I have a strange relationship with death. I tried to kill myself in 2001 and again in 2011. Since then I haven’t attempted suicide but on a semi-frequent basis I sit with thoughts of what it would be like to take my own life.
Existence, in its most discouraging and alienating moments, is a slog. It feels like steel sharpening against the grinding wheel, except I’m not so sturdy. I’m just skin, muscles, and a heart that pumps blood. In my lower moments my mind feels what I imagine it would be like to have my flesh pressed against the grinding wheel as it rotates at hundreds of RPMs. Existence with mental illness can shred and disintegrate any sensible thoughts and coherency. I break down. I wish for death and start to think about ways to make that happen.
The thoughts that send me to suicidal ideation include discouragement. I become frustrated that my life is not where I want it to be. I yearn to be living a different existence where I’m in line with my goals and dreams. I want happiness. Yet, at times of suicidal ideation, it feels it will be forever until I have some joy. Feelings of despair are so thick, I don’t know if happiness can ever break through them.
What many people don’t realize is that depression is like chronic physical illness. Those diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or fibromyalgia have flare-ups. And while I don’t deal with those illnesses, I do have flare-ups with my suicidal ideation. My brain attacks itself and thinks it logically makes sense to end my life. It’s easier that way, my mind says. It’s a means to escape the suffering. I dwell on the details — what it would feel like in those moments before I die and then what it would be like to feel no pain at all.
But I always pull back. It can take minutes or hours or, with a bad case, a few days. But I recoil from those untrue thoughts of myself. Because that’s what they are — untrue. I’ve suffered from depression for approximately 25 years. Yet I have found again and again that with the passing of time I pull through my discouragement and mental pain. I remain vigilant for when the experiences occur. I tell myself that those thoughts are a passing phase and there is a possibility of positive change.
Keeping myself ready to handle suicidal thoughts isn’t easy. But as Charles Bukowski once wrote, “What matters most is how you walk through the fire.” The mental burn of ideation is harsh, but I’m making it through the flames. And that’s what is important.