(I’ve literally JUST submitted this to The Mighty, so we’ll see if it gets accepted. In the mean time, here’s my thoughts on the depressive spectrum of suicidal ideation.)
There’s never once been a time when I have looked myself in the mirror and said the
five words that seem to adhere themselves to a mental illness diagnosis: “I
want to kill myself.” Not when I had my first psychotic break (or my second),
not when I reached the lowest part of my depression. And yet, if you asked me
if I had ever attempted suicide, my answer would be yes. Had I ever thought
about it? Yes again. But not once had I ever thought those five words.
One of the first lessons someone with a mental illness diagnosis learns is that
there are often no black-and-white situations. The line between correct
diagnosis and misdiagnosis isn’t a mile wide, it’s a hair’s width. We learn to
see things on a spectrum, on a scale. And yet, in this most prevalent of litmus
tests for depression, these five words seem to be a yes or no, black or white
I’m here to disagree. Vehemently.
All too often, there isn’t a life versus death attitude that accompanies mental
illness. It’s much more layered, a muddled grey than it is a color dichotomy.
There’s often more desperation and anguish in the expression than the pointed
action of “I want to kill myself.” And what’s worse, the other phrases, which
carry just as much weight and sincerity as that one, aren’t even given a second
glance. They’re completely brushed off and put aside because, after all, everyone feels like that at some point,
“I don’t want to live anymore.”
This sentence, much like the litmus
tester, is one I’ve never spoken aloud, but I can remember a few times when I mentally
said it to myself in the mirror, the tears running down my cheeks. It was the
point where the depression took over and I’d had enough. What I was really
saying was that I don’t want to live a life where I’m constantly feeling used
up, depressed and frustrated.
“I just want to sleep and not wake up.”
Life presents itself with some
fierce challenges sometimes. Fighting a battle against yourself is a long,
tiresome journey of epic proportions. Being able to rest for just a few moments
seems like the most luxurious perfection and it can feel like after years of
fighting yourself, you have earned a permanent reprieve. This is my own
personal indicator of depression, because what I’m really saying is that I’m
tired of constantly fighting a battle that no one even knows I’m in and I need
“I want to cease to be. Like I never existed.”
This phrase often comes close to
“rock bottom” when I’m clinging on to the walls of hope and love with bloody
knuckles, waiting for someone to throw me a metaphorical rope. I feel like the
one to blame for everything that’s wrong. If I were better, different, gone,
life would be better for everyone and everything. What I really mean is that I’m
tired of watching everything fall apart and feeling like it’s all my fault. I
want the pain to cease, not my life.
“I just want it all to stop.”
Variations of this one seem to be
spoken to the friends or family who got a little too close when I’m emotionally
vulnerable. I don’t want them to worry about me or involve themselves
unnecessarily, but I want them to understand that I’m in pain. I feel
overwhelmed by life: the things that have happened, will happen and are
happening. What I’m really saying is that I need life to pause without
consequences so I can take a deep breath, pull myself together and invest in
some serious self-care.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
This one is the rock bottom, end of the line sentence that creeps up at the worst
moments of my battle with depression. There’s no hidden meaning here, it’s very
much self-explanatory. At my very lowest point, this was
the phrase that played on repeat in my head. At that moment, I couldn’t exist
as I was, I couldn’t live the life I had. My last words on earth would have
been these five, because they were the ones that matched the heartache. I
didn’t want to die, but I could no longer live.
In the end, not everyone experiences depression or suicidal tendencies in the same
way. But no matter what you mean or what phrase you use, the implications are
real. Being stuck in the grey areas of suicidal thoughts is no less painful,
and yet it’s much less talked about, making it that much more dangerous. There
isn’t just one way to live, and there isn’t just one way to cry out for help.