Before we get started, I wanted to let you know that this article discusses some pretty heavy stuff. Specifically I’m going to be talking about Suicidal Ideation, which is defined as, “thinking about or having an unusual preoccupation with suicide.”
If this topic is too heavy for you or you feel uncomfortable reading this for any reason, that is perfectly fine. Please don’t continue on if you feel that way. That’s why I’m starting with this warning.
For those of you who would like to continue on and read it, I’d like to make it clear that the intention of this article is to help anyone who may also be struggling with this to come to terms with their feelings, to know they’re not alone in the way they feel, and to encourage them to tell someone they trust and find the help they need.
I always try to make sure I end my articles on a positive/encouraging note, especially when I’m talking about darker stuff like this. My goal is to leave you feeling lighter and to give you more hope than you might have started with.
Suicidal Ideation. That’s the technical term for the seriously f*cked up thoughts I’ve been having on and off for months now.
I never imagined I would even flirt with the idea of not existing anymore.
And I feel like I can genuinely say that I would never actually go through with ending my life, but what scares me the most is that in the past I could genuinely say that I’d never even have those types of thoughts to begin with. So how could I possibly know that my mind would never take me further into them?
Probably the worst part of it was trying so hard to keep it a secret. Sometimes in my desperation I would drop little hints at it, but I didn’t feel like I could burden anyone with the full truth: Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to exist anymore.
Along with not wanting to burden anyone, I also have this hang-up with the idea of looking like I’m an attention seeker. I’ve had this specific fear since I was a kid. “Oh, she just wants attention” is an unfortunately common reaction to people who talk about their struggle with mental health.
Of course anyone who says that certainly isn’t someone we should keep around anyway, so why care about their opinions? We shouldn’t care. But I’ve never been able to totally shake the fear, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. So that and the fear of being a burden was enough to make me keep this to myself for quite a while.
Not wanting to exist. That’s such a simplified way of saying it, and it is definitely not that simple.
It’s such a strangely complicated feeling.
On one hand yes, sometimes I don’t enjoy my existence. I hate that I’m not brave enough to take chances in my life and I hate that I so often struggle with even basic feelings of enjoyment. I hate that I feel overwhelmed 90% of the time, in every possible way. I hate that I can’t buy a two dollar protein bar at the gas station without feeling like I’m being irresponsible with my limited finances. I hate that I can’t relax for even a moment without my mind jumping to the worst case scenario of every single situation I’m in. I hate that I routinely isolate myself when I already feel so unbearably lonely. I could go on and on about all the things that can make my existence feel insufferable.
But on the other hand, I love so much of my life. I have a house full of animals that all shower me with love and adoration in their own little ways. I have a partner who is not only willing to sit with me in the hell I regularly put myself in, but he’s also willing to keep making attempts to get me to laugh, keep making attempts to put out the fires, no matter how many times I try to relight them.
I may not be able to afford that extra two bucks at the gas station, but I always have enough to pay my bills on time and I never go hungry. Even if that means making trips to the food bank a couple times. I have a peaceful little creek right in my yard where I can go to slow myself down. I have a good relationship with my mom and my brother, whereas a few years ago I wasn’t sure if my family even liked me. (Turns out that was all in my head, thanks to the horribly confusing years I spent dating a covert narcissist, but that’s a story for another time)
The point is, suicidal ideation (at least for me) is not black and white. And it’s not a constant state of mind that I’m in. It only happens when I reach a certain point in a depressive episode.
And when it happens I’m not just sitting there thinking to myself “Welp, I think I’m done. Guess I’ll figure out the most painless way to kill myself now.” No. I’m sitting there feeling such an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and despair that I can barely even form a full thought. It’s more of a torrential downpour of emotions, and the only thoughts I can manage to coherently form are desperate cries for help from deep inside my soul mixed with attempts to keep myself rational.
These thoughts usually take the form of some sort of existential back and forth that goes a lot like this: “Existing is too hard, what’s the point if I can’t even enjoy living?” followed by “Well realistically I can’t just stop existing, because I can’t put my boyfriend and my family through that, and what if Jason isn’t able to give our animals the love and attention they need because he’s grieving? And the animals would wonder where I am. I can’t do that.” My mind will just keep bouncing back and forth between existential misery and rationalizations of why I need to stick around.
