“I don’t want to be alive, but I don’t want to end my life.”
A dear friend of mine published a post on her blog last night that I feel needs to be read by many people. She bravely opened up about her personal struggles and took the leap to share her innermost feelings with the world because she knows there is a poor stigma surrounding the topic of suicidal ideation. Her words are raw and courageous and so, so needed in today’s climate. There really isn’t much more I need to say… I could add no more substance to her beautiful words.
Also, please be aware this is a very sensitive topic and this is your trigger warning; please proceed when you’re ready.
With recent events this week, both nationally and personally, this has been on my mind a lot. Trigger warnings ahead as this is a very sensitive topic, but I am sick of the repercussions of it not being discussed.
My experience with suicide is, unfortunately, like many others my age. For every year I was in high school, there was at least one student within the local school systems who committed suicide or attempted. There was a moment of silence over the PA system in the morning, and counseling offered to students who needed it. Chatter during lunches from those closest to the person about what happened and then, eventually, silence.
Diving deeper, one of these was a student I had been in touch with on and off throughout the years. As I’ve said, for years I have stuffed down my feelings and I am just now acknowledging the repercussions of doing so. At one point before this student committed suicide, we were having a casual conversation in which they acknowledged they were having a hard time. I said I understood that, and when they asked me the best way to handle it, I told them that I numbed myself to the pain until I could ignore it. It was not the right answer at all, and I know that now. At the time, I didn’t have any other solution to offer because it was the only solution I was functioning off of, though I was not functioning well. A little less than a year later, I logged on to Facebook to learn they had committed suicide. I’ve only ever told two people this.
Throughout middle school and high school, one of my closest friends suffered from depression and anxiety. As a result, they had more than one suicide attempt. Because we didn’t attend the same school district, I would often hear about the attempts and institutionalization from their mom or friends over text out of the blue. I sometimes had to relay information about the latest happenings in their life to their mom late at night because they felt so left out of their child’s life due to the mental trauma they were dealing with. I always struggled with sharing information like that. At 14 years old, it is very difficult to understand mental health, and at the time it was not something that I had much knowledge on. I wanted to serve as a confidant to my friend, but I also wanted to help their mom to understand the situation as best as possible. Apart from this, all I was doing was praying for my friend and her family. I believe prayer is a powerful thing, but that more can be done.
My sophomore year of high school, I was at my grandpa’s visitation when I checked my phone for the first time that afternoon. It was a text from my friend’s mom saying that my friend had swallowed multiple pills and was in the hospital due to another attempt. I remember sitting on a bench in the hall way. There were no tears this time. I was merely an etch-a-sketch shaken up with all thought collapsed. When my dad asked me what was wrong, I told him. He responded back by saying, “I know this is hard. Keep praying for her, but also know that one day they might be successful with it.” The thought tore me apart. I knew that my dad was not wishing for that to happen by any means, but more so speaking in terms of reality. I know I nodded, because it was a thought I had reminded myself every time they were unsuccessful, but what I wanted in that moment was to have a conversation that neither of us knew the script for.
My most recent experience happened later that year during world history. Instead of learning about Martin Luther and his 95 theses, I kept glancing at the words on my screen from my friend. They told me they had plans to attempt suicide that night. I felt my pulse in my thumbs as they hovered over the phone. My stomach now housed my beating heart, and it echoed the thumping rhythm of anxiety as I tried to maneuver a solution. In that moment, I contemplated so many outcomes: They’re just worked up, they don’t mean it. They’ll get home and change their mind. What if their mom comes home, and finds them — again. What if it really works this time. My teacher broke my thought process, and divided us into groups to do our homework. With that I asked him to come into the hall, and rambled off what was happening through tears and a stuttering voice. As a result, I spent the afternoon in the guidance office talking to a counselor and calling my friend’s school to pull her out of class and send her home.
The days following resulted in a lot of emotions. Teachers and guidance counselors told me if I needed anything to let them know. I was overwhelmed by the thought of talking about it more than I had already. When I did talk to my friend next, I kept apologizing to them for telling someone because I felt guilty for it. I felt like I was making the decision for them to stay alive, when what I wanted was for them to want that for themselves.
Because these events and exposures to suicide all happened in a very short time frame, I never fully talked about them and as such they ended up stuffed down with my other feelings. For every time I hear about a suicide on the news, I thank God my one friend made it out alive after multiple attempts. But for all of those thoughts, there are equally as many moments I feel incredible guilt for the classmate I didn’t help, the one that reached out for help and in return heard the advice to ignore pain that I now understand couldn’t be ignored.
While I don’t believe it would change the overall situations, I do believe that had there been strides to discuss and normalize mental health conversations, I could have acted sooner in a more productive way in those situations. The point of this outlet is to discuss mental health, and more specifically mine. I have felt a tremendous weight lifted when I’ve heard others’ stories because they echo that I am not alone. For what it’s worth, here is my, “you are not alone” in the suicide conversation.
I have never checked yes on a suicide survey. This does not represent my truth. I am the type of person who doesn’t believe they could go through with harming themselves. However, I have let myself sit for days, sometimes even week long periods, in very unhealthy states of not wanting to be alive. I have sobbed and hyperventilated into blankets and pillows from morning to night. I have done it over the years and recently. However, recently, the thought transitioned.
