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When You're Anxious About Death, but Also Suicidal

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I’ve always, always been anxious. My whole 22 years on this Earth have gone by in between fantasies of possible catastrophes and nail bitting. With that being said, it’s clear why I don’t like planes that much. I adore traveling and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many places, but that involved (for obvious reasons) getting on an airplane after hours and days of struggling with that. Because the mere idea of flying wakes up millions of scenarios in which my anxiety convinces me I’m going to die tragically in a plane accident. I know the statistics, I’ve seen them; I know I’m safer in a plane than in a car. But still, it’s a risk. It represents danger, therefore my mind will take this and explore all the possible things that could go wrong.

I’m used to that. But thanks to a major depressive episode, I’ve never been as suicidal as I’ve been in this ultimate stage of my life. So when I went to my psychiatrist’s office and he asked me, “How are you feeling towards your upcoming trip?” I found myself confronted with a whole new universe.

I’m leaving to Europe for a couple of days next week. And as amazing as that is, that means being on an airplane for over nine hours. Panic rises. For a whole week now, I’ve been imagining how many things could possibly go wrong in the flight and how many ways I can possibly die. Thanks, anxiety, for those vivid catastrophes playing over and over in my mind. Anyone with anxiety can probably understand how this causes me numerous panic attacks, nausea and profound fear, and basically my only wish is to cancel the trip and hide in my bed until I feel safe.

Interestingly, though, I’m also suicidal. Therefore, the idea of tragically dying in the middle of the ocean by a plane crash doesn’t sound so bad. It’s like the suicidal me is feasting on my anxieties and panic-attack-inducing, catastrophic imaginings. This is new. I feel like I’m a walking contradiction.

So the only thing I could tell my psychiatrist, laughing from the confusion, was, “I’m terrified of dying in the plane, and I also want it so bad.” Because that’s how it is. It makes absolutely no sense, as I’ve found with many things in the mental health world. And I feel like my brain and energy are being torn apart between two opposite poles: the one that, with absolute fear and panic, feels in jeopardy and wants to preserve my life — and the one that thinks it’s all too much and would like to push an “exit game” button.

I’m writing this not because I have an answer or a solution or an idea on how to deal with this irony. I do it because there’s so much literature on the relationship between depression and anxiety, but I’ve found little on suicidal tendencies due to depression and the relationship of this symptom with anxiety and its own baggage. And the reality is it can be exhausting to be living this irony. I’ve found it’s one of the many “perks” of battling anxiety and depression at a time.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: January 7, 2017
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