Tonight I felt brave.
After a nice dinner with friends, we decided to go back to my boyfriend’s house and play some card games. We played the new game I brought – it involved putting comic strips together and it was absolutely hilarious. Cards were played, comics were created, laughter erupted. I could play that game for hours and never get tired.
Toward the middle of the game, a card was put down. An image of two stick figures stared back at me, one with a speech bubble saying, “I think I’m going to kill myself.”
My friends began searching their decks for the next card they felt would be funny after that one. I just sat and stared. I didn’t want to participate in something that made light of suicide. It is something I have thought about on occasions, and I know other friends have attempted. Suicide and self-harm are serious and emotional to me, not to be joked about.
Yet, I went along with the game and put my next cards down. After the round, I reached over to pull the problematic card out of my deck so I wouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable playing the game in the future. Suddenly everyone was looking at me.
“What are you doing?”
“Why are you taking that card?”
“Put it back! What are you doing with the card?”
I kept saying, “Nothing, nothing!” over and over until finally, I had to say “Fine! I just don’t like this card and don’t find it funny and wanted to take it out!”
So many thoughts ran through my mind. What are they all thinking now? Do they think I’m suicidal? Do they think I’m being too sensitive? Are they going to talk about this later behind my back?
I felt my face turning pink. I tried to act like I was fine, but I wasn’t. I was scared – what if another triggering card appeared?
After another few rounds, it was my turn to judge. I flipped over a card and read it: “I’m off my medication.”
I tried to take a breath and move on with the game, but I couldn’t. I take medicine daily for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and I take another at night when I am up late unable to sleep because of my anxious thoughts clouding my mind. When I miss a dose, I feel horrible. What was this game trying to imply? That when people are not taking their regular medications something ridiculous happens as a result? Or maybe that feeling horrible and anxious all day from being off your meds is something to laugh at? No, I thought. This is not funny, I am not OK with this, and I am not going to play this card.
“Actually,” I said, with more confidence this time, “I don’t find that funny either.” I pulled the card out, put it on top of the other card I pulled, and flipped over a new card that did not make me uncomfortable. The game went on, and no one asked about it.
I plan on throwing those two cards out and looking through the deck to make sure I am comfortable with the other cards in the game. I will make sure my friends know in the future they are allowed to skip cards that are triggering or make them uncomfortable. When I play card games, I want to have fun, to laugh, to bond with friends. I do not want to feel shamed for something out of my control. I do not want to feel uncomfortable or feel unable to say “Hey, that’s not funny to me.”
Mental health is not something to laugh at.
Sending this message to my friends tonight may not seem like an act of bravery to some, but to me, it was pretty courageous.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo by Ryan McVay