This piece was originally published on The Mighty here.
It is a sad fact that a universal feature of suicidal ideation is the belief no one would miss you — that you are a burden on your loved ones, that everyone would be happier without you here. It is truly like you are in a house that is on fire, so filled with smoke you cannot see anything around you. You become desperate and do not recognize that the firefighter is right outside the door, with all of the people you love and help to get better. You think the situation is permanent, and so you make a desperate escape.
I have struggled with this ideation for over a decade. A lot of that time has been spent simply existing… I move from one task to the next, accomplish what I can, passing the moments that are not filled with work with mindless activity. I have had extensive therapy, found a good balance of medication and lifestyle help, and surrounded myself with people who see and love me. Yet, my house is frequently filled with smoke. I cannot breathe, and the desperation creeps in while I fight to just keep breathing. I have frequently felt that everyone in my life, even those who love me most, would just be happier if I left them.
Recently, I connected with someone in my department at work. I just started this job a couple of months ago, and this woman has looked withdrawn and almost avoidant of me for a long time. I sent her an email wondering if there was something I had done to cause this response. She wrote back that her daughter recently died by suicide. Her daughter’s birthday is in a few days, and this mother is grieving. She sent me a memorial that she wrote for her daughter’s birthday, and I was stunned into silence. The baby picture attached looked almost indistinguishable from my own baby pictures. The picture of her adult daughter bears a remarkable similarity to myself. Her birthday is a mere 11 days before mine.
I sat there for a time, overwhelmed with the notion this could have been my mother. With a few variables changed, my mother could have been the one grieving this week. She very nearly was the one grieving her lost child.
In order for this young person to have died by suicide, she must have believed she would not be missed, as almost everyone with suicidal ideation does. She must have thought she was disposable. Her house would have been filled with smoke, and she would not have seen her loved ones hoping she would get out.
But her mother grieves. The family she has left behind has a hole in it. She has even left an imprint on me, and I never met her. She lived. She was important. She is missed and her family grieves for her.
If suicidality leads to the belief we will not be missed, yet each person who dies by suicide is mourned intensely, then that belief has to be false.
Suicide loss survivors constantly talk about the grief, about wishing something more could have saved their loved one. It would seem no one who truly loves the person who dies by suicide is better, happier, without that person in their lives.
My own mother informed me recently that when my parents haven’t heard from me during a day, they get worried. They look to see if I have posted on social media, just to know I am alive. I may believe they would be relieved to have me gone, but they are calling to me through the smoke that they just want me to be OK.
I firmly believe this is the case for everyone who is suicidal. Our lives leave a mark on those around us, even if we do not see it.
To those who have lost a loved one to suicide, I am sorry. There is nothing you could have done that would have prevented the death. The house was filled with smoke and no matter how much you wanted to reach your loved one, they could not see or hear you.
To those who fight day-in and day-out with these thoughts, whose lungs burn with the smoke of depression and anxiety and hopelessness and self-loathing, do not believe your life is worthless. Your parents or siblings or teachers or co-workers or friends or cousins or your pet or even someone you may not know deeply are waiting to help clear the smoke from your house. You are wanted. You are seen. You are important. You are enough.
The world is better with you in it.
Whatever you are facing, there is always hope. And we will hold on to hope until you’re able to grasp it yourself. If you’re thinking about suicide, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor.