I have, in a way, been dreading the writing of this post; but I think this is why I must write on this topic. Nothing is shrouded in more mystery and graphic fear than self-annihilation, and for good reason. As an act, it is seemingly the most unnatural and inhuman expression of self- to desire yourself to no longer be.
To articulate that one has attempted to take one’s own life and still thinks about death daily is in equal part difficult and shameful. I feel immense shame to be writing these words to you now; admitting that I have on three separate occasions been driven to attempt self-destruction and that such thoughts, like what death would be like and whether it is preferable to my current situation, are never far from my mind.
I want to stress, I write not from a place of risk; I am not a danger to myself currently nor do I see that changing any time soon. It is a vital distinction to make between one who is contemplating whether death is a better option in a vague sense compared to someone planning it in its detail. The latter needs professional help and support immediately, the former simply empathy.
But I do nevertheless want to be understood and help those whose loved ones and family struggle with such things to understand them to the best of their ability and avoid potentially unhelpful pitfalls. Indeed the harm that can be done by those closest to us as they attempt to help us feel better can be catastrophic; terms such as ‘what a selfish act that would be,’ ‘think of your loved ones and how they would feel,’ ‘you must know that suicide isn’t the answer,’ are all phrases that I have heard regularly and have caused me no short amount of pain and anguish. I am aware of all of these things, but to further burden the suffering individual with further emotional guilt is to push them further towards the very thing you are attempting to shield them from.
I also want to state that suicide has its own logic. It is something that is only understandable to those who inhabit the pit but once inhabited it, unfortunately, becomes a crystal clear way of thinking.
In a post on social media, I attempted to describe what depression is like; I believe I did a poor job. It was full of trite metaphor and jarring contradictions that were frankly misplaced. Depression is not your Monday-blues feeling, nor is it something you flit in and out of; it is, at its most base articulation, pain. Quintessential, mind-numbing, stabbing, throbbing, aching, biting gnawing agony. To have your mind hate its existence and respond by battering itself with waves of anguish is truly a terrifying thing.
I am routinely in abject agony. I know only pain or its mind-numbing absence. I do not know joy, nor excitement, nor happiness- whatever that is. I know only that my life is either tolerable or overwhelmingly desperate.
So what would you do? When you are forever adrift in a sea of your own pain, an overheated room with no possible escape, completely at the whim of your diseased mind- what would you do?
Those who spend so long at the mercy of the pits enclosure become inexpressibly tired. Tired of forever being anxious. Tired of being drained. Tired of being so lonely it becomes a physical sensation of a damp clod fixed to your chest. Tired of overanalyzing every conversation and human interaction. Tired of people but terrified to be alone. Scared of razorblades and roads for fear of what your mind might drive you to do.
Suicide, for the briefest of moments, lets us take control. My first attempt on my own life I stood on the edge of an underground platform, and with every train that passed, I tried to summon the courage to throw myself in front of it. I am not still here because I chose life, I am here because I was a coward, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But in those moments, as each carriage roared towards me, I felt the calmest I had in years.
I was finally doing something for my mental health. It was not doing something to me. That moment of realizing that you have the agency of control, perhaps the only semblance of control you have, is intoxicating. Knowing that if I just took that step, my depression would be dead forever and could never touch me again.
But, obviously, I did not take that step. I have instead accepted that I can have some control over my symptoms through writing or exercise etc. But let me be clear, suicide is not primarily a focus on release but it is control.
This should drastically change the way in which we approach those who struggle with self-destructive thoughts. DO NOT burden them with further emotional pressure when they already feel so adrift within their own mind. Please; I beg of you- just sit with them, hold them, listen to them and tell them that control can be found elsewhere.