For the Ones Who've Taken Their Lives, and Those Who've Wanted To

CW: discussion of suicide, suicidal ideation, mental illness

We are linked. 

Across oceans and time zones and maybe even eras. Spanning languages and cultures and hopes and dreams. Different loves. Diametrically opposite beliefs.

Yet we are linked.

Unspeakably, a bond none of us would have chosen. 

Invisibly, a tether no one would willingly tie onto.

So deeply, buried under layers of personal history and unscalable walls and abuse and addiction and pain and fear and hurt and that thing that no word in the English vocabulary can truly encompass, but maybe anguish will come close?

We are linked. 

I don’t know you. I never knew you. I doubt we walked the same plots of Earth at any moment in time. It’s unlikely I would have recognized you had I seen you. And yet we remain connected.

I feel the loss of your soul. The loss of your brilliance. The loss of your light. I mourn you. I grieve.

I grieve for you — for the hole your loss wreaks. I grieve because you should be here still, shouldn’t have been hurt in this way. I grieve as I picture you in that place: that sorrow and that hopelessness and I can’t imagine the finality of those moments and my heart drops into the abyss and oh. I grieve. I miss you. I didn’t know you, yet we are linked, and I miss you.

I grieve for your family — for their loss and suffering and the ghosts that will settle into the attic of the homes they buy; the devil that will perch on their shoulder daily whispering guilty reminders into their ears; the poltergeist that will toy with their very sanity. It wasn’t their fault. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s easy to believe.

I grieve for the world — because every time we lose someone to suicide, each one, from the child who was bullied to the musician who was addicted to the designer who was ill to the ones like you, like me, who are contributors to our communities, the world suffers. I grieve at your loss. All of you. 

And, in the end, I grieve for me — because I know the pain, too. I know the vibrancy of it, its thrum through my veins, its potency and insistence that I listen to it right now. How can it be ignored? I grieve for me because I know this pain, and I am living with it still, and that is immeasurable sorrow. 

We are linked. Millions of us, the world over, living and breathing under the same moon and sun, in vastly different situations under circumstances that couldn’t be more unlike each other. Yet this we have in common. 

Freaking mental illness. 

I grieve our loss, yet celebrate our lives.

In the days of our lives, we have created. We have loved. We have laughed. We have fostered joy in others, allowed them reasons to smile. We have given birth to era-spanning, breathtaking worlds of fantasy; or we have composed musical accomplishments of impossible beauty; or our paintings and drawings and sculptures have thundered with life and vibrancy; or our dances have inspired joy and tears, laughter and creativity in those to come after.

There have been worldwide giants among us, and there have been the regular ones of us, whose greatest accomplishments include the community theater or their children or a family newsletter. 

No matter whether the number of those touched is in the single digits or the millions of souls, each life had an impact, a distinct impression.

Each one mattered.

Each one matters.

I celebrate us. Each breath dragged in despite the agony it caused. Each exhale pushed out despite the friction, the hurt. I celebrate it. 

There are days when just opening my eyes feels like…feels like the hardest job in the world. When it feels like there’s no way I can keep going. Just let the day pass me by and the darkness fall like a comforting blanket again and wrap around me and smother me, eventually.

This life is hard. It’s hard enough with depression, without a personality disorder, without anxiety, without any number of you-name-them mental illnesses.

With them, it feels impossible at times. 

And yet. 

Here I am. Here you are, reading this. 

I’ll celebrate that.

And in This Document, I Keep my Thoughts About Death

TW: this post deals with depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm, in very open terms.

There is a document on my computer and my phone. I’ve kept it going for just about a year now, and mostly kept it a secret, though sometimes bits and pieces of my thoughts, fragmented as they’ve been, have made it into this blog. I mentioned it in a reflection post from February 20, “One Day at a Time,” Anniversaries, & Hopes Unexpected, and since then I’ve kept up writing in it, adding to the chronicles of my sorrow.

I started the document nearly exactly one year ago, according to the fact that I’ve dated and time-stamped each entry, and the first one came on Aug. 19, 2018, at 4:30 in the morning. I actually remember the moment so clearly.

It was my break at work. I had, for once, left the house to go for a walk. It’s the kind of thing the guys I worked with did often, and I did almost never. But that day — that day I was not okay. I walked down Grand Street, winding through the Lower East Side, and wound up sitting on the ground outside a park.

I pulled up the Notes app on my phone and wrote I wish I was dead

Later that night, right before my next shift started, I wrote I wish it would go away

And so it went. And so it goes. The notes have gotten longer over the year; I’ve added punctuation. Sometimes, I’ve gone as long as a month without adding to it; others, I’ve barely made it 12 hours.

This year has been, ultimately, one never-ending episode.

