forgetting how to breathe

Let’s talk about suicide.

More specifically, suicide notes. I’ve left them everywhere. I’ve written them and hidden them in my house, on my computer, in my email, on my phone, in my notebooks, on random pieces of paper… Everywhere. I’ve never talked about that until now. I’ve written them for different reasons, always hoping it’s the last time. Its incredible what can send me into a spiral. Sometimes is as simple as going outside. Its weird. I want to be honest about it. There is of course an underlying feeling of despair that has to accompany those thoughts, its ever present, but I’ve managed it well over the last year or so and I’ve gotten better at being open and that really seems to have made a difference. It’s gotten to be this shadow that I live with. Its part of me. I’m peter pan and I’m in control of my shadow.

I’m usually writing these suicides notes through tears of relief, just letting everything spill out of me. Its cathartic in many ways. I’m always hoping this is the last one. I’ve written them over and over with every intention of never having to speak again or explain myself or look at another person. I don’t think suicide is completely selfish. I think its difficult for me to say that its selfish and I think its difficult for other people to understand that. I understand the pain and suffering it brings to others, and I understand the affect it has on those directly in its path, but I think those people need to take the time to understand what living through a mental illness is like also.

Mental illness is a monster and stigma makes suicide that much more relevant. It is hard to look at something like suicide without an emotional response. People don’t want to discuss the why. Its ugly. They don’t want to understand why it’s come to that or why that choice even seems viable, and even looks so inviting. And maybe saying people don’t want to understand is unfair, I do believe people WANT to understand; but for someone to understand it they have to live through it. You have to experience the type of hopelessness where you just want to cease to exist, where you wish you could forget how to breathe so you could suffocate, where living physically hurts, where waking up tomorrow is the most painful thing you can think of. You won’t understand until you can think of every good thought and look at every bright-side and be grateful for every wonderful thing in your life and it still doesn’t fill that pit inside of your chest that makes you wish you were never born -and you feel guilty that those thoughts don’t fix you. You feel like a bad person because you aren’t appreciative enough not to be sad. You cannot understand it without experiencing it. And I don’t mean just some sad day you’ve had -just some blue day that you got over. I mean years of it -everyday, all hours, with no explanation. It’s just there living in you and you can’t make it go away because you have a chemical imbalance that won’t allow it to disappear. And even though it isn’t your fault, stigma makes you feel embarrassed of it and makes you feel like it’s your fault. Stigma makes you feel like a broken toy no one wants. It makes you feel like something is very wrong with you and you need to go away so other people don’t have to deal with you, so you aren’t anyone’s problem.

In my family, depression is a bad word. They don’t talk about it and they don’t acknowledge it. They ignore it, and if you are depressed they think you are choosing to be that way. You are weak for not being happy. That just isn’t true. No one wants to feel like killing themselves is the only way to stop being sad. No one wants that. That’s ignorant.

It’s very hard for me to say suicide is wholly selfish. “I’ve carried on being sad, so you don’t have to be sad about me not carrying on.” In most cases suicides are perceived as a way to escape ourselves and to stop being a burden. I don’t think the intentions ever feel selfish. Suicides in a lot of cases see themselves as saving those we love from our seemingly unsolvable sadness. We see ourselves as people who can’t be saved, and we understand it isn’t someone else’s obligation. We have broken beyond repair therefore we decide the most logical thing to do is discard ourselves. Am I suicidal today? No. I am just feeling introspective.

I see a lot of commonality in myself and others with mental illness. Just in speaking to people who have reached out. We feel like we exist for everyone except ourselves. Its odd. It’s so self-righteous, and at the same time its destructive. We see ourselves as givers. We see ourselves as invisible to those we need to be seen by. Its always the same pattern. We want help, we think we are screaming for it, but no one hears us, but we don’t want to ask because we don’t want to burden anyone, so we hope people notice all these signs about us that they wont notice because they aren’t obvious -aside from self-harm. But that’s a thing people don’t understand either. A lot of people can’t comprehend why cutting or self-harm might feel good. For myself, the burn of cutting felt better than the stinging in my chest from being depressed all the time. It made me feel something, and yes, I hoped it would be an obvious sign of needing help. After I did it I tried to hide it because I felt shame about it also. It was so contradictory. I wanted help, but I hid it out of shame? I haven’t done that in a long time, but I still remember why I did it. I went from cutting to drugs and alcohol. Another common bond we share. Its all just to make waking up easier.

The last time I wrote a suicide note, I had an epiphany. I don’t know why this stopped me. It changed my entire perspective on suicide. I realized my wife will have to tell my children. That was a light that I hadn’t seen. I was writing this very long, three page note about how I couldn’t do it anymore and I couldn’t wake up anymore. I didn’t want to function, and I just realized, “she’s going to have to tell them”. I think part of why this affected me so much was because in my own anxious world I had thought about losing people I loved many times over. Every time my wife leaves in her car I think about all the terrible things that could happen to her. I can’t help it. I wish I could. I’ve thought the entire scenario out from beginning to end. The phone call I’d get, the loss I’d feel, the pain, the knowledge that I’d have to keep going without her, and the eventual discussion with my kids about their mom being gone forever. That’s always the most painful part to me. Having to be the one that hurts them, and I realized I couldn’t do it to her. Weird. I never thought suicide was selfish because it felt like such a welcome escape. I still think in many ways it isn’t. But in that one singular way, where I have placed the responsibility of surviving what I did -I get it.

I still have all my notes. To be honest, I hid them so well, I can’t even find them all. I hope I don’t write anymore. If I ever do, I hope it ends up just being an exercise in persevering. Hopefully someday that turns in to thriving. I hope this helps someone. You really aren’t alone.


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