Nearly every day, I imagine the many ways in which I could die. Or I list off, in my head, the reasons why I should be dead.
I’m afraid to call it by its name—suicidal ideation—because it doesn’t feel that intense. I wish I were dead. I don’t want to kill myself. I assure my therapist I’m not a danger to myself or others. It’s passive, not aggressive, see?
Sometimes it’s that normal, run-of-the-mill depression speaking up. Other times it’s sparked by some inconvenience, be it major or minor.
When plans are too difficult to coordinate. When I miss my exit. When I snort-laugh loudly in a meeting. When I make a joke that doesn’t land well. When I accidentally delete all of my files and empty the trash and regrettably find out I didn’t back up said files.
“I wish I were dead.”
“If I were dead, I wouldn’t have to deal with this.”
“I’m just gonna go jump off the roof now, bye!”
These thoughts have invaded my consciousness as far back as I can remember. I recall being a kid and lying in the grass, looking at the shape-shifting clouds, wondering why humans even existed. Why I even existed.
I’m working on figuring out the triggers. On noticing the signs. My depression is very predictable and arrives at the same time each year. I know that in July and August I need to take better care of myself.
Other warning signs: Staying indoors as much as possible. Taking couch naps. Listening exclusively to Lana Del Rey and Elliott Smith. Forgetting to read. Procrastinating showers—for days.
Step back. Sit down. Breathe.
The dark thoughts are coming. We can fight them off.
Take a breath. Watch your body and notice your thoughts. Find patterns. Give yourself a time out and work on some serious self-care. Tell someone you’re in a dark place simply so they know and can check on you later. Turn off your phone. Cook a meal (a real meal) for yourself. Go for a walk. Pet your cat.
Don’t burrow deep under the covers and wait for it to leave. You have to fight back. Then it will pass. It always does.
These thoughts happen. Life is hard. Mental illness is harder. Sometimes a bunch of tiny inconveniences pile up all at once and it’s all too much and death seems like the only option.
But it’s not.
Just getting these words out is challenging. There’s a stigma that surrounds suicidal ideation when there shouldn’t be. We’re living in a time where mental illness is increasingly discussed, yet suicidal thoughts remain in the rarely mentioned depths.
And I can’t be the only one who thinks this way, on a near-daily basis. Right?
We can work on this together. We can stop using suicide as a punchline or a solution. We can save a life or two or three.