This is NOT a suicide letter, but it could have been. This day didn’t end as I thought it would when it began, and thankfully neither did my life. I understand more so now, than ever, why survivors of their suicide attempts often say that once they found themselves in the throws of their actions, they felt deep regret and a need to “reset”, the reset they so longed for. When you lay it all out in front of you and find yourself conflicted on issues of existentialism, and the idea of your own life, it is truly a beacon if you find clarity in stepping back from the edge. Now, this is seemingly conclusive, so I should start at the beginning.
I have spent the last decade of my life unhappy, and for reasons I could never explain. I have a loving family, a bustling circle of friends, and keep myself quite occupied with my education, employment, and an overall enjoyment of life to the best of my ability. This is eclipsed only by the fact that every aspect of my life felt empty, which is only something I can recognize in my twenties – not at age eleven or twelve. This was the age where I began to notice that I felt an inner war between life and death, or whether or not my life had meaning or not. Hollow exchanges followed in my life in every area, whether friends or family, such that I held up a façade for far too long without talking about what was going on.
This is why, at twenty-two, I feel untethered from most people in my life, and why I wanted to end my life, today.
I have to sideline for a moment and note that I will not go into the details of my personal life. While this is a reflective letter with a purpose, it would be unfair to blindside those in my life who cannot necessarily grasp how they contributed to this, or to make them feel as though they did contribute when they did not. A lot of what I feel is chemical, which is a difficult concept for those who have grown alongside me and wonder what it is that “they did wrong”; you didn’t. However, this is a toxic thought process, and does not help the person suffering in front of you. An effort of understanding, sympathizing, and movement in a positive direction is all that someone in my position asks.
I can remember the first time that I was in deep conversation with a very close friend of mine, at around the same age of twelve. This was a period when alike to myself, many of my friends at the time were going through a difficult period in their lives, all of us I suppose in a pursuit of finding belonging. The difference was that they acted out in this struggle, whereas I was clueless. I had no idea what was going on in my mind, and all of those around me shrugged it off as teen angst. I immersed myself in the issues of my friends and never took a moment to take care of myself. My friend told me “you are amazing for taking care of everyone else, but sometimes you need to take care of yourself. The longer you let things pile up, the worse it will be when this all blows up in your face…”. At that age, I also chalked it up to nothing. Repressing your emotions was a normal thing to do, and there was nothing wrong with me. Right. Fast forward through years of repression, heartache, suicidal ideation, and more internal wars with myself. Again, it’s just teen angst, right?
Depression and mental health disorders in general were hardly discussed even when I was growing up, but especially not in the generations previous to us. The stigma attached to mental health was far too raw and barbed to ever talk about. What kind of judgement would you face if your child had DEPRESSION! God forbid you tell a doctor about it, or they’ll never find employment! The best thing to do was to keep it to yourself and move on.
“You’ll get over it. It’s a phase.”
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I have always assumed that we originated the term “phase” from the moon phases. By this I mean that we define a phase as a period of time in which something occurs, and if we go off of one of the longest recognized phases in our greater society, that would be the phases of the moon. A moon phase lasts about a month, which is also how we created months, and the Earth revolves around the sun once a year, which is also a phase. So, whether or not you want to look at the moon, or any of the planets, as an indicator of what a phase is, I can still tell you that none of these periods are eleven years. As such, I can conclusively determine for you as well that my mental health issues are NOT A PHASE. This paragraph was brought to you by my stifled voice.
I kept it to myself until I was nineteen. At this time, I walked into the office of my doctor (of nineteen years), retrospectively exhibiting anxious twitches of my panic disorder and cheerfully showcasing the latest style of sunken eyes, rapid weight gain, and nails bitten down to their ends. When I explained that I thought I was suffering with anxiety, insomnia, and fluctuating episodes of “moodiness”, my doctor reassured me that he had known me for nearly two decades and had known my parents even longer, so there was no way I could have depression OR anxiety! Wow problem fixed thanks doc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It took several of these visits for him to roll his eyes at me, and administer an evaluation for a psychologist to see me. I was wasting his time, apparently, with my existence. After seeing my appointed psychologist just a few weeks later (I really love our medical system), I was diagnosed with panic disorder accompanied by agoraphobia and clinical depression. So began my journey on multiple medications, therapies, “just do some yoga and you’ll be fine”, diets to stabilize mood: you name it. This was ~flawlessly~ complemented by, and still is, extremely long periods of sleep, overeating, secluding myself from others, making plans and bailing on them… the list goes on, it really does.
