One Reason To Keep Going
In case I need it again in the middle of the night
Not too long ago, I wasn’t feeling very good. In fact, I was beyond not feeling good, and into actual physical pain, real as anything. I hurt. Inside, outside, and through. Nothing was obviously wrong with me physically, and yet, everything hurt and I wanted to die. I woke up in the morning and I hated myself for being awake. I laid down at night and I hated myself for not being asleep. It was perplexing, and scary, and invisible, and private, and hell.
I constantly felt guilty about making any complaint, because I’m very aware of my privilege. In faint attempts at a silencing gratitude, I would repeat like a mantra, “You are very lucky. You have a family who loves you. You have an education and a clean, safe place to sleep. No one has cancer. No one has been tragically killed. Almost everyone you love and care about is doing ok. You have nothing to complain about.” Except that I did maybe have something to complain about, which was that I felt so horribly guilty and useless and hurt that I wanted to die. For a very long time, as long as possible, I refused to admit it. Because pride, and because denial, and because it’s easy to be deep in it and find oneself unable to do anything about it. Because depression.
Since it wasn’t the first time I had faced this particular struggle, I eventually recognized that “wanting to die” was rapidly approaching “wanting to kill myself,” and since the latter thought officially represented my line in the sand for realizing, “I am now out of my fucking mind,” I was able to hold on to that tiny bit of sanity that wove through the pain and reminded me that help was available and that I was actually very ill, and that whether or not anyone else considered that to be true, it wasn’t their life on the line, now was it?
But in the span of time in between the moment of realization that despite the screaming emotions in my head telling me I was useless, hopeless, worthless, invisible and a failure (all actual evidence to the contrary was deemed somehow irrelevant or mistaken) and the moment of future time, of eventually being a hopefully successfully happy, healthy, non-insane person who would be alive to marvel at the idea that she ever wanted to kill herself in the first place, I had to muster the ambition to not only continue to survive, but to actively get help.
In the meantime, I tried reminding myself of all the reasons to live, such as the existence of the two incredibly gorgeous and brilliant and astonishing little precious devils that I had the good fortune to give birth to, and the fact that even though I currently believed I was failing them and horribly scarring them for life by my utter inadequacy as a mother, that killing myself would probably be failing them and horribly scarring them for life on a whole extra bad level that I would for sure not want to reach. Plus, they’d probably be mad at me. Unfortunately, this line of thought had a tendency to make me feel more guilty, miserable and hopeless.
Finally, I landed on a strategy that worked, and actually helped comfort me the most during the interval between realizing I was suicidally depressed (a.k.a. crazy) and actually having the medication I needed to help fix it, which was to fixate on one simple reason to live that didn’t involve guilt, responsibility, or shame.
I needed to pick one reason to live. So I did. I decided I needed to live because I hadn’t learned to ride a unicycle yet. During the endless, painful days while my heart felt broken and my body hurt and my mind played nasty tricks on me and everyone seemed to be looking at me sideways with a squint whether they actually were or not, I fixated on the unicycle. I had to get well, because I needed to learn to ride it. I needed to get on an antidepressant, so that I could survive, so that I could get well, so that I could learn to ride a unicycle before I died.
I simply refuse to die without learning to ride on a fucking unicycle.
I think, sometimes, when our minds play tricks on us and everything seems dark and nothing makes sense, it helps to reduce things to absurd simplicities.
I needed a reason to live. I needed something to look forward to. I needed something ridiculous, that promised adventure. I needed something novel.
I’m going to get well, because I have one reason to live, and it’s a unicycle. Oddly, it was enough to start to quiet the doubts, and give meaning to the otherwise inexplicable suffering. It was something to hold onto, a safe rock of an idea in a sea of inner turmoil.
Now I just have to learn to ride the damn thing.
Update: As of January 2016, I am now painting 100 unicycles and putting them up for sale on http://www.100unicycles.wordpress.com/ 50% of proceeds are donated directly to San Francisco Suicide Prevention (the charity will send you a letter to confirm the donation, so you can be confident it’s really going to them!) Want to help me earn the money to purchase a unicycle and lessons? Come buy your own custom piece!