Thinking often of suicide doesn’t make you suicidal. Letting it plant roots in your mind is what pushes you over the edge.
I consider suicide. I write that in the present tense because that is the reality of my existence. I consider ending my own life. It’s not an every day occurrence, but the frequency can be startling. Most of the time the moment is fleeting, like being in your late thirties and believing a rave is a good idea. Or one more drink. Or Pop Rocks. Or canned beef stew for that matter. For the briefest of moments you entertain the concept, but quickly the absurdity pushes the thought from your mind. I like to imagine that’s what it’s like for “normal people” too. Once in a while the thought skitters across their consciousness like a stone skipped across a lake, only to sink quickly out of sight.
I was out trimming vines from the trees out behind my house today. I enjoy manual labor as it allows my mind to wander, flitting from one thing to another. While I focus on the task at hand, I’m able to let my consciousness free and escape the boundaries of concrete thought. Today was no different. From crafting a presentation catered toward teens to the plight of refugees around the world, my mind danced and whirled, changing direction like a hummingbird in flight. Until it didn’t. Until I fixated on the vines I was ripping from the trees. Then my blissful wanderings came to a very abrupt end.
Depression and or Bi-Polar disorder are very much like those vines. They start out small and fragile, creeping onward, barely noticeable. Before long they’ve grown stronger but not yet problematic. Tiny fingers grow inward like roots, tightening their grip so slowly nobody realizes the danger. Eventually those roots help the vine become an insidious presence that slowly strangles the tree, constricting every more tightly. Eventually the tree either dies or breaks free of its infernal bindings.
Depression has essentially been my vine. I don’t yet know if I’ll be breaking free, but I think I might. There are days though. Days when the roots of suicidal thought find a small crevice and hold tightly to my thoughts. Those days are difficult in a way I cannot begin to explain. I want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t know what I want beyond a little silence in my mind. The voices and thoughts inside me aren’t me but they are tricksy. On those days, the voices have me nearly convinced of their authenticity. I am them, they are me and we are One.
Except we aren’t One. We can’t be. Suicide is the result of a coexistence that is unsustainable. We cannot live believing what the interlopers whisper. Every day our minds punish us with fear, isolation, desperation, imagined failures and inadequacies. Suicide isn’t some snap decision, the selfish act of an otherwise highly functioning individual. We have considered it a thousand times and battled on. We have fought and struggled, weary and threadbare until there is no strength left to carry us.
No, suicide isn’t selfish. It is salvation. It is one way out of an abyss so deep no light penetrates. Yes, suicide is an answer, but not the only one. We can ask for help. We can reach out in the darkness. We can overcome an affliction that grips our minds and squeezes until our very souls cry in pain.
Like the trees in my yard, constricted by vines choking the very life from them, we can struggle on. We differ from the majestic oaks behind my home in one key way however. We have power over our vines. We need only to reach out, to ask for help. There is no need to wait helplessly for a savior. No requirement that we sit quietly, waiting for a hapless homeowner to come with snips and saw to save us from our slow demise. Waiting stoicly in the darkness for someone clip away our vines leads us deeper into the darkness. We need to regain control of our destiny.
Suicide is one answer, but like questions on the SAT exam, it is NOT the best one. The appropriate solution is one many of us find hardest to reconcile. We need help. We need to keep asking for it. We need to keep demanding it. Don’t stop until you get the help you need.
Yeah, I think about suicide. The voices demand it, but I recognize them for what they are. Squatters in my mind, occasionally appropriating more space but never gaining complete control. I haven’t figured out how to expel them completely, not yet. Eventually though, I will squeeze them out, tearing away at the vines that bind my mind. Then I will be free. Then I will have my chance to grow without the constriction of my mind.
I will not be beaten. I will not be overcome. I will ask for help when I need it. I will open up to friends and family. I will allow them to save me from myself. These are choices we can all make. It can be as simple as a deep breath or a phone call to a hot-line. I have chosen to live, and I want the same for you.
National Suicide Prevention week is September 6 – 12, 2015. We hope you’ll join the #stopsuicide efforts online and in person.
Contact the 1-800-273-8255 if you or someone you know is at risk.
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Photo Credit: Gregg O’Connell/flickr