“Episode.”

That’s what they’re called, in my mind and maybe others’, these moments of depression that mar the rest of my life. Usually they last a few days; once or twice in the past they’ve lasted a month or more. But this one? This one has gone on for nearly a year now.

It’s been its own rollercoaster of an experience.

I have been so soaringly happy at times, feeling as though I were living on a cloud, reveling in the unreality of this reality I inhabit. Simultaneously, I have been devastatingly not-okay. I have sunk as low as ever before, my thoughts turning knife-like inward and slicing away my defenses. I have stopped cutting (and started again). I have gone ages without being suicidal (and then, been suicidal again). I have survived and come oh-so-close to not surviving

I researched long-term mental health care facilities. I have spent months at a time praying I would make it to the end of my shift so I could check into short-term emergency care. Once, in June, I almost called a cab to take me to the hospital. I was inches away from doing it, and then I … didn’t.

Over the past year, I've run the gamut of suicidal fantasies, imagining myself doing everything from leaping off a bridge to bleeding out to swallowing fistfuls of pills and letting myself get taken to Death's door...none of these are new.

It's the intensity, the density, the loneliness of it all, that's what's new. Such a long stretch of not-okay times. Packed so closely together, while I felt absolutely alone.

And meanwhile, I’ve tracked it all.

There are some who might say that tracking it makes it worse. After all, doesn’t reading back over it just remind me of those emotions?

Maybe. But it’s not like I would forget it anyway. I can’t. It’s physically impossible to not remember, and this way — this way I can track trends. And realize, something is wrong.

Of course, something is always wrong: I have a mental illness. But this time? This time, something is different-wrong. Something is longer-wrong. Something is deeply, unsettlingly wrong.

And here’s the thing: things are also so very, very good. I am disgustingly happy; I’m just also recklessly depressed. People keep telling me how I look great, how it seems things are good.

And they are.

I just…am in agony inside, and wish it would go away, and don’t know how to make that be. And if I can’t fix it, I can at least share it and say: help me. Share good things with me. Things that make you smile, make you laugh, make you cry but in a good way. Things that give you hope. Things you like. Quirks that set you apart. (Is it too much to ask you to say things you like about me? I would like to know. I would like to believe they exist.)

Also if you’re in NYC and you have any therapist recommendations that won’t break my bank, I would take them.

"One Day at a Time," Anniversaries, & Hopes Unexpected

CONTENT NOTICE: depression, suicidal and self-harm fantasies, suicide attempts

It feels like it has been so many months since I was last happy. Feels like actual, literal months since the last time my smile didn’t feel like cardboard or my heart sink into the pits of my stomach like actual lead.

In October, there was a month-long period when I went off my medication, and if I think on it for a long time it makes sense that’s when it all started. Things took a downhill tumble, and then Nov. 6th, on my way home from work, I was waiting for my train at the subway station.

Can you tell where this is going? Did the content notices give it away?

I’ll try not to be too graphic, even though the images accompany me even now, five months later. It’s like…if I close my eyes, and just think about that moment, everything floods my mind again. I’m back there. My eyes well with tears, and I can’t breathe through the crushing panic in my lungs. Then my legs start to shake so I lean on the column behind me and just hope and pray that whoever it is, whyever they jumped…that they’re okay. That they survive. That the hurt and pain goes away soon and that they survive and that somehow, some way, they find peace and a way to tunnel into light again.

And then I flee the station. I just get out of there and I run and I howl the whole way back to work and I just fall down and I feel like I’m dying.

And since then…I’ve been in therapy every week. Seen the doctor once a month. Taken my meds every day. For like two months I was never home because I worked a lot and then when I wasn’t working I went out and hung out with my coworkers for the first half of my shift hours, and the second half I watched TV on the office couch (which are overnight, so there’s like…nowhere else I can go that’s safe).

It’s like I’ve been trying to put my life back together in all these different puzzle-ways since October. All through the fall and winter I’ve been drowning, grappling to stay afloat.

And then this week things got worse because, well…it’s the anniversary. The sixth anniversary (last Wednesday) of the first time I signed myself into a psych ward. It was a whole traumatizing event and I hated it so passionately and I was filled with an absolute and abject terror the entire time I was locked up in that…horror show. Every year this week hits me in the gut and it seems to get stronger.

I told my therapist this in my latest counseling session, but: I know some of that is on me. I could make it bother me less. But some of it, some of it is out of my control. Anniversaries of days like that, they just…they hit you hard. And they don’t always go away. For all I know, if the world and I are still here in 40 or 50 years, I’ll still feel this way. Every year, without fail. It’s like the cycle of the seasons. It just…happens.

