The Mighty Logo

The 'Small' Thing That Kept Me Alive When I Wanted to Die

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741 or, for eating disorders, texting “NEDA” to 741741.

To explain this article in the frankest way possible: An obligation I had in the context of a relationship with someone I care about made me re-evaluate my plans for suicide. I want to write about this experience to begin to normalize the use of small gestures, moments and motivators in safety planning.

But, let’s go back in time a bit.

It was a warm Spring day, and I wasn’t able to enjoy the weather because I was spending the entire afternoon inside compulsively exercising. Guilt burned in my mind. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of guilt I was dealing with. I felt worthless. I had defined myself as a waste of space — a failure who will never be able to recover from anorexia nervosa. I felt all alone with my eating disorder. The world felt cold, unsafe and unfamiliar, and I felt so hopeless. I was exhausted. I wanted to disappear. I wanted the pain to stop.

I spent the evening in and out of panic attacks and crying spells. I couldn’t imagine living in my own skin for the rest of my life. I felt like a ghost. So, I planned to end my life. I spent hours into the evening deliberating, writing out pros and cons lists, attempting half-hearted last-ditch attempts at using coping skills. My efforts failed, and I found myself in the midst of a suicide attempt.

Before I had the opportunity to complete suicide, I was overwhelmed with what seemed like, at the time, the most insignificant and small thought. In the midst of a suicide attempt, I had hoped for a more dramatic, ¨everything-makes-sense-now¨ lightbulb moment to shift my thinking. In this instance, it wasn’t so dramatic.

I thought about the two poetry books lying beside my bed that my high school principal had let me borrow a few days prior. I thought about how I needed to return the poetry books to her tomorrow.

That small task was what saved my life that night: The obligation of returning two loaned poetry books to my high school principal the following day.

Since that night, I have done a lot of reflection on that thought. Obligation and connection are two very powerful concepts. In some cases, they may even be lifesaving.

My high school principal is someone whom I care about, and who cares about me. She is someone who inspires me, understands me, and I have a strong connection with her. The next day, I returned the poetry books. That night had taught me a powerful message I hope I can share with others who may be struggling to find a reason to stay alive. 

It is perfectly OK to live for someone else. It is perfectly OK to hold on to the smallest things to justify sticking around another day.

Its OK if your reasons for living don’t make sense to you right now. It’s OK if your reasons for living seem small and insignificant right now. The reality is that sometimes we do live for little things. Sometimes, we live for that next cup of coffee, or to see your best friend in a week, or for that new movie you’ve been waiting for to hit the theaters. Sometimes, our reasons to live don’t come from light bulb moments that are often shown in literature and other media. Your motivators and reasons to live are valid.

As long as you are alive come tomorrow, your reasons to live are significant enough

Photo by MMPR on Unsplash

Originally published: July 10, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home