The Question I Wish People Weren't Too Afraid to Ask About My Mental Illness

People in my life are very aware I live with a mental illness (well, more like three). I’m extremely public about it in an effort to raise awareness, shed internalized stigma and spread the message that it’s OK to not be OK. I’ve been asked all sorts of questions about it, and I welcome them all. “What was it like being in a psychiatric hospital?” “How do you deal with wanting to purge during the holidays?” “I’m having trouble with xyz, what do you suggest?” But there’s one question I’ve never been asked. I know people are curious. I know my parents wonder. I know my boyfriend worries about it. But no one has ever just asked.

“Do you still think about suicide?”

Yes. For me, once you’ve come to terms with the idea, accepted the desire to die and made plans to follow through with it or attempted to follow through with it, the “option” never leaves your mind. It’s always just sitting there. Feeling overwhelmed about all the things I have to do this month? Feeling kind of hopeless about the future? I think about it. Yeah, it’s a depressing thought, but that’s what happens when you have depression. You have depressing thoughts. Ending my life is one of those thoughts.

But what’s different about now and before I began living recovery is what I do with those thoughts. I can step back and acknowledge them as a symptom of my depression and take active steps to change my thinking. Gratitude journals, writing about my hopes and dreams, reciting affirmations or even just coloring can do wonders. If the thoughts persist, I know where to go, who to talk to and what lifestyle changes to make to interrupt ideation before it becomes intent. But most importantly, I have lived recovery. Even in my darker moments, I can remember that I have escaped before, and I can escape again. I am confident in my ability to ride past the pull into a downward spiral instead of jumping right into it. I know there is always light somewhere.

Yes, I still think about suicide. However, I also think about a lot of other really wonderful things that make the suicidal thoughts seem less enticing.

I wish that people would just ask this question because the deafening silence surrounding suicidal thoughts and actions perpetuates stigma. People who contemplate, attempt or complete suicide are marked as “weak,” “selfish,” “stupid,” and “crazy.” We are made to feel guilty for these thoughts that we have. We are seen as abnormal for having them. We are subject to scrutiny, kid gloves and extreme overreaction for having them. All of these things drive us deeper into silence, and make it harder to speak up when the thoughts become urges. Simply asking people about their suicidal thoughts can not only help break down the stigma and silence around the subject, but can save the lives of individuals who aren’t sure who they can talk to for help.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s a question you wish someone asked you about your mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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