I horrified someone into understanding one of the darkest stars in my mental illness sky yesterday because she wanted to “…yeah but…” her way through my answer to her question: why would anyone with everything going for them commit suicide?
She came to a group of mentally ill people to ask that question—to a tiny internet conclave of sad souls whose shared clinical depressions, manic episodes, panic attacks, generalized anxieties, schizo-affective everythings, and suicide attempts bind them—because her circle had been hit with it. I invited her there, and I understand why we seemed like the ones to ask.
She wanted the dead—her dead—to speak through us.
I told her all we can do is tell our own stories of the times we tried or the ones who succeeded. The noose, the pills, the friend who jumped. We can describe the OCD-intrusive-thought-slideshow for her of all those pictures our heads throw of us dying (would you like us to get in your head and whisper best not walk near that road lest you throw yourself into traffic?), but we can’t tell you why your cousin’s son—a popular kid with musical talent, just 15—did it. And asking us to tell those stories is asking us to remember nightmares.
And we’re sorry. We are so, so sorry that anyone ever goes through this. That’s not what we want.
She told me about the time she sat with pills considering it.
I wanted to take them all, but then I thought about the pain that would cause my father, and I took one instead and went to sleep.
I know that moment. It’s pivotal and profound, and I’m thankful that snap of awareness exists in our world. It’s an electrical charge of grace that jumps from head to head saving would-be suicides. It pulls them from train tracks and walks them into hospitals and church basements for healing.
But it’s not always like that. Sometimes the one dying is standing outside the action in a dissociative glass cage—no longer in the body, no longer moving the meat, just witnessing it all—watching themselves jump down a hole toward (as the sickness tells them) their inevitable suicide. This is why we say: suicide is a terminal symptom of mental illness.
Do you ever feel like suicide is a spirit that lives outside of you and can swoop in at any moment to inhabit your body and make you do things you don’t want to do?
The no that she gave was real, and so was her understanding. I saw it on her face—in the fall of her countenance for one stunned beat—and heard it in the word’s cadence. No.
What do you do? How do you handle that? The awe of understanding and the wtf?! of concern in her voice. I’m different to her now.
Here’s what I do: I write about it on the internet; I tell on myself to close friends if I think or detect that I’m hanging out in the Too Not Okay Woods; I take a lot of baths. I know through vibe when I meet tribe members, others who get ridden by the suicide spirit, and I hold them in my heart; somehow that helps me.