I Don't Intentionally Have Suicidal Thoughts
Editor’s note: This post describes suicidal ideation and may be triggering. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
I have never purposefully considered suicide. Not intentionally, anyway. I don’t wake up and say, “I am going to kill myself today,” or “I’m going to plan out some ways I could die.” Every time the ideation has arisen, it has surprised me. I’ll be enjoying a view of the local falls on a beautiful, sunny day with my partner, his arm around my waist, feeling the warm breeze run over my arms and through my hair. Leaning my elbows on the guardrail, I’ll look down and think, “Nope. Not far down enough to kill me.”
I won’t have been thinking about death, depression, sadness, a lack of hope, or how my life isn’t worth living. In the case previously mentioned, I had been wondering how I could have grown up so close to the city and never really seen the falls. And then the ideation jumps out at me, rocking me to my core and making my bright, beautiful day a little darker.
More often than not, my depression feels separate from the rational part of my brain. It wars with me always, existing as a constant, a baseline, a foundation on which I can build my day. It hums in the background. Sometimes I can tell it’s there, and sometimes I can’t. Its strength feels dependent on the strength and happiness level of my conscious thought.
When I am practicing good self-care — exercising, eating regularly, hydrating, walking outside in the sun, leaving work at work, holding my partner at night — it keeps humming quietly and I’m nearly oblivious to it. When I don’t give myself that time and attention, the depression jumps out, surprising me with suicidal thoughts.
Just the other day, I was driving home and experienced another of those surprising moments. I had decided to skip exercise for the evening, though I know I needed it. My week had been long already, though it was only a Tuesday, and I was running extremely low on spoons (another story, altogether). It was still light out as I crossed the 205 bridge back into Oregon. The winter was waning, and that made me excited. I made it onto the curvy back roads of my county and remember seeing Mt. Hood, tinged blue but majestic to the east.
As I approached another bend in the road, it happened. I was going 55 mph and needed to slow down to take the curve. Just before I lifted my foot from the gas, a part of me told my body to push my foot down instead. It told my fingers to let go of the wheel. There were two large Douglas fir trees at the bend in the road. Something — some part of me — wanted to plow right into them. “Perhaps they would be ‘enough,'” I thought. “If not, the house behind it would surely help.”
None of it was a seriously considered thought. It was a fuzzy, humming push from some part of my brain, attempting to take control of my limbs. I shook my head once, clearing it. I thought to myself, “No. I don’t want that.” And so I gripped the wheel a bit tighter, lifted my foot from the gas, applied pressure to the brakes, and made the turn.
Was it easy to resist the hum from taking control? That time, yes. That is not always the case, though. Right before I acknowledged that I was depressed and sought help, situations like that would happen multiple times every trip to and from work. The hum used to be stronger. The edges of my vision would get blurry, and it would feel like I wasn’t really there looking through my own eyes. The hum would turn to a buzz in my ears, numbness in my limbs, and my hands would loosen from the wheel. My foot would push a little harder down on the gas. I would take a deep breath and exhale, trading air for the calm feeling of acceptance that the end was getting closer, racing toward me at 60 mph.
My conscious mind has always managed to wrangle its way past the haze and numbness to keep me on the road. Though, I will say I have taken of number of turns much too fast and much too last-minute. Does that mean if I stop driving these thoughts would stop? No, probably not. It took years for me to realize that hiding from the sadness doesn’t make it better, that baseline depression is always there for me. While I go about the functions of everyday life, it hears everything I hear and sees everything I see. It pushes out into my conscious thoughts to ponder if the height of that bridge or cliff would be “enough.”
So, I do everything I can to take care of myself. I see a therapist regularly, exercise a few times a week, take walks during my lunch break, and watch the sunrise. For me, keeping that part of me from taking over requires keeping my conscious mind strong and filled with all the reasons that need to be here.
My garden bed of garlic will mean hundreds a heads to harvest in July. My partner has never braided them before, and I’d like to show him how.
We’re meeting with an architect to design a house for us. It will be more than a house. We can make it a home. I want to see what it will look like.
I have hundreds of rocks I’ve collected over the years that I still want to cut and polish. Just looking at them brings me joy.
The sun feels good on my skin. It will be around more as winter fades to spring and spring gives way to summer. I want to feel the heat from it sink through my skin, past my muscles and into my bones.
My partner is my world. He works so hard to support me while I struggle through learning to live with depression. He deserves to have me stay around and it wouldn’t make his life better if I wasn’t in it. I want to know him and be with him 20 years from now, 30 years from now.
These truths bring me strength and vitality. I let them fill me up and shine light into shadows in my mind. I have to acknowledge and address the sadness, but it does not have to consume me. I am not my depression. I am stronger than it. With time and support, I know happiness can be a more constant presence in my life. But first, I had to take that initial step. I needed to acknowledge what I was experiencing and call it what it was: suicidal thoughts. Then, I needed to seek help. Not once have I regretted taking those steps. They have probably saved my life.
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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Photo via Unsplash, by Brooke Cagle.