When I “Chose” Suicide

Trigger warning: discussion of suicide, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal ideation.

“It’s like falling into a hole, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger, and you can’t get out. And then all of a sudden, it’s inside, and you’re the hole, and you’re trapped and it’s all over.”

~ Conrad, “Ordinary People”

I remember the first time I watched the film “Ordinary People.” I was a teenager, and I hadn’t the words to express the icy-hot liquid that coursed every day through my veins. All I knew was what I felt:

I want to kill myself. I want to kill myself. I want to kill myself.

When I heard Timothy Hutton’s character speak of falling into an expanding hole that eats away at everything that makes you want to live until there’s nothing left and then You. Are. The. Nothing. Left. … then I realized what I was.

I am suicidal. I want to kill myself.

This was a revelation. Because I didn’t find Suicide. Suicide found me.

I didn’t wake up one day and open the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book of Life, thumb through all the options, and then declare with a smile, “That one! The Battle With A Major Depressive Disorder adventure! I want that one! God that sounds like fun!”

One can theorize about why Suicide chose me. Maybe I inherited the blood of sadness from an ancestor, like a child might catch a plague from a grandparent. Maybe a childhood marked by a speech impediment became an impediment to social integration. Maybe the speech therapist who ripped my innocence from me cast demons into my soul. Maybe it was religion — or the emotional cruelty of other homeschool parents in my life — or this or that girlfriend — or this or that life choice — or the antibiotics I took to get rid of my acne.

Maybe it was everything and yet nothing. Maybe it’s just the chemicals in my head. Maybe I’ll never know.

But I know there’s a cloud that hangs over my head every day — and it’s been there for as long as I can remember. It’s like waking up with cotton balls inside your brain — cotton balls that sprout the sort of monstrous scaly legs that send shivers down your spine as they burrow their way into your mouth and your heart and your blood stream.

I didn’t find Suicide. Suicide found me.

Some people like Matt Walsh say Suicide is a choice. And for some people perhaps it is. For the suicide bomber or the samurai enacting seppuku, or someone avoiding some dreaded fate, it might be a choice to seize Death by the throat for one’s self, rather than to have someone else seize it for you. I don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself and I believe that Depression and Suicide are uniquely personal matters. No Depression looks like; no Suicide is the same. The blood spilt is blood we all share, but the reasons multiply and the answers evade.

But for me, Suicide is not a choice. Suicide is Everyday. It is what I wake to, a thin gaseous taste and sound that echoes throughout my head in the morning…

kill yourself kill yourself kill yourself

It is never not there. Sometimes it’s just a morose soundtrack to everyday activities. It’s hard to describe. It’s like a veil one can see through: you can see through it, but you know it’s there. It’s always there.

Sometimes it is louder:

kill yourself kill yourself kill yourself

I don’t choose for it to be louder. There is no volume setting to Suicide. If there was, I’d put it on mute so I could — just for one day, even just for one hour — know once again what it’s like to experience that thing everyone else calls Happiness.

Sometimes, it just is louder. If you “can’t comprehend it,” you have no right to judge and you have no right to talk about it. Sometimes it is louder and there is nothing I can do about it. I can repeat platitudes and I can read a book and I can chant mantras and I can pray and I can pray harder and I can ask Jesus into my heart over and over and nothing works. I try to ignore it and I try to squeeze my head as hard as I can with my hands and I try to beat it out of my body with my hands but it remains — mocking me, louder and louder, becoming a chorus of voices ringing inside my brain…

kill yourself kill yourself kill yourself

Sometimes I lose the fight.

It’s happened more than once. With that jug of vodka. With the ocean. With those bottles of pills.

Some might say my suicide attempts were choices. But if you knew what it’s like to live every second of every hour of every day saying, “NO, I WILL live, I will NOT give in” — screaming it as loudly as you can to yourself so that you find it somewhat believable — you would know that sometimes it’s not a choice. It’s the farthest thing from a choice. It is the swimmer who has tread water for 48 hours straight, hoping for someone to rescue him, but no one has showed up and finally his legs and arms just can’t work any longer. He would choose to keep going if he could. But he can’t.

want to kill myself.

But I will say NO every second of every hour of every day to the best of my ability. I will to live because there is so much beauty in life, there are so many wonderful people who care, there is so much work to be done to make the world a more just and loving place. I will not give in.

But I get exhausted. And sometimes all the will I have is Just. Not. Enough.

If you, like Robin Williams did, fight this same battle against Suicide, against the daily soul-crushing force that is Depression, please know you are not alone. Please know there is help. Please know that I know that me saying those things might mean jackshit to you. Because I too have heard them a thousand times and people say those Hallmark card words like they are magic — like you can exclaim Accio Happiness! and then stare Suicide in the face like it’s a Dementor and flip it off.

No, I know better. But I also know that sometimes, when the voices are quieter, it helps to be reminded: You are not alone. There is help. You are worth it. Please don’t give up.

I also know that, if you — like me — have one of those days we fear the most, one of those days where you just can’t fight it any longer, I want to fight for you with every little fire I have left. But I don’t think you’re selfish. I don’t think you’re a coward. I don’t think you’re a sinner. I think that you are a fighter to have made it this far. People who aren’t like us don’t know just how unselfish the act of simply staying alive can be — and how much bravery it takes for us to do it.

So to everyone who’s fighting daily to stay alive: I celebrate you.  You are champions.

And I hope you keep fighting. I’ll keep fighting, too.