Reflections on Suicide awareness month
TW: Suicide and Depression
September is suicide awareness month, as my Instagram page told me in a series of colorful infographics on everyone's stories. Once October starts, are we all going to stop talking about it again? Are we even talking about it now?
For a lot more people than you would expect, suicide isn't something you can only be aware of for a month. I know everyone posting means well, but as someone who has struggled with suicidality for 4 years now, it's hard not to feel a little cynical about it sometimes.
The suicide we see portrayed in the media is so often romanticized. It is black-and-white pictures of beautiful girls with tears running down their cheeks, quotes about the meaningless of life— or TV shows about a girl using her suicide to make the people who hurt her realize their mistakes.
Suicide is shown as a drama, a one-off event with a beginning, middle, and end. Of course, everyone's experience is different, but that dramatization is not reality for many. And since it is Suicide Awareness month, it is so important to understand the reality. The best way I can think of to help is to tell my experience, as candidly as possible.
I've always thought of myself as a rational person. I think with my head, not my heart. I make lists, I wake up early, I hand in my work on time. My friends always came to me for advice, knowing I would be able to tell them the most sensible course of action. I was stable and I was reliable. But when I was 16, I was diagnosed with depression and began having suicidal thoughts— possibly the most irrational things in the world.
It drives me crazy.
My suicidal thoughts are intrusive. Sometimes they are triggered by something small,whether it be a daily situation or a friend’s remark, that hits me at just the right pressure point to make the thoughts so loud that I can’t do anything to ignore them. But sometimes they come out of the blue, with no warning and often no cause at all. These are so much worse. I sit in my bed or in my car, paralyzed with sadness or anger, but with no knowledge of what is making me feel like this— and no knowledge of how to fix it. It feels like driving a car with a tiny crack in the windshield; at any moment, that crack could shatter the glass into a million pieces.
Suicidality follows me through every moment of my life, weighing down my bad days and intruding on my good ones. When it starts, it feels like a glass wall has been put up between me and the rest of the world; no matter what I do, I can’t reach out and touch someone or even tell them what I’m feeling. I’m alone in there with the voice in my head that wants so badly for me to do something I know I would regret. I've trained to fight it off with therapists, medications, and countless self-help books that my mom gets me for Christmas every year. If you ever see me totally zoned out looking around the room, I'm probably naming one thing I can see, one I can smell, one I can touch, and one I can hear (my go-to exercise to keep myself from spiraling that my therapist taught me- shoutout Debbie) to try to ground myself before I get too deep into the pit. Trying to fight off my own brain is exhausting, and sometimes I lose the battle. Sometimes I end up holed up in my room, trying so hard to keep myself here. Sometimes I have to leave the party because something in me has decided I don't get to be happy today. Sometimes I have to take an entire day off just to remember how to breathe. Sometimes it all feels so dark I forget that I've ever been happy before.
As you can probably tell, September isn't anything different for me when it comes to suicide awareness. I promise, I am aware. I forget that everyone else isn't aware too.
But I am happy they are trying. I am so grateful for my friends who have sat down with me and listened to my outlook, not making judgments or pitying me, even though they don't necessarily understand suicidality. I am so grateful for the times they have dropped plans for a night out to come sit with me and just talk until I'm distracted from my brain, the times they have shown up at my door and not let me say they couldn't come in, the time they slid a note under my door telling me they missed me, and the times they have just sent me a text saying they are thinking of me. These things are so simple and seem so small, but I'm tearing up writing this.
It means far more than you could ever know.
If you are struggling with anything, whether it be suicidality, depression, anxiety, or loss, I know it feels like forever. And for some, like myself, it very well may be something that you will face your whole life. But that doesn't mean there aren't pockets of light that make the darkness worth it.
There will be best friends, and found family, and concerts, and good food, and the season finale to that one show you've been binging all year. There will be things that carry you through the hard times— so hold onto them tighter than anything else. And for those who know their friends are struggling, be that life jacket for them in any way that you can. They need it more than anything right now, and any small thing you do could be the reason they don't let their head fall below the water.
So happy suicide awareness month-- but don’t just be “aware” of it. Be ready to confront it, head on, from whatever side you can. Be there for your friends. Stay here for your friends. Show your love and know that you are loved-- and don’t let it end on the last day of September.