“Katie, I don’t want you to kill yourself.”
My friend called me earlier this week and wanted to hear herself how I was doing. She knows I am knee deep in depression and I am transitioning to new medication. She wanted me to know that she is here for me whether it be 2 pm or 2 am. She needed reassurance from me that I was surviving and getting through.
No one has ever said this to me before. So blunt. So real. So raw. But I know people think it. It is pretty common knowledge that someone who has depression is at a higher risk for suicide. Mental illness goes hand in hand with suicide. Usually self harm and addictive life styles are too.
I am very hesitant to even write about suicide and suicidal thoughts. It is personal and different for every single person. I never assume what I feel and experience is how everyone who suffers from this disease feels too. I know our journeys and struggles are unique and individual. Not all depressed people are suicidal. Yet some depressed people are suicidal.
I have high-functioning depression. Most people see a woman that shows up to work on time everyday, socializes with ease, smiles and laughs, takes joy in activities. I shower daily. My hair and makeup are done. My house is clean. Bills paid. Children whose mother plays and holds them. If I didn’t tell anyone that I have depression, they would never know. Everything on the outside portrays a healthy person.
Inside is a totally different story.
I will never kill myself. I know this. However, mental illness twists and turns logical thoughts into illogical. I have never attempted or even been close to attempting suicide. I tried self-harm in college. Not again since that long ago day.
Passive suicidal ideation. Yes it even has a name. Thoughts about the ending one’s life but no active plan. For me, its driving down the road and thinking…I wonder what would happen if I just hit that pole. For me, laying in the pain and thinking…I wonder what would happen if I just stopped breathing. If this all would just stop. What would happen? The thoughts come and go so quickly in my mind that sometimes I don’t even pause. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to even think these thoughts. I do believe these abnormal thoughts are brought on by the disease. However, I know that this is depression talking. Doing the thinking for me.
Active suicidal ideation is having these thoughts and putting a plan to it. Taking real steps. Everything that is stated in the previous paragraph but with more pause. More action. More everything. But this one is fatal.
Both are real. Both are terrifying. Both can happen to individuals with mental illness. Both need to be talked about and discussed. Both demand understanding and education. Please remember, this is MY story. No one else’s. I do not take any of this lightly. I was discussing it with my therapist today. She has seen me at my best and worst with depression. It never occurred to her once that I would the latter. I am not in danger of harming myself or anyone else. Please understand this.
I would never end my life but I could easily destroy it with other harmful activities. There has been a time or two where I have used alcohol to numb the empty pain. Addictive patterns and habits could quickly consume my life. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Unhealthy attention. Shopping. Things which give instant satisfaction. Pushing the depression away for a minute or two. I will admit that I would be more prone to let these actions overcome me. I have done some of them. More than once.
I understand why it is so hard to talk about mental illness. It’s complex. It’s scary. It’s sensitive. It’s complicated. It’s unique. I worry about sharing this with you because I worry that my illness will be applied to someone else’s illness and a negative outcome will occur. I worry people will look at me a little differently, treat me differently. Yet, I have to share because I know there are so many people in this world struggling and wondering if the irrational thoughts in their mind is just theirs alone. Their burden. Their guilt. Their shame. No one would understand. Friends and family may think them crazy and ungrateful for this life.
My friend was very brave that day. (Well she is everyday) She voiced what no one else could. She worries about me. She cares about me. Just as I know your friends and family care for you. I told her the truth and she believes me. Maybe she doesn’t understand fully but she believes me. She may ask me again too.
This is my reality. Your reality may be totally different. But we are not alone. We both struggle with these dark demons. And help is available. People want to help. Let them.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255
The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
Text: “HOME” to 741-741