So there’s been this crushing weight on my mind lately. Well, I say “lately.” I guess that’s open to interpretation. There’s this notes doc on my phone that’s pretty much a running installment of all the ways in which, as the post is now titled, “I wish I was dead.”

One of the perks of the graveyard shits: sunrise on the way home ;)

One of the perks of the graveyard shits: sunrise on the way home ;)

The first post is short and sad: “I wish I was dead.” And it’s time-stamped Aug. 19, 4:30 am (yeah, I work the graveyard shift, it’s just the way it goes).

It’s not like the note is littered with multiple comments from every single day, but there is at least one from every month between August and now. The thing is, they build.

By mid-October (Oct. 21, 9:45 pm), it’s a little longer: “I feel like I'm on a cliff and my brain is about to fall off and shatter on the rocks below.

And by the time February starts, they’re longer, more winding, more panicked and out of control.

See, these days, I’m recognizing the signs: a recurrence of a specific paranoia that has plagued me since middle school (“…they can hear me, hear my thoughts, hear the beating of my soul. They know, and therefore, they hate me: they must. They will seek to destroy me. I can thwart them. I can destroy myself first.” Feb. 19, 7:20 am.)

I’m having anxiety attacks about everything — from whether the small quip I made to the pharmacist about the dang chip reader was annoying and oh my word it was annoying she hates me why did I say that I shouldn’t have said that, I’m the worst, I’m terrible, I’m not funny and people hate me and everyone wants me gone and I can’t breathe and — to the email I’m sending my boss about whether we should change a work policy and BUT SHOULD WE CHANGE THAT POLICY THOUGH wow look at that, I can’t breathe again!!!

But the worst sign? The one that really and truly tells me “hey girl, crap is about. to. hit. the. fan”? The fantasies are back. The dark ones. The harmful ones. The ones that have sent me fleeing to the hospital three times over the past six years in an attempt to not act on them. The ones that make me curl up and clench my fingers, sometimes curling them into a fist and sometimes burying them in my scalp and trying not to scream out loud, trying to bury this pain inside of me.

It feels like all of this pain, all of this emotional and mental pain will kill me, utterly destroy and devastate me, if I don’t let it out somehow. Scream. Fight. Run. Yell. Hurt myself.

Does it even matter?

Last Wednesday I woke up for a video call therapy appointment and I cried and I told my therapist that I’m in so much pain and I think about hurting myself all the time. Every day. And it’s not that I want to. It’s just that I think about it because…I’ve only been alive for 25 years. But I’m so tired. They’ve felt so long. And I realized, on the call with her, that the idea of another 60 years on Earth…honestly the idea of another year, even just six months, living in my own mind, feels impossible.

I made it through the call, and set up an emergency appointment to see my doctor sooner than anticipated, and my therapist made me promise not to hurt myself. And then I logged off, and I got coffee and dinner and I opened up Netflix and wondered what to watch and that’s when I decided to take the plunge and start “One Day at a Time” and check it out.

And somehow, a binge of one season and nine episodes later, I found myself sobbing on my couch, realizing I’d never felt myself so accurately seen and portrayed on TV as I was in season 2, episode 9 (“Hello, Penelope”). I just broke down.

I don’t know why it was so unexpected. Literally the entire reason that I have written so much about my own mental health is because I know how much it matters to see that you’re not alone, and to see your experiences reflected back to you. And I even knew that episode was coming, because it’s been out for a year now and there was a ton of Twitter chatter about it last year when it aired. But it hit me in the gut nonetheless, and I sat on the couch and cried, and then I just felt…so much lighter.

The thing is (having since finished the show as well), I don’t feel “better,” or whole again. I still feel crappy. Heck, I completely broke down sobbing at work on Monday night: like, turned my back to my coworker, had to take my glasses off cause they were fogging up, shoulders shaking, etc etc etc. And the paranoia, the anxiety: they’re all there. Fully-fledged, full force. So present.

So, in all honesty, I’m not fully sure what the so-called “purpose” of this post is. It’s not like I have a nicely-wrapped gift I can offer you, a moral or a lesson or a story that has ended. I’m in the middle of this one. There isn’t a moral yet. Lesson? What’s that.

Maybe I just wanted to share. To feel less alone. I feel so alone a lot, and right now, on the one hand, it feels like my mind is eating me alive, but on the other, I had this beautiful moment of understanding and reflection of seeing myself in a character on TV, and I need to share it all.

I want to be less alone. I work overnights and it’s hard to get out and see people and I’ve been isolated a lot the past 10 months, and to be honest, the past five and a half months of intense depression have made it nearly impossible for me to gather the energy to EVER leave my house. Or, let’s be real, my bed.

So I guess this is me reaching out. Trying to be less alone. And sharing about the small hopes.