As a teenager, I didn’t understand how ‘suicide or thoughts of suicide’ could be considered a symptom of depression. To me, those things were the result of depression; how it ended. If you had those thoughts then you were already doomed. I did not understand that the content of those thoughts is made up by a part of our body that does not know the content of our life. The most objective part of us is our subconscious. The subconscious can tell when we are struggling even when our conscious selves can’t. The subconscious decides when its time to fight or time to flee. The subconscious regulates the rise and fall of our breath, the beat of our heart, the digestion of our food. The subconscious knows everything going on in our body; even the stuff outside of our awareness. When we are struggling on an emotional level, our rational thought tells us to get over it, its not so bad. We know that being sad or angry is not life-threatening. The subconscious, however, doesn’t realize this. The subconscious can feel the pain and can not tell why its happening. It is constantly working to find a solution to ease the discomfort. When things get really bad and we ignore our feelings and needs, our subconscious is forced to address the issues head on. The brain knows that something is wrong but it doesn’t know WHAT is wrong. It can not make a well thought out plan of action without the help of the conscious self. If we don’t pay attention to what our body is trying to tell us, we might behave strangely. This is when we do things that we “wouldn’t normally do” things that seem drastic or uncharacteristic. The thought or the actual attempt to end one’s life is not always a way to end suffering, but rather an irrational attempt to escape that suffering. Sometimes people don’t realize that the things that are plaguing them can only be fixed by addressing those issues. They often feel like they shouldn’t dwell on them. By ‘not dwelling’ we push things aside and since our brain has rationally deemed our problems not worth our time, we don’t return to the thought. The thought then sits in your mind, unattended to. It lingers in the background, meanwhile your subconscious is trying to figure out why your heart rate is unusual and your sleeping patterns are all off. It searches for the reason but can not detect the context of your thoughts, but rather infers that you must be in a life-threatening situation since your body is acting so out of whack. When the subconscious fails to identify the issue, it begins to seek ways of escaping the physical condition that is causing you harm. The more deeply rooted the issues are, the more life-threatening they seem. If you can not attend to the problem and search for rationalized solutions, the subconscious will drive you to a point where the only way to escape the life-threatening suffering that you are experiencing (possibly without even being aware of it) is to literally end your life.
Have we gotten to the part of the story where I have my existential crisis, yet? No? Oh, okay, fine.
So, I guess I was still pretty sure of myself. I had a new found independence after decidedly ending a blatantly abusive relationship. I was a new woman! Or, well, girl, I guess. I was only 17 years old, but you know what? I had survived a lot.
I was ready to embrace a whole new world that I had been kept away from for far too long. Being a prisoner was never my intention, of course, but, well, I guess things just happened and life got confusing. I lost all sense of who I was because I was giving in to a manipulative monster, who wanted me to make him my main priority.
Now I was free to set my own priorities and boundaries. I gathered all of his belongings that were still in my possession and I threw them out on the front lawn. I told him where he could find them and then never spoke to him again.
I started hanging with a group of kids in my neighborhood, who I was always friends with but my ex hadn’t liked them very much. If he didn’t like them that meant we weren’t going to hang out with them. Now that I was free, I was going to hang out with whoever I chose. I wasn’t a lot of fun to be around since I was so depressed, so it became normal for me to be left out of plans.
I understood. I didn’t really want to go out anyway. I would rather sit inside all day doing nothing. I would sit on the computer, talking to people I pretended to know. They made me feel better about myself, I was feeling a lot of self-loathing. I wasn’t sleeping at night and the hallucinations were worse than they had ever been. I was afraid to tell anyone the truth, because I knew what would happen to me if I did.
I silently considered the sultry solution of suicide, sweeping sweat from my sweltering skin.
The air was thick with condensation. I breathed slowly.
“Why the fuck don’t we have central air?” I wondered as I sat at my computer with the door to the 2nd story porch open next to me. The faint breeze was barely a relief. The brutal heat was making my less-than-stellar mental state even worse. Sleep wasn’t coming easy. I tossed and turned through the night, feeling rather despondent.