It’s a really, really dark place to be. And I’m glad that it’s not a place I’m always at, but I’m aware that it’s not okay how often my mind goes there. Whenever I come back up and start feeling better, I usually feel way better (Bipolar is super fun like that). So I just write it off as “Wow, that was some brutal PMS” or I think “Oh good, I learned a lot from that, now I can move forward and handle it better next time.” But when next time rolls around, usually sooner than I think it will, it often hits me even harder than it did the last time. And yes, I’m equipped with the little tips and tricks I learned from handling the depression so many times, but those tips and tricks quickly start to feel like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
I’ve always had the philosophy of “depression is here to teach you” (like I discussed in my recent article). And I still feel that way. But I’m being forced to reexamine my philosophy a bit. Specifically the idea of letting myself give into it and letting it run its course. The reason I try to do this with depression is because I believe that fighting it and pushing it down just makes it grow into a bigger monster than it started as. And that letting it be felt fully from the get-go will allow it to leave you sooner, and it won’t need to come back as often to teach you it’s stupid lessons.
And maybe that’s true. Honestly I don’t think I know for sure what the best way to handle it is. That’s just the philosophy I’ve always felt to be true. Maybe I’ve never truly let it run its course. Maybe I’ve pushed it down and fought it every time.
Or maybe… my brain is simply unbalanced. Maybe all the philosophical metaphors in the world couldn’t fix what’s really wrong.
Maybe those theories and philosophies are good for the average person who sometimes falls into a depression. And maybe I’m not the average person.
A few nights ago I found myself sitting up in my bed, blankly staring into the pitch darkness of my room. I had been sobbing uncontrollably for an hour. My eyes felt swollen, I couldn’t breathe through my nose, and my mind had finally decided to jump ship. There was nothing left of my thoughts. Only silence. Not the kind of silence you get to in a good meditation. This was an eerie, I give up kind of silence.
I had spent that last hour completely submerged in the worst parts of my mind. Memories came flooding in of the looks people would give me years ago that I now realized were looks that said “Did she take her meds today?”, and other memories of times I unknowingly made a fool of myself due to my mental illness. I felt like I was truly coming to the realization for the first time that my entire life had been an embarrassment.
And then my thoughts turned to this blog. Here I was, displaying my mental illness for all to see. Just letting the world see first hand the f*cked up circus that is my mind. I was doing it again. I was making myself an embarrassment, all the while convinced that I was simply trying to help myself and others like me.
That’s when my mind jumped ship, leaving me in eerie silence, and I sat up in my bed. Staring blankly at the darkness felt like staring at my own mind. Staring, empty and emotionless, at the black hole of nothingness I was left with after my thoughts destroyed everything that was in there. And after a few minutes of this silent nothingness, the only thoughts that were able to emerge were from deep down inside me. They were the back and forth of “I can’t handle existing” and “I can’t give up because I can’t do that to the ones I love”.
I made myself get up and write down every horrible thought that was emerging in my mind. I told myself I was going to burn the piece of paper and watch the words turn into smoke and maybe they would finally stop. But this wasn’t my first time experiencing suicidal ideation. And it wasn’t my first time burning a piece of paper with words just like this on it. It hadn’t worked then and it probably wasn’t going to work now.
So I went to bed without burning it, having no idea how or even if I’d ever be okay again, and too exhausted to think about it anymore.
When I woke up the next day in that same state of mind I knew I had to tell someone what was going on. This was too big for me to handle on my own. These thoughts had never lasted this long before. I broke down and called my mom, crying and desperate for literally any kind of help she could point me to. I told her everything. I didn’t hold anything back. I couldn’t even if I’d wanted to. It just came pouring out of me. I was scared.
She knew all too well the state of mind I was in. She’d been there before. In fact, the older I get the more my mental illness begins to mirror my mother’s almost to a T. I told her I felt like I needed to be on medicine for this, but I’ve been terrified to go back down that road because I’ve had really bad experiences with it in the past.
I’ve been on medicine for my ADHD for a few months now, and at first that was helping with the depression too but that was only because those meds are known for having a “honeymoon phase” where you experience a mood lift from them for a little while when you first start taking them.
But when that wore off the depression returned. Sometimes I didn’t realize it was there (probably what you’d call high functioning depression), and sometimes it would hit me like a ton of bricks. This was one of those times.
I couldn’t ignore it anymore. The doctors had been right. As much as I wished I was, I wasn’t misdiagnosed. I didn’t just have ADHD. I also had Bipolar. The mood swings associated with ADHD are very rapid, sometimes occurring multiple times in a day even. I definitely had that. But ADHD mood swings do not last for several months at a time. That is a characteristic unique to Bipolar Disorder. And this depression has been hanging over me for a long time, oscillating between high functioning and nearly suicidal.
So we talked medicine. I was finally open to the idea, and it sort of felt like the only option I had left. The conversation with my mom left me feeling so much lighter. It felt like someone had lifted a stack of bricks off my chest. We talked about a medication she’s been taking that has been nothing short of a miracle for her. And because of how similar our body chemistry is and how similar our mental illness manifests itself, we decided I would try it out for myself.
