In honor of awareness week, I thought I would spend a little time to write my thoughts about prevention and personal maintenance. To be clear, I don’t know if awareness week is only an American thing. Maybe it is. But I do know that worldwide, someone dies from suicide every 40 seconds. And by the way, I get it. Nobody wants to read about this. Nobody wants to think about this, let alone talk about this or be open about the subject. So, I’ll understand why this thought goes unread. However, as someone who lived with depression throughout my entire life, it is important to me that I go forward.
I think it would be best for me to explain this as it relates to me. I am not speaking for anyone else. The information about me is all mine; however, the material I have used to encourage my self-care is taken from speakers, professionals, mentors and peers. I believe in the mental health community and the people who look to better themselves. I believe in unity but I can say that yes, I believed that I was alone. I can say that yes, my thoughts were prewired towards the impending doom. I always assumed the worst, which meant that I was always reacting to my thoughts that something was wrong or that something catastrophic was about to happen. Real or not, this is what I thought, so therefore, this is what I believed. Hence, this caused a stream of anxiousness and high anxiety—I was always on the edge. I could never relax, or at least, not on my own. (Drugs helped.)
I lived with cognitive distortions that mounted towards fear and rejection. I was stuck in some quasi-emotional paralysis. I couldn’t think clearly. I had irrational predictions of my future. My thinking was shame based in which, for whatever the reason was; I believed there was something defective about me. Plus, there was the idea that I somehow, “Deserved” this.
By the way, anxiety is fear. And fear is a healthy emotion. We use this to survive. In fact, before civilization took place; our fear taught us when to run from predators, when danger was around and how to survive. Unfortunately, the more advanced we become, the harder it is to let go of our fears. Whereas, like an animal in the forest runs when danger is near, eventually the animal finds a safe place and goes back to doing what animals do. On the other hand, there’s us. We relive the traumas. We relive our fears. We hold the unresolved tensions from our past. We fear the return of danger or the violations that came with them. We fear this so much that we live this way—or, better yet, let me say this was me.
I can say that I was always worried about being refused or being rejected. I thought this was me and that although other people have struggles and challenges—I was caught in the cognitive distortions that led me to thinking errors that led me to believe I was alone, unsafe, or uncomfortable at best, and tired, and looking for something that would allow me to rest.
On the cover, I suppose I seemed like someone who was happy. At my surface, I do not have any physical deformities nor do I appear to be someone whose life is in shambles. On the cover, I look good. I have abilities and talents. And yet, inside, I swore there was something wrong with me. It was suggested that I believed this way as a means to protect myself from disappointments. And I get that because the fear of hope was something painfully real to me. I was afraid to hope. Why wouldn’t I be? I was afraid to want. I was afraid to smile because what happens when the smiles go away?
There is something called “Catastrophizing” which by definition, this was me. This is when someone automatically assumes the worst will happen and prepares themselves for the ultimate letdown. This was me. Therefore, I behaved as if I were letdown, even before the letdown became real. This distorts the view of situations, often making things worse than what they are or what they have to be—and I was stuck like this, automatically assuming that everything around me was about to fall apart—that something was always going to be tragically wrong, that rejection was expected and not just inevitable. No matter what, I would fail.
At best, I was in personal danger and unsafe—so, when there was other way to stop the world from moving, —the errors in my thinking began to distort the possibilities of my future. And to me, there was no future. No one loved me—at least, not really. I never saw myself as integral to anything or to anyone. In fact, to the best of my thinking, anyone who cared about me would eventually heal. But for me? There was no way for me to heal. There was no way for me to think better or feel better. Either I find medication strong enough to keep me monotone with no joy or pain, or I find somewhere safe. But where?
With no answer, my only assumption was to leave. . .
In fairness, I wanted to step out of this world. I wanted to disappear and vanish. There would be no memory of me. There would be no more emotion. There would be nothing. Meanwhile, there were people around me who could never understand. They would tell me to stop thinking this way. They would tell me nice things and point out my strengths—but at best, I was too weak to hear them.
It was around this time of year—August, 1991. I woke up on the floor because the noose around my throat slipped. I survived an unthinkable act and defied a preventable death. I do not call myself an expert. I do not say that everyone thinks or feels the same as I do (or did). I only say that I’m still here. And there has to be a reason for that.
To put this as simply as possible; I wanted the anxiety to go away. I wanted the fear to go away. I wanted the pain to subside and the grief to go away. I wanted the world to stop, just for a second. Maybe I could at least catch my breath—but no. the world keeps moving in spite of these requests. And to me, this was cruel.
I thought about the losses in my life. I thought about the death of my Father and how nothing stopped, no one paused, and whether my family experienced a life-shattering event or not—the traffic lights still worked. The television went on and off. Electricity did not stop. Nothing stops. My favorite analogy is I felt like I was losing to my life like water loses to a drain—and after a while, I just wished that finally, fate would do its trick and I could be flushed away.
But that was then. And this is now.
I am an advocate now. I have my good days and bad, but I am working on adjusting my view on a daily basis. I learned to stop myself before my thinking gets out of hand. In fact, when my thoughts get too drastic, I say the world “Stop!” And I say this out loud.
I have to learn to focus on what is and not worry about the “What ifs.”
I had to learn how to practice mindfulness. I had to learn how to surrender and accept and to keep circumstances from blending; I had to learn that situations are only situational—not everything is tragic. It’s okay to hope. It’s okay to open up and look at the world and be eager to live. It’s okay to experience love and feel joy. it’s okay. It really is.
I don’t know why I survived my attempts. (And yes, there was more than one.) I just know that I did survive and because of this. I have a responsibility to share my truths, which is why I am writing this today. This is for the people who lost someone and don’t know why. This is for the person who is lost and they don’t know why. But more, this is for the person who feels alone and yet, they don’t know why.
But you’re not alone.
Don’t be afraid to take the hand that looks to help you.
Trust me, the results are lifesaving.