TRIGGER WARNING – Suicidal Ideations
I’m in the passenger seat of the truck, gazing out the window, as it pops up in my mind. It feels like a craving for ice cream or pizza. Or a daydream about someplace warm when we’re stuck in the middle of winter. But it isn’t those things so I can’t tell him about it. Not today. These thoughts that infiltrate our ride are as natural to me as breathing. But they shouldn’t be. I don’t think they should be there at all.
At first, I think to myself, “I wish I wasn’t here anymore.” And that thought precedes varying scenes of no particular order that play out in my mind until my attention to them is interrupted, back to the place where I should be – in the truck, with him, on this beautiful summer day.
I am sitting in my kitchen, wearing only a white t-shirt and a pair of underwear, loading my 9mm over a bowl of cereal. I see the sun shining through the windows above the sink. They’re cracked open ever so slightly so the fresh air can creep in and the cats can listen for the birds. It is the one and only acceptable reason they are allowed on the kitchen counter. I am in the dark, taking a spoonful of Honeycombs, chewing slowly, savoring their sweet, swallowing their soggy. I dip the spoon back in and watch the combs float around in the almond milk like dusty gold life preservers. I exhale… then I blow a round into my temple.
I’m sitting in the bedroom, cross-legged on the floor, with an amber bottle of pills in the web of my legs, eating out of it by the handful as I would a bag of Skittles, washing it down with the finest of whiskeys because this is a special occasion and I deserve a great tasting liquor. My sight becomes obscured by the puffiness around my eyes, but I can still read the quote emblazoned in black ink on my right thigh through the blur of tears: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Well let me tell you, I am ground the fuck down. I have become my own undoing. I have unraveled my own string. I am the only bastard here. I suspect he will find the cats sleeping next to my body, crumpled up like an old ragdoll.
I’m up on my tippy toes, securing an orange extension cord from one of the exposed beams in my basement. I am thinking of him, smiling and laughing at me from across the room when he catches me stirring the noodles over the stove on the tips of these very same toes. My heels are always off the ground when I’m standing. It’s an unconscious thing I do that I never even noticed, until there was him. He calls attention to it since he thinks it’s the most adorable thing in the world. It makes him smile which makes me smile. I push off the chair. The feeling of choking for air would not be foreign but at least today, the anxiety and panic are absent. The tightness around my throat would be like a welcomed hug. I would shave my legs and paint my toes for the occasion. Mauve – the only color nail polish I own therefore it’s my favorite by default.
I am walking into the woods with nothing but my favorite stuffed animal. After some time, I nestle under a mammoth tree and look up at its branches swaying in the wind, enjoying the rustle of its leaves. How old and wise you are tree. I wonder your age. How many others have sat beneath you and welcomed your shade on a day like today? I am without shoes and in a summer dress – something bright and breezy. After my rest, I move towards the summit. The wind now blows through my hair and the sun is kissing my skin, blazing bright after I break through the canopy. The sky is an ocean in reverse, with only scattered tufts of white to break up the endless blue. The mountains and valleys ripple on for miles as if they were Braille carved for the gods to read, describing the beauty that lies below them here on Earth. The spectacular view makes my heart beat like a war drum and my skin ripple with goosebumps.
I can hear birds chirping in the distance, but there’s one in particular that stands out, the familiar caw of the crow. Aww, my friends, you are here with me, aren’t you? I smile. This is the home I run to when my world and my mind are both collapsing in on me. The woods. It makes sense to be here. I dig my toes into the soft earth before they move for the crest of the crag, the lumps and bumps of rock hugging the tender skin of my underfoot. I breathe in the fresh air. I want to fill my lungs with its purity, untainted here by man-made waste. I stretch my arms out wide. I scream as loud as I can. I am sounding my barbaric yawp for you, Mr. Keating. Oh Captain, my Captain. Though I do not turn around, I can see all that is behind me. But the only thing I long for is the feeling of freedom that’s in front of me. I step off. What I leave behind is a small stuffed black bear on the edge of the precipice to let him know, he was loved, even still.
The images are jarred by the sound of his voice. I can hear him singing softly alongside the radio, “My… my… hey… hey… rock and roll is here to stay…” His voice transports me back into the truck. I look over at him, sitting there in the driver’s seat, looking out at the road ahead. I watch him glance over and smile as he reaches to grab my hand. I squeeze his and smile in return. Man… I could lost in that smile, those eyes – an epic sea of green. The thoughts dissipate. I start to sing along too. “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away, my… my… hey… hey…”
Here’s the funny part: I am happy today. I was happy the day before, and the day before that, and I will be happy tomorrow. It is only now, at 33 years old, that I feel my life has truly begun. I don’t want to die. Not really. Not after all the shit I’ve been through that has led me here, to this day, to this life. Most days, I’m terrified of the thought of death because I am looking forward to the future. I want more time. I feel like I am finally living – not just surviving, not just existing. And most days, I am embracing life with my whole heart and yet, I still think these things. Not always to this degree, but here they are just the same, showing up unexpected, unwanted.
It pisses me the fuck off.
What right do I have to feel these things when this is my life? When I have the most imperfectly perfect love with my best friend? When I have a great career? Awesome friends? When I am in good health? When I am no longer living paycheck to paycheck or bouncing from place to place or living under the dysfunctional, abusive ghost of my mother? When months can go by now without thoughts of my rape lingering in the periphery? That night, constantly drawing my focus away as if it were a thickly woven spider’s web suspended in front of my eyes or a mosquito relentlessly buzzing in my ear.
I have to ask then, what in the actual fuck is wrong with me?