I thought a lot about whether it was time to end it or not; my life, of course. I seriously considered what might come as a result of my possible actions. The first place my mind went was to my mother. She never did anything wrong, though, she didn’t do much at all. She ignored my cries for help and often brushed me off when I was being quite serious.
I wanted so badly for someone to recognize my pain. I wanted to show everyone what they had done to me. I wanted everyone to feel horrible, disturbing things, because I felt horrible, disturbing things. I wanted to evoke morose feelings of loss in those who took my presence for granted. I was vindictive and bitter. I felt betrayed and abandoned. I was projecting my negative feelings outward. The way I felt was the fault of those around me and they should pay for what they’ve done. I was delusional, really. But I only say that now, in hindsight. I know what I know now, as a result of this time in my life.
The heat that day felt particularly unbearable and I was feeling particularly irritable. No one was home but this wasn’t unusual. I would lock myself in my room during the earliest hours of the morning, so as not to cross paths with anyone as they woke. By noon they would all be gone, and when they left, I would emerge once again. I hardly spent any time anywhere but the front hallway. I sat there on my computer for hours, talking to the only people who understood me.
The strangers welcomed my stories without judgement or fear. For some reason, when I told someone I knew a story that was particularly uncomfortable, they became afraid of me. I wasn’t sure what to make of this reaction, it was like, if I told the truth about how I felt, I was a monster. I lost a lot of friends this way. Someone would get to know me and based on whatever they had learned, they would decide they didn’t want to be my friend. A few stuck around, but in the end, everyone leaves you; even your best friends, maybe even especially your best friends.
I was feeling quite deserted when I decided I had come far enough in life. I really thought that I had seen all that I needed to see from life. I was convinced of the realities of the world. I was, of course, naive and stupid. I had made a few sad attempts at destroying myself before. I did not think of it in terms of suicide and self-injury. I thought about it in terms of self-destruction; I wanted to be destroyed and all efforts counted. I guess, if I really think about it, I wasn’t so much trying to destroy myself as I was trying to escape.
“Escape what?” you ask? The endless cycle of suffering; of wanting; of feeling incomplete. I wanted to feel whole; to feel right; or maybe, to feel nothing at all. The pills were the only way I knew how. I never sought out creative ways to hurt myself. I did what I came up with on my own. I didn’t know there was a world of people out there, doing the same things. I thought it was just me.
I wanted so badly to sleep at night, like normal people. I wanted to be happy, to feel good feelings. I wanted to have friends; people who cared about me, who checked on me. I wanted people to understand why I was the way that I was. This was, for some reason, of the utmost importance. I needed to explain myself so that people wouldn’t be frightened by my broken exterior, but would see me as a whole person. Once they knew why I was broken, they would see through the cracks, they would see the real me.
I felt like this was my opportunity to redefine myself. I was newly single, shattered in pieces like broken glass. I could glue myself back together with the stitchings of whoever I wish I was. I wanted to be a strong girl, someone who no one messed with. I was going to be indestructible. I was going to be exactly as I am now.
I was always there, hiding in the darkness beneath the surface. I just needed time to find my way out. The dark ages spanned over 5 years of my life. For all I know, they could still be upon me, but as it stands now: I see the light.
To say there is one single most traumatic experience in a person’s life is a very bold statement to make. To say that you can pin point exactly when you went mad, well, that would be bliss for some. For me? I wish I could say that I wasn’t always mad but I can’t say with any certainty, had this event had not occurred, that I would be any more sane than I am now. Perhaps it was not the moment I lost my marbles. Perhaps that happened long before, but either way, this moment took something from me that I will never get back. It took away whatever I had left of my innocence.