I started to think to myself that if I were to die by a natural cause, I wouldn’t be disappointed because of the quality of my life at the moment. For some reason, this thought manifested into the idea of a car crash, which is usually caused more by fate and coincidences of circumstances than intention. For at least a week, I had the thought that if I got into a car accident and lived, I would know I am meant to be here still. It sat in the back of my mind as something that would give a clear answer, but something that likely wouldn’t happen.
For those of you that follow me on Facebook, you know I did get into a car accident. A week ago, my friend and I went out and as the night went on our plans changed. We originally weren’t going to go out for St. Paddy’s but because we’ve both been to very few parties in college, we decided to just for the entitlement to say we went. Originally only one of us was going to drink, but we both had a drink, so we Ubered home. Our first Uber cancelled on us, and we had a longer than usual wait for the second one. I got into the Uber and for the first time according to my memory, didn’t think to buckle because I was busy talking to the driver. Two minutes later I looked down at my seat belt and realized that. I reached over to put it on, and before I could, we were rear ended while stationary in traffic by a car that came in fast. I bounced forward and my head knocked back into the seat.
This was my first car crash, and my response was to get my friend and I back home and deal with my feelings about it later. It wasn’t until the next day that I started to question the timing of it. I believe that there are no coincidences in the way things happen. All of the plans that changed that night that led us to that specific Uber at that specific moment were not all just a coincidence. Regardless of your beliefs in God, good vibes, the Universe, what have you, something was proving to me I am meant to be alive right now.
In the days following the accident, I didn’t reference this to anyone. I didn’t want people to assume I was suicidal, I didn’t want to concern others. The reason for this is that suicide has always been such a black and white issue when it’s talked about. If you check yes to having suicidal thoughts, in my experience at least, you are treated as though you’ve attempted suicide already. There has never in my experience been a grey area where I would feel okay saying, “I don’t want to be alive, but I don’t want to end my life.” In my case, these thoughts exist every so often. I know for others, they are more frequent than that. In my case, I cry for a while and drag my feet into the next day. For others, they call a hotline.
This week, I decided to open up to my counselor and a few friends about this experience and these thoughts about the grey area. When they asked why I didn’t say something sooner, I explained that what I was saying felt like it should be kept hushed. They all reassured me that at one point or another, they’ve found themselves in the grey area too. My counselor even told me she used to take crying breaks during school for an hour, wash her face and continue on, because she wasn’t suicidal, but she wasn’t okay either.
It’s my belief that the grey area should still be identified as just as important, but separate from needing to be institutionalized for suicidal actions. Since this car accident, and since opening up in the last months whether it be in posts, or in conversations, I really do believe my mental health is improving, however, I am still in the grey area. There are days where I really do wish that I wasn’t here, because it is an exhausting thing to feel so vulnerable and open with others. It’s even more exhausting, because there are still plenty of people, myself included more times than not, who don’t know how to talk about these things. Everyone is stuck trying to say the right thing that they forget to say something. As someone who can see how many people are viewing their WordPress, the number of people who never say anything back is discouraging when you’re opening up this much.
I know this has been very long, and for those of you who stuck through, thank you. This is me doing my best to say something with what I know. Nationally, suicides are currently being linked to mass shootings. I understand that every case is different, and each is individually just as important in the conversation about mental health. I understand that there is unfortunately no way to prevent them from happening. But, I do strongly believing that it is okay to not be okay. And I know I want to live in a world where it doesn’t feel so wrong to admit that. I certainly don’t want to continue forward stuffing things down and encouraging it, which is why I shared all of this. For some of you, this may be a lot. Please understand the weight you feel reading this has been on my shoulders for a very long time, and I am sharing because in my moments where I feel alone, I would want to see something like this.
If you feel comfortable reaching out, and just want to say that you’ve felt in the grey area before, or do now, then please reach out. If this helped you, I’d be relieved to know because it took a lot to share it. Lastly, I still genuinely believe that there isn’t anything wrong with simply needing to hear that people care about you and are happy you are alive. It’s not so much a compliment as it is reassurance that your presence is acknowledged, and it works wonders in a difficult moment. So if you’ve read this far, and you’re happy I’m alive and pulling through, or you’re rooting for me, please let me know so I can thank you and see how much I have going for myself. You have no idea how much it means.
Written by Mikhayla Dunaj on March 27, 2019. Find the original post here.
I know from talks with the author that this topic truly has been weighing on her. So if you found a source of solace in her words, please reach out to her. I have been in a position similar to Mikhayla — I have never wanted to hurt myself, but have considered what it would mean to no longer be alive — and knowing others were or had been in the same thought-space as me made a world of difference. You do not have to go through anything alone.
Life is a complicated, trying mess, but we are in it together, friends.
(I love you, Mikhayla. Thank you for sharing this message and being vulnerable. You may never know how you have changed someone’s world with your words.)
On average, there are more than 128 suicides per day in the United States, attempted by people with and without known mental health conditions. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to find support during your time of crisis or be provided useful resources. Your call is ALWAYS free and confidential.