This is where I tell you about the infinite sadness. It is what I have come to call it. It lives on despite everything around me. It has taken up permanent residence inside of me for a lot of reasons I can understand and others that I really don’t and probably never will. It plants weeds with deep roots that have no cause. There are days, or weeks, or months I think I’ve plucked them all away for good, but they always come back, unlike some of my perennials, which pisses me off even more.
The infinite sadness is one that seeps into your bones and blood like a systemic infection. It takes hold and consumes – a plague on your human house. It aches with a dull chronicity that couples with interludes of intense pain as if it were a decayed tooth you ignored for far too long – sensitive to the cold, sensitive to the heat, sensitive to the hard, but also to the sweet. All you can handle is the soft, which makes you feel like a fucking baby, weak and vulnerable. Even with the soft, it still throbs, a small reminder that it’s not going anywhere. There isn’t a doctor in the world with a cure. Because it’s not a tooth to pull or a skin tag to burn off or even a limb to amputate. It burrows a hole in an inoperable space that no one can touch, not even you.
If sadness were a force of nature, it would be fog, rolling in as silent as the inside of a casket, coating all that’s in your line of sight with low lying clouds and mist that are thicker than a chocolate milkshake. You get the same kind of feeling you would if you were lost in the middle of nowhere in a foreign place with nothing but the clothes on your back – denial, frustration, panic, hopelessness, resignation – in that particular order.
It was a “Come to Jesus” moment for me, if I believed in God… realizing that I might be living with depression and anxiety of the permanent variety. The kind that remains even when your life is together. The one skeleton that never leaves your closet. The one piece of laundry that no matter how many times you wash it, it never comes clean. How you haven’t seen it in quite some time, but just as your sitting down to a home cooked meal with the one you love, it shows up at your door like a Jehovah’s Witness peddling its religion – interrupting.
I realized there is not a damn thing I, or someone else, can do to eradicate the sadness despite how happy I am – most of the time. That I might carry this with me until I die. And when I die, I might be dying partially or wholly in its grip – the seemingly endless discomfort of a smothering wet blanket.
It is only then, that I will have my reprieve, that I might find some relief. Maybe it’s not so much daydreaming about dying, but more of a longing for the end of feeling, the end of thinking, the end of doing.
The end of misplaced, unwanted irrational thoughts, the end of over analyzing, the end of second guessing, the end of obsessing over fictional scenarios that don’t exist, the end of wishing I wasn’t this way, the end of feeling this ridiculous madness for no fucking reason, the end of saying things out of character because of it, the end of feeling like I never do enough, the end of feeling like I will never be enough, the end of my disappointment from thinking it would all just go away the more my life improved and the happier I became, the end of waiting for the ball to drop because sometimes this life doesn’t feel real and the rug will soon be pulled from underneath me and I’ll go back to drowning in a huge pile of shit because true happiness was always a foreign concept to me, the end of brawling an invisible enemy inside my mind that never waves the white flag of surrender as life goes on around me with my outer shell looking completely normal.
There is no mystical cure, even when we are taking the best care of ourselves that we can. And if you aren’t familiar with battling this beast, it might be hard to relate to or to understand. It’s why I’m telling you about it.
It could show up because of something or because of nothing. It isn’t circumstantial nor is it discriminatory. It has many forms, of varying degrees, not always as severe as daydreaming about the end of your life. Sometimes it is the color red and it manifests into anger. Or sometimes it’s blinding white panic, there and gone in a few minutes.
However it comes, it tricks itself into your mind like Houdini and stays there until it leaves again. It might only be a few fleeting moments, sometimes just a day, maybe a week, and if it’s really feeling like a vindictive bitch, it could take up residence for a month or more, illegally squatting on your private mental property.
I am aware it is there as it is a part of me, and has been for some time. I can’t recall exactly when it first attached itself. I am the host and it is the parasite. It is an ongoing struggle to exterminate this invader of happiness with no one around me knowing unless I open my mouth to talk about the things that none of us really ever want to say out loud because people might think we’re insane. “Hey babe, let me tell you about the ways I thought about dying today out of nowhere.” Yep. Sounds insane.
But this is the real shit. Truth. Life. Mine. Yours. You might love someone who has felt this before or this someone might be you. It isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and glitter and unicorns and social media posts about how fucking great our lives are, our kids are, our spouses are, our jobs, our travels, our social lives. Or maybe… life really is that great and all those things are as awesome as we say they are, but we keep the dark parts of ourselves hidden from everyone else. You show off a shiny new car, right? Not an old rust bucket.
No one wants to hear about how sometimes our minds are mud and grit and our thoughts go against the grain, or our minds are green and pink or brown and black and our feelings clash with our reality. Do they?
Sadness is a boulder flung into still water. We shouldn’t rock the boat. Depression is a thunderstorm. We can’t rain on someone’s happiness parade. Out of sight, out of mind. But out of who’s mind exactly?
I know these are the things we aren’t really supposed to talk about unless they’re behind the closed doors of a therapy session in private. The things that make people upset or angry or confused or afraid. The things that make people look at you differently perhaps. But I have always valued the truth, and in truth, lives transparency and vulnerability. There also lies this brutality that is often dark and disturbing and intense and yes, often times sad. But what is needed, what is necessary, is compassion and empathy. A willingness to become aware, to understand, to help.
Depression and anxiety are monsters. But they aren’t supposed to stay hiding under the bed. It’s time to turn on the light. Because we should be fighting them together. Because this isn’t make-believe. It’s real. And if it’s real, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And it’s about fucking time we know that.