What It Feels Like to Decide to Die
I remember the exact moment I chose to end my own life.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, thoughts of suicide had been becoming more and more intrusive. It was constantly on my mind. I was trying my best to fight these thoughts, but at the same time, I was making plans of how I would end it all. I felt like I was slowly losing that fight, but at the time I was so deep into a spiral of depression, I really couldn’t bring myself to care very much. The thing that kept me going was the thought of ruining my husband and loved ones’ Christmas. I kept up this mantra of “not until after Christmas,” which I told myself over and over.
Christmas came and went, and I made it exactly four days.
On December 29, I stood in my kitchen washing dishes (in theory), but in reality my mind was a million miles away. Struggling with (then undiagnosed) complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I couldn’t drag my thoughts out of the horrors of my past. My house was full of people, an annual Christmas party with a group of my friends. We’d offered to host before I started to spiral, and I couldn’t face the kind of questions canceling would bring. So I let my husband do most of the hosting, and hid myself away as much as possible.
Standing at the kitchen counter, all the fight went out of me. I remember crying out a little, slumping forwards and clutching at the sink for support. I started shaking, my breathing hitching as it sped up. Have I really just decided this? my brain asked me frantically. This was, when you think about it, the most monumental decision I had ever made.
There was a desperate part of my brain rebelling against the decision. I’m the kind of person who follows the rules. I always turned my homework in on time, said “no” to drugs, etc. And now I was breaking quite possibly the biggest rule of all. Apart from anything else, I don’t think I’d ever made a decision so rebellious. It just wasn’t me. Due to my past, I’m very sensitive of the thought of doing something wrong and getting into trouble for it: it’s the reason I follow the rules. Otherwise, I end up sick and shaking, terrified of the prospect of a reaction that realistically now only exists in my memory.
Nevertheless, the instinct to “not get into trouble” was strong. Then I realized: I wouldn’t get into trouble. I’d be dead.
Tears dried on my face. I stood up straight, heart no longer racing, breath no longer gasping. Distorted as my thinking was at the time, the idea of being “told off” for this choice, was far, far worse than the choice itself. Take away that consequence, and the choice was no longer scary. To me, in this moment, it made “perfect sense,” and a calm kind of relief settled over me.
Not that I hadn’t considered the other consequences. I knew my choice would hurt the people I loved. My brain reasoned that maybe even a few of them would be devastated. But such were the depths of my self-hatred — I figured they’d get over it pretty quickly when they realized their lives were so much more simple without me. And then their lives would be better; the time when they were “blighted” by my existence a distant memory. Now, of course, I know this to be false. But at the time, I truly believed it.
But I was left with a dilemma: my house was still full of people I loved, and it would be so for the next two days. Now I’d made the decision, the urge to just get on with it was almost overwhelming. In the end though, I just didn’t want to hurt the people I love in that way. I made myself a promise: I’d wait until they had all gone. Two more days, then it would all be over. Bizarre as it sounds, it was a comforting thought I carried around like a talisman. I found myself more able to join in with things. Talk a little, even laugh a little. Because while the torture that plagued my weary mind hadn’t gone away in the slightest, I knew it would soon end. I wanted just a few more moments of something resembling happiness at the end.
I started to make arrangements. I drafted notes in my head. I asked a close friend, casually (or so I hoped), if he would look after my husband if “anything happened to me.” He said he would, of course. People noticed I wasn’t myself, and tried to get me to open up. This blew away my steady calm, and sent my distress into the stratosphere. I couldn’t afford to open up. The last thing I wanted was to give any hint of my thoughts. Because then I would be stopped. And boy, I did not want to be stopped.
To this day, I still can’t explain what happened next. Over the next two days, the intensity of my thoughts started to dull. At first, I panicked. I’d made my choice! A decisive plan that would end my pain. Why was my mind trying to go back on that? But go back it did, and a weary sense of responsibility took over. I somehow now had the capacity to keep going. I didn’t know how long I could keep going for, and I sensed it wouldn’t be an indefinite period of time, but it felt that if I could keep going I should.
My mindset didn’t completely change. For the next several months, up until the point I had a complete breakdown and made a serious attempt on my life, my mantra became “not now.” I willed myself each day, sometimes each hour, to keep going a little longer. In my mind, it was a given I might eventually die by suicide, but while I could, I kept on trying.
When I think back to the moment I made the choice to die, the power behind that memory can be quite distressing. But when I think back to that day, it helps me realize just how far I’ve come.
Getty image via absolutely_frenchy.