painful.
I live close to the edge, clinging to whatever I can so I don’t look down and lose my grip. I’ve never attempted suicide and I’d really like to keep it that way. I fear a suicide attempt could result in lasting damage, impairments that would limit my ability to do the things I love. I fear the stigma people who attempt suicide face.
I fear becoming a statistic. Another sad story. Another “we never saw it coming.” Another thing for people to “survive.” Another piece in a puzzle that will never be solved as long as the only voices that are heard regarding suicide belong to people who have never stared it in the face.
Worse than all of that, I fear trapping myself in the very nightmare I would (ostensibly) commit suicide to escape. We don’t know what happens when we die; we might cease to exist. Some people think that’s terrifying and come up with alternatives; those alternatives have just as much chance of being true as far as anyone alive can tell. I’d much rather cease to exist – in comparison, that possibility is actually comforting – than trap myself in the misery and self-hatred that lie in the darkest and most wounded depths of my depression. That is my true worst fear: that I will commit suicide and not receive the peace and/or new possibilities I expect death to provide.
As long as I’m alive there’s still the possibility of experiencing happiness, even if it’s only for a moment. I can give and receive hugs. I can find ways to turn my painful experiences into creative endeavors that feed my soul and might inspire others to do something good for themselves and their communities. I can work on healing some of these wounds. And when I’m still and focus on my breath, I can know peace.
In response to Writing 101, Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page