When I Took Suicide Off the Table as a Potential 'Solution'
Here is what I’ve learned about suicidal ideation — I feel it is our brain’s way of trying to solve a problem we think only has one “solution.” I spend most of my days trying to figure out how I can help people and how I can help myself become a better problem solver. I have implored others to begin changing the conversation about suicide to help erase the stigma surrounding those who have lost their lives to it and those who have survived it. I am one such survivor.
I am not pain-free, and I am still plagued by doubt sometimes that I can actually “do life.” One thing that has changed fairly recently for me is I made a deal with myself to take suicide off the table as an option. I have made a concerted effort to choose life. It’s a scary thing to say out loud and even more terrifying to put in front of all of you — because what if I fail one day?
And that’s the truth of it, the hard ugly truth of living with a depression-ridden brain that has used suicidal ideation as a way to feel less anxiety. In the back of my mind there was always the whisper of “If things get bad enough, there’s always a way out” — and this whispered statement is true. It’s addressing the “way out” part that requires some rewiring in my brain. I’m not ashamed I thought this way; I’m afraid of what I would have become if I continued. I’m also afraid of what I’d miss. One could argue in the event of death you’d never actually know, but one of the best things about our brains is they allow us to speculate about the future, and in doing so they allow us a glimpse of what “could” be. I don’t want to miss what could be.
So I keep living. I keep finding reasons to stay. I keep talking about how important it is to understand ourselves and each other. The truth is no one gets out of this life unscathed. No one is without pain, no one is ever 100 percent positive or 100 percent negative all of the time. We exist in these pockets of time, and we are in these moments that sometimes can feel like they last forever, but again with the truth — these moments, good or bad, don’t last forever. Don’t get me wrong, my brain wants to convince me otherwise during the down times, and for brief periods I may concede. I will, on occasion, literally throw my hands in the air and say out loud, “Fine, Depression Brain! You win this round. You’re right as usual, nothing will change and I’ll feel this way forever.” I wait a few heartbeats, and eventually I’m in a new moment. When I say heartbeats, this doesn’t mean seconds — this could mean days or weeks. But eventually, I find myself in a new moment with a different perspective. The point is I keep going.
When suicide was the option my brain kept presenting me with, it was so easy to see all the reasons not to stay. It was easy to agree with the option because I felt not enough, alone in a crowded room full of people who loved me, and so much pressure to be “on” all the time when all I wanted was to disappear. It was easy to find every flaw in myself and list those as the reasons why my husband couldn’t possibly love me, my friends couldn’t possibly care as much as they say they do, my children would be better off without me — because look at how horrible I am. It’s easy to find the dark and hide there, believing the only way out is to remove yourself from the world.
Here’s some more truth for you — it can be a thousand times harder to live in the light. It’s unbelievably hard to find the good things about myself sometimes, but it’s a good kind of hard. It’s a kind of hard with a much larger purpose driving it, because when I do find the good, I become brave enough to come out of the darkness. Stepping into my life and finding the reasons to stay has become my daily goal. Sometimes I have to do this minute by minute; I have to reach out into the world and find the good in it and in myself. I do this so I can keep living. I do this so I don’t miss out on what could be. I keep going because I am not alone — and neither are you, the one reading these words.
Suicide is no longer an option for me, and I hope it will no longer be an option for you. Life is. Life is hard and tiring and ugly and beautiful and full of people who are all trying to do the same thing — live it. I don’t want to give up on it, and I hope you won’t either.
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If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.