The first time I ever wanted to hurt myself I was 9 years old. I was at summer camp for three weeks, happier than I’d been since my parents started fighting, but my depression still doesn’t ebb and flow with my happiness. It’s unpredictable, and while as happy as could be was when my depression sunk to a new low.
I had never heard of cutting, and I didn’t consciously know what I was doing when I went to the bathroom and started scratching my arm. It was like an itch I couldn’t satisfy concentrated in a one centimeter piece of my arm. I scratched that same spot over and over and over again until it was raw and kept scratching still. It left a dull scar that’s probably still there but I have long since lost track of it.
I haven’t told a lot of people about that. It wasn’t a cry for help; it was a way to numb or at least distract from the pain I was feeling emotionally, the kind Tylenol couldn’t alleviate.
My thoughts of suicide are more often than not passive. I don’t want to kill myself. I just don’t want to live. I wish I was never born. I can and do always come up with things to live for and reasons not to intentionally die, but sometimes I just hope that some instant, painless accident will happen to me where I can go from living to not without any reflections on what it would mean to die.
I fear death. I fear eternally loose ends. I fear unfulfilled goals. I fear causing pain to others. These fears are especially true when life sucks the most and I’m wishing I didn’t have to be living.
I think it’s an issue that people are made to feel like they shouldn’t talk about their suicidal pain. I think there’s a strong distinction between suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviors. For me, it is never a plan I’m making or even an intention. It’s just the only way I know how to verbalize the agony and hopelessness I sometimes feel.
But I know if I say I’m suicidal it often won’t be received with an ear willing to listen but someone else’s fear. And I understand the fear. I personally have reported someone else’s suicidal expression to a person with more authority than myself to help the person who expressed it, and said person was sent to the hospital. In that moment and to this day I believe that I made the right decision in that case.
I have also listened to friends express their suicidality to me and listened and validated and empathized and never told on them for it. So in my experience there is a way to distinguish between a person who is a danger to themselves and a person who is in pain and needs a friend to listen — to me it was the difference between a plan to do it and the feeling of wishing for it. Either way, the first thing you have to do is just listen, and the second thing you have to do is hear.
I also recognize maybe I just got lucky. Maybe I am wrong. But it feels to me like my own fear of others response has in the past kept me from expressing my thoughts which left me alone with them, which I see as much more dangerous than for someone to not call for emergency services in response to the thoughts if they had been expressed.
Today I felt the weight of my life, myself, gravity pushing me down into the bed. I felt cold. I knew in theory exercise would help and I even got up and brushed my teeth to do it. But I looked out the window and saw the world and it didn’t need me and I didn’t need it. It might make me feel energized to work out, but would it change my life and all the things that are weighing on me? No. And I know that as truly as I know exercise would make me feel better. But why would I want to feel better for just a little while knowing it would only make my mind clearer to think all the thoughts that will emerge at some point in the day? Why, when I can go back to sleep and not think for a little while longer, would I get up and begin a day I already want to be over?
Some days are really hard. Sometimes there’s a reason I can find, yet oftentimes it’s inexplicable, and any way it is hard. I know I’m not alone in it. Today I’m choosing to share myself with anyone who maybe doesn’t know they’re not alone.