Disclaimer: I am doing very well. I have a regular therapist and am taking anti-depressants. I have not had a serious depressive episode since January. I just want to share this side of my life in order to make it easier for other people going through similar situations and feeling alone.
I am fine.
You are not alone.
Content Warning: Suicide and self-harm
These are topics I think about a lot, and especially upon moving to California. At every station there are signs that read “Suicide is Not the Route” with a hotline provided. Other than laughing morbidly at the pun, I hadn’t given these signs too much thought, or I thought I hadn’t, but they stuck in my mind my like the proverbial bad penny.
I had a conversation with a driver recently that really brought things to a head. We were talking about BART, the often delayed public transit system of the Bay Area, and the driver said, “Yeah, my girlfriend’s train got delayed the other day for like an hour because someone killed themselves on the track.”
“Wow,” I said. “Do you know where that happened?”
“No,” he said, “just somewhere. How selfish, though, right? To inconvenience so many people.”
“That probably wasn’t on their mind at the time,” I said.
I am a suicide survivor. I attempted suicide twice, once my junior year of high school and once my sophomore year of college. Since then I have suicidal thoughts frequently, especially in times of heightened stress.
I would like to say, to ward off worries, that I am currently seeing a therapist and on a regimen of anti-depressants. I do not need worry, but I would like to open a discussion.
Suicide is a terrifying thing, often because people who have the most knowledge about what it’s like are no longer with us. We only ever get outsider views of what it is.
Suicide is not glamorous. Suicide is not artistic. Suicide is not needy. From my experience, suicide is my brain running into a corner. The world narrows until there is only a single option. All other possibilities are undermined by suicidal logic. Relationships seem worthless, meaning becomes impossible, and even day -to-day actions resemble climbing Mount Everest without oxygen.
But what is hardest for me now isn’t even the suicidal thoughts themselves, it’s people’s attitudes towards suicide and self-harm, the silence and stigma that surrounds these issues.
I am not a bad person because I attempted suicide. I am not a bad person for talking about it. I am not alone in being a suicide survivor.
Time for another online confession: I have also participated in self-harm.
In my first few years of college, I would scratch myself from time to time, usually on the stomach where I knew no one would see any residual red marks. In later years, I started to cut myself, on the wrists, the upper arm, chest, and stomach. I never cut very deeply, but for a long time I had to wear long-sleeve shirts, sweating in the summer heat, to keep from frightening people. (Positive update: I haven’t cut myself since January.)
It isn’t considered “natural” to self-harm. Humans evolved to fear and avoid harm, self-harm feels therefore counter-intuitive and strange.
Most people think of cutting as a form of attention-seeking. In high school when the whole “emo” aesthetic appeared, self-harm was widely described as needy, dramatic, selfish, creepy. One person I told about my self-harm described it as “masturbatory”. One ex-friend told me I was “just doing it to get attention” and that it was “stupid”.
But self-harm is also a coping mechanism. For me, cutting has never been a serious attempt at ending my life. For me, it is about releasing stress. It is terrifying to feel trapped in your mind, running through the same evil thoughts again and again. It helps, temporarily, to focus on a physical external pain.
I’m not trying to excuse what I do. I know that hurting myself is in fact, hurting myself, as well as the people who care about me and want me to be healthy. As I mentioned earlier, I am also on anti-depressants and in weekly therapy to help me live with my depression.
But I am tired of people making sweeping statements about self-harm and suicide when they have no firsthand knowledge. Being on the front-line with a mental health issue is fighting for your life every single day. And sometimes you get fucking exhausted. And sometimes you engage in self-harm. And sometimes you just need to get through it however you can.
I don’t want to be quiet about this. I’m not looking for pity. I’m not doing this to get attention. I’m doing this because the silence is overwhelming.
To my fellow people in the trenches, you’re not alone. You’re not a bad person because you have mental health problems. You’re not a bad person if you self-harm, and know that wherever you are, however you are feeling, I am on your side.