As someone who lives with major depressive disorder and has been suicidal, I think being suicidal may be like being an alcoholic: because in my experience, once you’re suicidal, you’re always suicidal. While every person is unique and has his or her own way of coping with adversity, I’ve found that at any moment — even when everything in my life seems to be going extremely well — I can easily return to those terrible thoughts and spiral out of control.
I’m like the alcoholic who’s always fighting to resist that urge to drink, but no matter how hard I try to separate myself from the kryptonite, if one tiny droplet manages to reach my tongue, suddenly, I’m sucked right back into that dark place that I’ve so desperately tried to avoid.
But the hardest part of living this way is having to explain my seemingly unsolicited thoughts to the ones I’ve loved the most who never seem to understand.
The biggest trigger for me is another person’s suicide, but not just anyone’s suicide. I’m surprisingly unaffected by celebrity suicides even though they’re overpublicized. It’s actually the ones that tend to get the least publicity that attract me the most, especially when they involve promising teenage girls. Perhaps it’s because I’m saddened by the local response and inaction or perhaps it’s because in those young girls, I tend to see myself.
Growing up, I managed to wear a facade and hide my true thoughts and feelings at all times. My smiles were mistaken for happiness, my laughs mistaken for joy — people never knew that on the inside, I was vulnerable and broken. And so, those suicides — the ones that seem so distant or insignificant to others — are the ones that have the largest impact on my psyche.
And being alone with my own thoughts is also an issue. Car rides, daily showers, the walks to the mailbox provide sufficient time for my mind to wander, and sometimes, it manages to find its way to those places of hopelessness and despair. Change is also the enemy — even when it’s good. A new house or a job promotion brings major discomfort and anxiety with the break from familiarity.
But then there are also the triggers that result from what’s familiar. Seeing strangers reminiscent of former friends is enough to ruin my day. The memories are always the hardest because once my mind recalls a betraying friend or a terrible experience, it’s like I’ve traveled back in time, and suddenly, it’s all real again — the moment, the thoughts, the emotions and the pain. All I want to do is escape from it all.
So if there’s one thing I wish my loved ones knew, it is this: Don’t assume that I am fine just because I tell you so, because even in my most promising and joyful times, I might be crying from within.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org, or text “START” to 741-741 to immediately speak to a trained counselor at Crisis Text Line.