A Day in the Life of a Suicidal Teenager
If you Google “What does it mean to be suicidal?” you get a lot of results. A lot of fancy psychological terminology and statistics and theories. But no one really seems to know what being suicidal is like unless they’ve been there themselves, and as much as terminology and statistics and theories are important, you can never truly address a problem if you do not first understand it.
For me, this is what it is like to be suicidal.
Your alarm clock goes off. You open your eyes. Your arm feels like it’s being held down with a dozen weights as you reach over and turn off the alarm. As soon as it’s silenced, your arm drops to the side of the bed. Every part of your body feels like it’s weighed down. You take a moment to run through what you have going on that day. Nothing unusual, just another day at school. “Is it worth it?” you wonder. You know you’re expected to be there, but you don’t see any point in getting out of bed. Nothing feels worth it.
You finally manage to drag yourself up. You get ready and head to school. You make it just before the bell rings and manage to sneak into the back of the classroom unnoticed. You shove the homework on your desk into your backpack and try not to look at the grade, knowing it can’t possibly be good. As you shove in the last paper you see the glimpse of a number: 48. Another failed assignment. You can’t remember the last time you passed an assignment or understood something in school. You try to listen to the teacher lecturing, but you can’t get your mind off that number. You know your grades in this class are terrible. You know you have to do well in this class to get into a good college to have a good career and at this point you’d be shocked if you even pass.
Your mind begins to shut down to avoid the pain you’re feeling. You snap back to reality as the teacher calls your name. You have no idea why they just called your name and realize they’re waiting for you. They expect a response. Suddenly you realize there’s a problem on the board. You race to try to collect your thoughts and solve the problem only to realize you have no idea where to begin. “I don’t know,” you mumble. The teacher sighs with disappointment and continues on with the class. Once upon a time they would’ve tried to walk you through it. Apparently now even they’ve given up on you.
The bell rings and you rush out of the classroom only to be bombarded by a mass of people in the hallway. Everyone has a buddy. They’re all laughing, smiling, talking. You can’t remember the last time you genuinely smiled. You stick to the walls and try to not be noticed. You look longingly at the people you used to think of as your friends. You wonder if they even remember you. You assume they don’t, because you don’t feel like you’re a person worth remembering.
You get to the next class where you realize you totally forgot you had homework. You hide in the back of the room and scramble to finish the assignment. It’s only 10 questions. That’s not too bad. You finish it just as the teacher walks in. You close your notebook and sigh with relief.
You try your best to follow along as the class goes over the homework. You’re completely lost as the teacher explains each problem. As they finish reviewing the assignment you look over your paper. It’s covered in X’s. Not a single question was correct. Tears come to your eyes as you wonder why you even try. You can’t think of a reason. You know the chances of being successful are falling. You’re realizing your efforts aren’t even coming close to paying off.
You stumble through the rest of the school day in the same way. As you walk out the doors you’re so exhausted you can’t even remember your name.
You get home and collapse on the sofa. Your stomach grumbles with hunger. You manage to get off the sofa and glance at the calendar as you head towards the pantry. “Ugh!” You completely forgot you had an appointment with your doctor right after school.
You rush out the door and head towards your doctor’s office. You make it there exactly 15 minutes late. You run upstairs and burst through the door. You check in and sigh with relief as they say they can still see you.
You forgot to bring your medication list in your rush to leave. Your appointment goes all right, but as you try to mention to your doctor you’ve been feeling really hopeless lately, you feel like you’re choking every time you start to get the words out of your mouth.
You finally manage to mumble quietly, “I feel really depressed lately.” Your doctor looks up at you. “What did you say, hun?” You feel like you just got punched in the gut as you manage to repeat the sentence a little bit louder one more time. You’re already on maximum dose of your antidepressant. “There’s really not much more we can do,” your doctor replies. Tears come to your eyes as you think of the possibility of feeling this way forever.
“You’re not having any suicidal thoughts, right?” your doctor asks. There’s a lump in your throat and you feel like you’re going to throw up as you manage to respond “Actually… I am,” in a voice barely above a whisper. “Do you have a plan?” At this point you can’t hold back the tears as they stream down your cheeks. “A plan?” you think, “How about five plans, mentally sorted in order of what would be most likely to work?” “Well, kind of…” you begin.
“Can you just promise me you won’t do it?” your doctor interrupts. A wave of disappointment crashes over you as you realize this is yet another person who isn’t going to help. “I’m not sure,” you respond quietly. “Well…Just make sure to tell me if it gets any worse, OK?” Your tears turn to sobs as you think of the possibility it could actually get worse than this. You know in your heart it can’t get worse than this, that you’re barely holding on, and if you feel any worse you won’t be able to keep going. “I guess,” you say. “Good. Thank you.” You wipe the tears from your eyes and head out the door wondering if it’s possible for you to ever get better than this. You wonder if anyone will ever be willing to help. You’re running out of strength.
You get home and stumble through most of your homework. You skip several assignments that you don’t have any idea how to complete.
You finally collapse in bed and sob into your pillow, restlessly drifting in and out of sleep wondering how many more days you’re going to keep going just like this.
You can never address something you don’t fully understand. It’s important to try to understand the perspective of the individual who is struggling.
Remember — there’s more to feeling suicidal than facts and theories in books.
Remember — behind every struggling person you come across, there’s a story of how they got there.
No one wakes up in the morning wanting to feel suicidal. No one asks to be in that place. Remember the feelings, the person behind the face and remember they have a story. With that understanding, we truly can begin to address suicide.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.