We’re the best liars to ourselves: we can convince ourselves that everything will be okay and, maybe at the same time, that we’re stuck on a one-way road to a dead-end.
Earlier this year, on August 19th, I sat on a barstool in my apartment with a towel wrapped around my waist and another draped over my shoulders. Water from my hair dripping down my face and hands trembling, I slowly uncapped the handle of rum and bottle of sleeping pills that I had set down in front of me. As I cried silently into my worn t-shirt, I felt the overwhelming weight of the world crashing down on me once again: the disappointment, the fear and helplessness, the feelings of worthlessness, the feeling of losing everything, all of it an insurmountable tsunami that had inevitably hit me again and again before.
In the week leading up to my attempt, I had been texting and calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, but the talking had only helped address the surface level issues of my heightened anxiety and suicidal ideation. It didn’t help deal with the problems violently churning underneath, like a boiling pot of pasta — you can take the lid off every time it boils over, but it will only settle down for a short while before erupting again.
In a final, desperate cry for help, I called my roommate after I started drinking. With the fumes of alcohol still on my breath, I told him that I was about to commit suicide and that if he went to the authorities or anyone else, I would go through with it immediately. For every 30 seconds that had passed, I flipped a coin. Heads, I would take another drink; tails, I would swallow another pill. This continued for some time before he barged through the door and put everything out of arm’s reach.
I have never wanted to die as the only option — death, to stop existing, is a concept that scares me more than anything. I have wanted to seek relief from the emotional anguish and feelings of “this will never get better” that roam through my mind constantly. I have wanted to seek relief from the racing thoughts, the constant on-edge feeling, and unstoppable worry. But, through the years of talking, journaling, counseling, self-harm, alcohol, anxiety medication, antidepressants, therapy, meditation, prayers, vacations, talking to friends, smoking, writing, sleeping through it all, exercise, driving to get away, trying to cope, I felt my knees finally buckle and give way. “I’ve had enough.” It seemed, in that moment, that there was nothing left for me to do.
And whatever anyone told me, no matter how many times they said, “it will get better”, I patiently sat there on the park bench with my legs swinging, waiting for the better to come. As I waited, I just saw a dark fog slowly encompass everything and everyone around me, inching closer to me until I could no longer see my own hand in front of my face. It’s a terrifying feeling, being isolated in a cold, unforgiving world that is your own mind.
I once heard the phrase:
I don’t want to kill myself. I just want to kill the part of myself that wants to kill myself.
Death is not relief from mental illness or the struggles of life, it’s nothing. Trying to seek salvation through death is like trying to get rid of a computer virus by throwing the computer away. As the days begin to get shorter and getting out of bed in the mornings grows increasingly difficult more often, remembering that there’s more to life than suffering and worry is difficult. Depression is ever-present, tugging at your pant leg all of the time; even during your greatest times, it’ll remind you of the worst. Anxiety is ever-present, floating around in your mind; even during the most serene of times, it’ll remind you that there are always things to worry about.
One theory of positive psychology suggests that positive emotion and negative emotions are on separate tracks. Our current society puts emphasis on redeeming your bad qualities, covering up the stains and blotches of your life instead of bolstering the good things. However, by focusing the good affects of your life and strengthening what you’re good at, your life satisfaction and well-being will improve. I highly recommend visiting Authentic Happiness, which has a wide variety of different questionnaires that can tell you the positive things about yourself, such as your character strengths, and provide insights into how satisfied you are with your life.
You don’t always have to make everybody around you happy or have the approval for the things you do. The things you do don’t always have to be perfect. There’s always time to fix things, especially if you’re only 19 years old. There are other ways of doing things, life is not just a matter of blacks and whites, there are compromises and middle-grounds. I can’t speak for everyone, but whether you have it worse or better than me, just know that there’s more to life than what you experience in your own mind. There are a countless number of resources around you, it’s just a matter of knowing which one is right for the situation.
If you take anything away from reading this overly-long personal narrative, it’s just that the majority of life is pretty good, and will continue to be pretty good. I’ve definitely come a long way, and there’s still so much to go. The worst parts of life make the better parts just a little better; the worst parts of life make you just a little stronger. I just think that I’m scared of bracing for the storm alone, yet again.