I remember so little else about the time surrounding this particular event, likely because its prominence is so vast in comparison to anything else that happened that day (week, month, year). I wish I could say it was something I hadn’t seen coming, but in some sick way, I knew I was in for a show. I had been dating a boy who was older than me and sicker than me. He was mentally ill in ways I could not imagine at the time. I was damaged; suicidal and self loathing. I was full of resentment towards those who had hurt me over the years. This was something we had in common, the boy and I. We often cursed the world while we rejoiced in each other’s company. This evening was meant to be no exception. I was on my way from school; I took the bus and walked from the bus stop to his house almost everyday.
I could feel something strange in the air. This trip was unusual while remaining familiar. I had done it over a hundred times the past few months. Why did it seem like I was walking in as an unexpected guest? He wasn’t answering the phone and I usually called before I got there so I wouldn’t have to ring the bell. I wanted to avoid chatting with his mother if I could. I waited outside for a few minutes and called another time. When I got his voicemail again, I got a strange feeling in my gut. Something was wrong.
I opened the front door and ran up the stairs. His room was in the attick. When I turned from the stairs to face him in his room, I was met with a sight from a nightmare. Not my own nightmare, of course, I could never think up something this horrible. My boyfriend, the boy I cared so much about that I had forgotten my own needs so I could better serve his, was standing on a chair with a noose around his neck, almost as if he was threatening me. His expression as he carelessly and instantaneously kicked the chair out from under his legs, showed me the extent to which he didn’t acknowledge my feelings.
In an instinctual jerk of my right arm I plunged forward towards a bookshelf containing a “collection” of unusual weapons. Among them: brass knuckles, nun chucks, batons and various switchblades. I reached for the first blade I saw and I hacked through the rope that was tied off only a couple feet in front of my face. When he hit the ground in a loud thump, I ran over to assure he was alright.
He looked up at me with eyes full of resentment and regret. He was displeased by my heroics. He wanted to die and he wanted me to watch him die. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to deserve a fate so awful. To lose a friend, especially someone I cared for so much, would be torture in and of itself. I don’t need to watch it happen to make it hurt even worse. I don’t have to know there was something I could have done to help but didn’t. That is how he wanted me to feel, though. He wanted me to feel responsible. It was somehow my fault that his life was not worth living. It was up to me to make it better.
I was horrified by these revelations. He really thought of me as his only reason for living. This was a grave amount of pressure for someone so suicidal on their own. I never wanted to be that burden for anyone. I never wanted to make life worse, or even less worth living for anyone else. I felt like I was just so defective and horrible and rotten that, not only did I hate myself, but I wasn’t even enough to keep my boyfriend satisfied. He was so unhappy with me, he’d rather be dead.
I instantly withdrew inside of myself. I was unreachable by the outside world. I was probably the most unreachable by him. I could not let him know what I was truly feeling. I couldn’t risk setting him off. I would have felt responsible if he tried to kill himself again and now it was my job to keep him alive. I started seeing him every single day. I had to, there was no other way to make sure he wouldn’t hurt himself. I was also struggling with urges to self-harm and thoughts of suicide, but I had to keep it to myself.
I would put anything aside. I made excuses for his anger over and over again. He always talked about taking me away and getting out of town and making a life together. I didn’t understand why he would ever want to leave Boston. I had a home and that’s where I wanted my life to be. I was only 16 years old at this point, mind you! I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life, but I assure you I didn’t think I would live much longer, so it didn’t matter all that much to me. I wanted to die in a place where there would be people to mourn me. I was sick and scared. I needed help.
I wasn’t asking for help from anyone. I couldn’t let the world know I was in trouble. I had been in trouble many times before and any advances at getting help only made it worse. Telling the truth, telling an adult, always made it worse. I learned to keep things to myself and suffer in silence; it was the least painful way.
This story doesn’t have much of an ending. The fight to keep my boyfriend happy was very much a lost cause. He was never happy and he would never be happy, at least not with me. He continued to express his frustrations that I was not the saving grace that he intended for me to be. His anger escalated until one day… he snapped.
Is there a mistake you’ve made that turned out to be a blessing — or otherwise changed your life for the better? Tell us all about it.