I’ve been trying so hard to handle all of this naturally, but philosophy and healthy habits haven’t been cutting it. Maybe my current life circumstances have a lot to do with my state of mind, and maybe medicine isn’t something I’ll always need. Or maybe it will be a permanent solution. It’s okay that I don’t know for sure right now.
What I do know for sure is that my mind has been traveling to these dark places too often. And I can’t keep bringing a knife to a gunfight. The knife works just fine until it doesn’t anymore.
So despite being pretty afraid and uncertain, I feel like this is the best choice for me right now. I need to at least try it. My inner hippie is pretty pissed that I couldn’t just philosophize and meditate the depression away, but my inner hippie is going to have to suck it up and let me do what I need to do even if that means taking the dreaded Big Pharma route.
We’ll see what happens. I’ll update you guys throughout everything to let you know how it’s going. I’m sure there’s going to be a transitional phase where I’m adjusting to the meds… and I’m sure that before I can even get on them I’m going to go back into my I feel totally fine phase and wonder if I actually need meds at all.
But I’m going to have to remind myself that “I feel fine” has been leading back into “I’d like to stop existing” literally every single time… so yes to the meds no matter what my brain tries to tell me. At least at this point in my life.
Anyways. I guess the point of me sharing this with you is to let you know that if you’ve been in a similar state of mind, don’t be afraid to tell someone you need help.
Please don’t keep it to yourself. I really do feel relieved that I finally told someone. Like very relieved. And as scared as I am about trying medication, I feel a lot of hope knowing that I’m willing to even do something that scares me this much if it means I might be okay.
I’m glad that I care enough about myself to keep trying. Even if it’s just that I care enough about the ones I love and that’s why I keep trying, that’s fine too. Most of us aren’t masters of loving ourselves, but we are pretty damn good at loving those close to us. Maybe that’s enough for now. I think any reason we can find to keep ourselves alive is a good enough reason.
I’m not giving up on this blog, even if it’s embarrassing to show the world how royally messed up I am. And I’m not giving up on living, even if it feels really shitty sometimes.
I hope me sharing all of this as honestly as possible can help you know that you’re not the only one who has scary thoughts, and that if I can keep going so can you.
You really can. Your life matters, more than you may ever know. Maybe it’s hard for you to believe that right now, but I can guarantee if you were able to zoom out and see the whole picture… If you could see every life you’ve touched, every smile you caused, every time your mere presence brightened someone’s day… you would never be able to doubt that your existence mattered. You would know that this world would not be, could not be the same without you.
Our lives are all intricately connected in ways we can’t even fathom. Every part of your life is essential to the wellbeing of everyone else’s life. That includes the good and the bad. When you make the choice to continue pushing yourself through the darkness, you are making it possible for everyone else who has that same struggle to push themselves through too.
You’re clearing the path, and lighting the way. You never struggle in vain. Your pain and your triumph have a purpose. Thank you for helping the rest of us out. I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. But thank you so much for doing what you do and being who you are. You are truly irreplaceable.
I love you all, beautiful strangers. Let’s keep going.
Until Next Time,
Keep Calm and Grow On
I put together this list of things to help you out:
You can do all of them, some of them or none of them. Totally up to you. Just making them available for you 🙂
- First thing’s first. If you’re having thoughts like the thoughts I’ve discussed here, please tell someone you trust. Believe me, the relief is real guys. This is not something to carry around by yourself. It’s much too heavy.
Maybe you’re not sure if you can trust someone to know what to do if you tell them or to react in a helpful way. If that’s the case, there are numbers you can call (listed here) where you can speak candidly without those fears.
- Watch It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a classic and came out in 1946, but trust me it’s worth watching when you’re in this particular state of mind. It’s one of my favorite movies, and never fails to leave me with a renewed sense of hope.
- Write up a bunch of encouraging little notes, bring them to a nearby store/library/wherever, and hide them in different places for people to find. The act of reaching out and helping someone else, even if it’s not face to face, will always help to better your state of mind.
- Listen to music. I made a playlist of songs that help me a lot when I’m depressed, but obviously everyone’s music taste will be very different. You’re welcome to check it out, and if you like the whole thing that’s awesome. If you only like a couple songs, make your own YouTube playlist for when you’re sad and save them to that. Here’s mine: Music for when you’re sad
- Try watching these videos. They have helped me in the past, and maybe they can help you too: Videos to watch when you’re sad
- Check out the 7 day long Your Daily Smile Series I published for Mental Illness Awareness Week. They’re just short videos I posted each day to put a smile on your face.
–Intro to the Series
- And here’s a few of my past articles that could be helpful too: Bad Day Toolkit for Mental Health, Your Inner Antagonist, Going Deeper into Causes of Anxiety, Hello Darkness my Old Friend