But no one was talking to me about it.
They spoke to me about my behaviour, but always found excuses as to why, none of which turned to the idea of mental health. I’m “lazy” or voluntarily disinterested. The way I am is “all of my own choosing”. I can take you now to today. Again, I have a loving family, a bright circle of friends, a wonderful boyfriend, I am in my final semester of university, and I love my job so the future is bright, right? So why did I want to take my life today? Well. I have spent the past few years in a cycle of insomnia, one which has literally been laughed at by people around me. “You don’t have insomnia, hahaha”. This has been recently challenged by a lack of appetite, a down-spiraling mood, none of which go happily hand-in-hand with one another. I am a walking warning sign, with a flashing “help me” slapped on my back.
No one said a word.
I have made several outcries, in the only ways I know how when I can’t quite formulate what I want to say in the respective states I find myself in. It took my best friend and a complete stranger to ask me if I was okay. I don’t mean:
Whomever: Are you okay?
W: Oh good I thought something was wrong!
I don’t mean that, at all, and I don’t mean:
W: I don’t know what’s going on with you lately, but treating everyone like shit isn’t going to help whatever it is.
W: I’ll just give you some space. Maybe treating you like you treat everyone else will help you understand what I’M going through as your friend.
What I mean is, my best friend refused to take “I’m fine” for an answer. She refused to note that me being up at 10 PM, 4 AM, and 9 AM was a normal cycle, regardless of my excuses. She checked in with me at every point of the day, for the past eleven years, until I broke. I told her today that I needed help. A stranger on a forum refused to let me break contact, until I could assure her that I would make it through the night, and insisted on checking in with me on a regular basis. A stranger. Not anyone else that calls themselves a “best friend” to me. A. Stranger. I can happily call these two my friends, and cannot express my gratitude for their angelic existence. But in a reflection of my state, I cannot help but be incensed, for others going through something similar.
This is not a slandering letter. I am not here to make people feel bad, or to point out that they have been bad people. I am not here for attention, or to get messages of “I wish I had known…” and the like. If anything, I hope that this is explanatory, and can explain my behaviour at any point that you have known me. As well, I hope that perhaps someone in shoes similar to my own can feel less alone, and recognize the opportunity to reach out.
My point here is that mental illnesses may seem silent in nature, but we are screaming. While it may seem that I can function normally on a day-to-day basis, I am clawing my way out of my own mind more than half the time. All someone that is suffering asks is that those close to them listen, and care with genuine effort. Do not dismiss their feelings, behaviours, and outcries as invalid. Do not make them feel more alone than they already do, because you don’t have the coping skills to deal with them. Learn the coping skills. The prevalence rates of mental illness are rapidly climbing, and if you don’t take the time to learn, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, those around you, and anyone struggling. The chance that you will get through life without encountering someone like myself is essentially impossible. Mental illness affects everyone, and if you consider everything going on in the world today this isn’t surprising in the least. Today, I understand the rate to be about 20% of our population. One in five. Will you wake up when it’s three in five? Four?
Today, I did not take my life because while I am battling myself, I can see my future with help. HW, you are the real MVP my darling, and I love you so much for what you have done for me. You are always there to talk me off of my ever-tempting ledge, and I am so appreciative of you. I am grateful for all of those who have been with me at any point of my struggle, but especially the very few of you that still do today. I will be okay, I am confident in this, even if it isn’t tomorrow or the next day. If anyone reading this is feeling the same, I hope that you are too. I can only hope that after reading this, you will all change something in your life in this moment exactly, that will help someone around you. If you notice that someone needs to talk, they probably do. If you think that someone needs a hug, give them one. Please remember that sometimes silence is saying so much more than you can immediately interpret.
Love those that love you, and do so with all of your being. I can wholeheartedly say that it’s all they ask.
For more information on mental health, tools to cope, or to help someone in need:
http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ — PLEASE REMEMBER JAN 25TH IS BELL LETS TALK DAY!
firstname.lastname@example.org or you can reach out to me, too 🙂
Thank you for listening.