This piece mentions the topics of suicidal ideation and suicide in detail. Please use your discretion.
How do you tell someone you love that you plan to end your life on your 30th birthday?
My story isn’t unique. I’ve heard many people admit that they have had a similar plan to my own. So why couldn’t I say it? Why couldn’t I just spit it out?
“If things don’t change, I am going to kill myself on my 30th birthday.”
I’ve never been shy to share my feelings. At times I have shared too much, but this… This was different—maybe it’s because I was serious. Maybe I really wanted to die this time. Maybe I didn’t want to be talked out of it. Maybe I didn’t want to be committed to the psych ward. Maybe I didn’t want to face the guilt. Maybe I was already dead on the inside and my body was an awful reminder that I wasn’t actually dead at all. Or maybe, I was deeply ashamed.
Suicide is hard to talk about because people react to it unpredictably. I learned that when I was 17 years old when I had cut my parents’ vacation short. They were called home to deal with me because I had hurt myself over a boy who had hurt me physically and emotionally. I thought I wanted to die then but I assure you that I had never wanted to be dead more than when my parents came home that morning.
“WAKE THE FUCK UP!” my dad screamed. His feet pounded the stairs, “I know you didn’t expect a hug this morning!”
I was terrified. My face red and wet. I felt a warm dribble in my pants. I knew I had really messed up by telling someone I was going to kill myself. My parents were furious. They called a family meeting and berated me for being so selfish. I was made to apologize to everyone in the room. The night before I had self-injured just below my abdomen. My dad told me to show my mom. She scoffed and said, “disgusting” in front of my siblings and their significant others. It was humiliating. It was demoralizing.
I was grounded for “ruining” their vacation. I was never taken to a mental health professional. My mother didn’t speak to me for a week. My dad just kept trying to “Tony Robbins” me out of the shame he created—which was equally exhausting and infuriating. I learned then, that you don’t tell people when you have thoughts of suicide.
Fast forward 12 years and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. My industry is crumbling before my eyes. I am frantically applying to every corporate job I can find. I am interviewing only to be told, “We will not be moving forward with you.” I am listening to people say things like, “You have a Master’s degree. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be getting hired.” My relationship is rocky. My almost three-year sobriety is up for grabs. My parents are maliciously divorced. My relationship with my siblings is virtually non-existent. My friendships and connections are dwindling. Life feels impossible to handle.
I don’t remember when exactly I made the plan other than it was after getting rejected from a job for the billionth time. I was alone in my apartment and sobbing uncontrollably. I had lost control of my body and mind. Every cry hung in the air like a ghost trapped between worlds. I embodied hopelessness in that moment. I was trying so hard. I was going to therapy. I was going to my AA meetings. I was practicing daily gratitude. I was putting out applications and updating my resume. I was working hard to accept apologies I knew I would never actually get… but I couldn’t shake the hopelessness. I couldn’t look on the bright side. I couldn’t pretend it was going to be OK anymore. I was broke and shattered.
In that moment, I remembered every single thing in my life that made me feel unworthy and unlovable. I remembered every single bad thing I had ever done and every bad thing that had been done to me. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. To call it “ego death” is insufficient. It’s not an experience I would wish on anyone.
Eventually, the sobbing stopped. The last tear took with it my soul. I was empty. It was then that I made the plan: If things didn’t change, I was going to kill myself on my 30th birthday. I remember feeling proud of myself for adding the caveat. At least I was trying to give myself a chance at survival.
Suicidal thoughts are insidious. They penetrate and infect you to the core. They taint every conversation, thought, feeling, and experience. It’s an indescribable heaviness that almost breaks your own heart. It’s kind of like a monster in the closet. You do your best to keep it locked away from daylight. You keep conversations short and to the point because getting deeper than small talk is dangerous. Intimacy becomes as scary as the very thought of ending your life itself. What people don’t tell you about suicidal ideation, is that it’s like a cancer. The longer you ignore it and don’t treat it—the worse it gets.
It became too much to hold in. I wanted to tell someone about my plan but had become paralyzed with fear. I missed nearly every opportunity to actually tell someone what was going through my head. Anytime a caring friend asked, “But how are you really?” The words would boil up inside of me. They would bubble in my stomach and make their way to my heavy chest and then just stick in my throat. I could not bring myself to say it.
“If things don’t change, I am going to kill myself on my 30th birthday.”
I can attest to the saying, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” This secret made my monster grow in the darkness. The more I kept it to myself the bigger it grew, heavier to hold on to. Daily tasks became difficult. Showing up to my relationship and friendships became a chore. Waking up and putting on clean clothes evolved into my big daily accomplishment. It wasn’t until months later that I finally turned the light on and exposed the monster when I accidentally unveiled my plan to my therapist.
For a while, I had been mulling over a company transition. In breathy increments, I told my therapist about all the jobs I had been rejected from. She asked, “What plans do you have for yourself if things don’t work out?” That’s when I blurted out, “I’m going to kill myself on my 30th birthday.”
The tears steamrolled down the sides of my face and dripped down to my blouse. Despair overcame me. It was the most vulnerable I had ever been. And to my surprise, my therapist didn’t retaliate or berate me. She didn’t send me to the hospital. She didn’t recommend medication. She just listened as I told her how I held onto this plan for a month without telling another soul. I left the appointment feeling lighter than before. The next day, that heaviness that I had come to know so well disappeared. The next week, hope returned. I felt so much better.
Stigmas keep people in cages. They trap them from any viable solution or relief. The stigma surrounding suicidal ideation kept my monster, my plan in the darkness to grow and feed off of fear. Today, I am grateful to know and accept that having these feelings is a normal part of the human experience. I don’t need to feel ashamed for not being OK. More importantly, I now understand how cathartic it is to talk about these feelings so they don’t grow into something unmanageable.
If you are someone who is currently fighting for your life… I hope you don’t give up. I hope that you find the courage to speak your truth no matter how unpleasant it is. I hope you talk about 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.