This piece is part of our Mental Health Month blog series, where we highlight and explore eight different mental health struggles. Here’s Ashley’s experience with and perspective on suicidal thoughts and ideation.
It can be oh, so easy to fall into the darkness during these uncertain times. When the news gets worse every day. When the questions lead to more questions, rather than answers. When the realization hits that there’s no going back to normal after this—it’ll be a new normal. When the future looks blurrier than usual.
High-functioning people often say that if you don’t learn a new skill or get a new side hustle or write a masterpiece or build a new kitchen with all this extra time, that it’s not lack of time that’s the problem. You are the problem. You don’t have the drive.
That’s not true. We are not living in a time with excess time. We are living in a time of uncertainty and fear and anxiety.
For me, the uncertainty is the worst part. I’ve found myself tumbling into the bad thoughts. The “we’re all gonna die anyway, so why bother [fill in the blank]?” thoughts. Writing this very piece took weeks of thought and staring at a blank screen.
I’m no stranger to suicidal ideation. I hate calling it that, because it sounds so much more intense than what I feel, which is a passive wish to no longer exist. But that’s what it is. And the feeling is even stronger and more frequent now, when I don’t know what the world is going to look like on the other side of this pandemic.
Reminder: We are not living in a normal time. It is okay to not be okay. But do try to stamp out the darkness and “why bother” thoughts. The more room you allow those thoughts to hold, the bigger, louder, more true they feel.
Replace them with new, light thoughts, and then those new thoughts can get bigger, louder, and more true.
Living through a pandemic is unsettling and even terrifying—there’s no doubt about that. But there is beauty. There is light.
When I take my daily stroll around the neighborhood, nearly every person I pass says hello and makes small talk from a safe distance. Brief eye contact and a polite smile used to be the extent of these interactions.
People have been making and giving away face masks to keep others safe. Some have been grocery shopping for their elderly or at-risk neighbors.
And beyond that, just think of the things we’ll love with fresh eyes when the pandemic has cleared and we are allowed to safely live our lives again.
Eating delicious food at restaurants with people we love. Dancing with strangers at concerts. Browsing our favorite bookstores. Lounging around with our friends, all on the same couch. Enjoying a stroll through a grocery store, daydreaming about recipes. Reading with a clear mind. Hugging your loved ones again.
Look for the light. It’s the only constant in this uncertain time. Acknowledge the dark thoughts as they arise, and then offer reasons for why you should keep going.