The Words We Say Instead of 'I Want to Kill Myself'


There’s never once been a time when I have looked myself in the mirror and said the five words that seem to adhere themselves to a mental illness diagnosis: “I want to kill myself.” Not when I had my first psychotic break (or my second), not when I reached the lowest part of my depression. And yet, if you asked me if I had ever attempted suicide, my answer would be yes. Had I ever thought about it? Yes, again. But not once had I ever thought those five words.

One of the first lessons someone with a mental illness diagnosis learns is that there are often no black-and-white situations. The line between correct diagnosis and misdiagnosis isn’t a mile wide, it’s a hair’s width. We learn to see things on a spectrum, on a scale. And yet, in this most prevalent of litmus tests for depression, these five words seem to be a yes or no, black or white area.

I’m here to disagree. Vehemently.

All too often, there isn’t a life versus death attitude that accompanies mental illness. It’s much more layered, a muddled grey than it is a color dichotomy.

There’s often more desperation and anguish in the expression than the pointed action of “I want to kill myself.” And what’s worse, the other phrases, which carry just as much weight and sincerity as that one, aren’t even given a second glance. They’re completely brushed off and put aside because, after all, everyone feels like that at some point, right?

“I don’t want to live anymore.”

This sentence, much like the litmus tester, is one I’ve never spoken aloud, but I can remember a few times when I mentally said it to myself in the mirror, the tears running down my cheeks. It was the point where the depression took over and I’d had enough. What I was really saying was that I don’t want to live a life where I’m constantly feeling used up, depressed and frustrated.

“I just want to sleep and not wake up.”

Life presents itself with some fierce challenges sometimes. Fighting a battle against yourself is a long, tiresome journey of epic proportions. Being able to rest for just a few moments seems like the most luxurious perfection and it can feel like after years of fighting yourself, you have earned a permanent reprieve. This is my own personal indicator of depression, because what I’m really saying is that I’m tired of constantly fighting a battle that no one even knows I’m in and I need a break.

“I want to cease to be. Like I never existed.”

This phrase often comes close to “rock bottom” when I’m clinging on to the walls of hope and love with bloody knuckles, waiting for someone to throw me a metaphorical rope. I feel like the one to blame for everything that’s wrong. If I were better, different, gone, life would be better for everyone and everything. What I really mean is that I’m tired of watching everything fall apart and feeling like it’s all my fault. I want the pain to cease, not my life.

“I just want it all to stop.”

Variations of this one seem to be spoken to the friends or family who got a little too close when I’m emotionally vulnerable. I don’t want them to worry about me or involve themselves unnecessarily, but I want them to understand that I’m in pain. I feel overwhelmed by life: the things that have happened, will happen and are happening. What I’m really saying is that I need life to pause without consequences so I can take a deep breath, pull myself together and invest in some serious self-care.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

This one is the rock bottom, end of the line sentence that creeps up at the worst moments of my battle with depression. There’s no hidden meaning here, it’s very much self-explanatory. At my very lowest point, this was the phrase that played on repeat in my head. At that moment, I couldn’t exist as I was, I couldn’t live the life I had. My last words on Earth would have been these five, because they were the ones that matched the heartache. I didn’t want to die, but I could no longer live.

In the end, not everyone experiences depression or suicidal tendencies in the same way. But no matter what you mean or what phrase you use, the implications are real. Being stuck in the grey areas of suicidal thoughts is no less painful, and yet it’s much less talked about, making it that much more dangerous. There isn’t just one way to live, and there isn’t just one way to cry out for help.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


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