I'm Suicidal, but Every Day I Make the Choice to Stay
I decided to end my life in 1994. It was my first year of high school and I just couldn’t do it anymore. It wasn’t a snap decision. It wasn’t prompted by a rejection from a boy, or a bad grade, or anything in particular. There may have been a trigger, I honestly don’t remember, but the decision to end my life had been a long time coming, despite my (then) short time on earth.
At 14, I had been living with depression and anxiety for a decade. At an age when most people start trying to figure out who they are and where they belong, my quest for an identity was shrouded in confusion and self-loathing. It’s true, no teenager probably feels “normal.” Feeling angsty and out of place is a right of passage on the road to adulthood. But for me, I didn’t even know what “normal” was supposed to feel like, and I was keenly aware that I never would.
So, in a moment of particularly intense feelings of hopelessness, I decided to take my own life.
But I didn’t do it. I thought about how it would crush my parents, and I couldn’t bring myself to follow through on it in that moment. I decided to put it off for a day.
I’d like to tell you that this moment was a rock bottom or an epiphany, and that after deciding not to kill myself that day, everything changed for the better. I wish it had been a momentary point of weakness that prompted me to see life anew and that I never thought of doing something so drastic ever again.
But the truth is, every day since has been a conscious decision to put it off one more day. I have been suicidal for 23 years, but I have not attempted suicide. There is this idea surrounding being suicidal that a person is always in imminent danger of harming themselves, and while that is the case for some people, being suicidal takes on many forms.
This is what suicidal looks like for me. Only a handful of times have I been genuinely concerned that I might take the actions necessary to end my life. It’s almost never about wanting to die. Instead, it’s the comfort in knowing that I could if I needed to. If it gets to be too much, if I can’t hang on for one second longer, I don’t have to, and the knowledge that I could choose to die gives me the strength to continue living.
Sometimes I fantasize about how I would do it and what the reactions would be. Acting it out in my head is cathartic. I know that if I went through with the plans playing out in my mind, I would not be privy to what happened afterwards. I wouldn’t see the reactions of my friends and family. Their shock, their sadness, would go on without me there to feel the validation of it. The fantasy of it is better than the reality would be. And I can fantasize it over and over, whenever I need the release, without the finality of the real act. And no one but me feels the lasting pain of it.
And so I take my life every day, over and over, in my own little world, but I choose to stay alive in the real one, at least for one more day.
Some days, it is easy to put it off another day. Many days, I don’t even need the fantasy. But there are darker days. Days when making the decision to stay for another day feels like choosing to climb a mountain. The weight of the day hangs on me like Marley’s chains and I force myself to sleep just to make the night end. But I make the choice to live for one more day, and I do.
If you feel yourself reaching the point that you feel like you just can’t do this anymore, put it off for one day. Then put it off for another one. It will always be there as an option, but it can never be undone, so put it off. Choose to live for just one more day.
Suicidal, for me, is purposefully deciding every day to live for one more day. 8395 days and counting.
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 reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Alessandro Di Credico