The Barrier Stopping Me From Talking About My Suicidal Thoughts
Mental illness is not easy to talk about. Despite the push for a more understanding point of view on the subject and missions to end the stigma surrounding it, it can still be a struggle to get the words out in fear of what others may think.
I have been living with anxiety and depression for several years. In this time, I do believe I have achieved enormous progress in speaking about my mental illness. I am not ashamed to admit that I struggle with it, nor am I ashamed to ask for changes or supports to be put in place to make it easier for me to get on with my life. But when it comes to talking about the details of my illness, the thoughts that it brings about, there is a barrier I cannot seem to cross.
I have seen a handful of therapists in my time struggling with mental illness. In that time, I have learned to be open with them, largely through identifying them as serving a purpose: to listen to the thoughts, however upsetting they are, that I have in my head. Unfortunately, therapists are not a persistent structure in my life on which I can rely. Outside of a therapist’s office, I appreciate that I have a massive network of support from which to call upon, whether friends or family. But the barrier seems to prevent me from fully utilizing this support.
My most recent therapist once told me something along the lines of: “You’re doing a great job in talking about this; I know it’s not often easy for men to speak about these things.” This is true; in general, men do find it more difficult to speak up about their emotions (mostly due to a social climate that has made it so). But in response to this praise, all I could think was “that’s not me though;” my ability to share my thoughts and feelings has rarely been impeded by my masculinity (I’m an emotional and fairly “feminine” male but have always taken pride in that fact).
So, if it’s not this sense of lost masculinity that is creating a barrier, then what is?
Admittedly, I’m scared to be completely open about how I feel with my friends, something that seems odd when talking about a group of people I should be able to trust. Though the difference between friends and a therapist, in my eyes, is that the purpose friends serve is not as black and white as a person who sits in a chair while I vomit up my thoughts and feelings. My friends are there because I want them to be; I enjoy their company and their presence. Though I understand that in-hand with friendship should be the ability to be there for one another, I’m fearful to fully utilize this.
I’m scared that, if I were to let them truly see what goes on inside my head, especially on some of the darkest days, they’ll run scared. I know any friend worth their salt wouldn’t get up and leave when they see I’m struggling, but I can’t help but put myself in their position. If it were me who had to hear the darkest, most venomous thoughts inside my mind (believe me, I know just how unpleasant these thoughts can get) and I had the option to run a mile in the other direction?
I wouldn’t look back for a second.
I have made countless attempts to push through this barrier. My rational mind knows it’s a ludicrous idea that whomever I want to share my struggles with will abandon me after hearing it, but still, the fear remains. Whenever I take that deep breath ready to say something about how much I’m truly struggling, no sound comes out, as if the mental barrier has propagated a physical barrier where I am unable to even speak.
The day my parents learned about my suicidal ideation is a prime example of this barrier at work. I was in a dark place at the time and was speaking to my mum about going back to therapy. She asked me, “…are you having suicidal thoughts?” I was — so much so that the thoughts had become increasingly intrusive and loud — but the barrier was preventing me from even saying the word “yes.” The only thing I could muster up was a slow nod of the head. To this day I have never verbally talked about — or even admitted — my suicidal thoughts to my parents. The barrier seems too strong for me to overcome. How are you meant to tell the ones who literally gave you your life — who raised you and nurtured you to give you the best life they could — how do you turn to them and essentially say, “This life you have given me? I don’t want it anymore.”
The barrier is one which may never truly be broken down. The thought process may be so deeply encoded into my neuroanatomy that it will take a great deal to change it. But I intend to try.
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 “HOME” to 741741.
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Photo by Mitch Lensink on Unsplash