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The Difference Between Wanting to Die and Wanting the Pain to Stop

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I didn’t want to die.

I only wanted the pain to stop: the pain that encircled and squeezed my ribcage, the heaviness that wrapped my brain in shadow, the agony that turned the whole world dark.

I needed it to cease.

It wasn’t one large trauma that convinced me death was my only option, but an unending series of small griefs that stole my hope. The everyday pressure of life became an unrelenting assault: a heavy hand upon my shoulder that crushed me.

One morning I had a minor argument with my husband and, like the proverbial straw on the camel’s back, it broke me into pieces.

And so I decided I had only one choice that made any sense at all. I felt everyone would be better off without me.

I made a plan. I wrote letters to my family. Through my tears, I called my beloved brother to say goodbye.

The realization of what I was saying took mere moments to settle upon his understanding and then, quickly, it sank in and he sprang into action. He cut me off, hung up on me and called my husband immediately.

My husband sprinted from his office building and, frantic, searched me out using an app on his phone. He flagged down a police officer. Called the ambulance. Got me to the hospital.

I drank the sludgy charcoal grit from a paper cup as I lay on the gurney and wept.

I didn’t want to die.

I only wanted the pain to stop.

The darkness was so thick. I could not see my children. I could not see the life I had made with the man I had chosen 25 years earlier. I could not see my family, the siblings who knew me from birth, the parents who held me since before I could remember. I could not see my friends, who would have willingly grieved with me and encouraged me if only I had let them.

I could not see the love.

There was love all around me, but it was pushed away by the darkness, forcefully evicted from my consciousness by the suffocating black.

At the psychiatric hospital, I was surrounded by people whose experiences were much like mine. I heard familiar stories. I learned new ways to cope. I realized I had options. Most importantly, however, I saw I was not alone.

I got help.

I got a proper diagnosis and was put on medication that worked like a shaft of light into my weary, befuddled brain. This did not happen overnight. It took some time to find the right dosages and the correct prescriptions, but I persevered. I held onto hope that the right antidote to the darkness could be found.

I didn’t want to die.

I only wanted the pain to stop.

And it did.

Slowly but surely, with therapy and time, it did.

I am here today to plead with you: Don’t give up.

There is a reason you are reading this right now, at this very moment in time. This is a message you need to hear. You are not alone. The world itself longs for you to stay, is yearning for you to remain. The Earth is calling. Listen! There it is, in the warmth of the sun’s rays upon your upturned face, in the cool breeze that caresses your skin, in the song of a bird, the wonder of leaf and flower. The message is there to hear. The Earth is begging you not to give up.

For all its darkness, there is light left in which to walk, if only the eyes are unbound from despair.

Reach out. Talk to someone. There is love out there; there is love all around you. Just because you can’t feel it doesn’t mean it’s gone. Don’t believe the darkness. It is a liar and a thief.

I’m glad to be here today.

The rain falls and the sun shines. My children laugh and cry and fight and grow. My parents are grateful. My husband cherishes. My siblings support. My friends appreciate. Every day I see the love I couldn’t see before.

I believed the lies the darkness spoke, and I tried to take my life.

Some days it is still a struggle. Some days the love is dim and seems far away. Some days I grow discouraged and feel defeated. Some days I still want to leave this world (and all its tribulations) behind. But I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I hold onto hope. I talk to those around me. I get a good night’s sleep. A new day dawns. I feel better.

I didn’t have to die for the pain to stop.

You don’t have to either. 

Originally published: June 16, 2016
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