CW: Suicide. Please read at your own discretion.
“Are you having suicidal thoughts?”
This is always an awkward question for me, because my answer depends on whether I want to answer the actual question itself or answer the question I know you’re really asking,
“Are you an immediate danger to yourself or others?”
Because most of the time my answer to the latter question is no. Do I require immediate intervention or assistance? No. Do I have plans to harm myself or those around me? No. But am I having suicidal thoughts?
The thing about depression is that it doesn’t just come and go. Like any other chronic illness, it is always with me. And with depression, suicide. As I’m crossing the street? I could jump in front of that bus right now. Cutting vegetables? I could open me up. I know how. Taking my medication every day? I could go – I have enough to do it.
I am always having suicidal thoughts. The sky is blue, the earth is round, and I want to kill myself. It’s almost background noise at this point; I barely notice it. The problem is that if I mention that to anyone else, they do notice it. Boy, do they ever notice it.
Depression isn’t always just misery or apathy or exhaustion. I mean, there’s usually a mix of those three things in there, but in addition to that, depression is lonely. And there are many factors that play into that loneliness, but a huge one is just not being able to talk to people about it.
Sometimes your self-worth drops so low that you worry that if you try to talk to someone about it, they just won’t care. But at least in my experience, it’s been the exact opposite – I worry that they would care. I worry that if I told them, they’d panic. They’d hide the knives and send the neighbours to check on me every second day. They’d call my parents. They’d take me back to the psych ward.
I don’t really need to be committed to the hospital every time my broken brain sends some innocuous morbid thought cruising through my mind. Besides, that would mean committing me about three dozen times a day. Frankly, most hospitals don’t have the time or manpower for that, and it would be scant resources ill-spent.
What I do need, sometimes, is an outlet. A listener. Someone who can just hear me say some of the things that have been on my mind. Truth be told, everyone needs this. It’s just that some days I’ll need them to listen to me complain about some rude person on the subway, and sometimes I’ll need them to listen to me tell them that I kind of considered hurting myself today.
People panic when they hear these things because they care. I know that. The problem is that when they panic, they stop listening. They may sit there and nod at my words, but I can see the gears already turning in their mind as they think about what they need to do. And do you want to know the truth?
Most of the time, I don’t need you to do anything – other than listening. Just listen to me, please. Because mental illness is the kind of illness you simply can’t see unless I tell you it’s there. Even more importantly, sometimes mental illness is confusing in that I can’t see it either.
Mental illness really is all in your head. And I don’t mean that in the sense that it’s not real because it’s all in your head – oh no, it’s very real. I mean that sometimes your malfunctioning brain feeds you faulty lines of thought and flawed coping mechanisms that can make you feel trapped in your own head. It really can make you feel “crazy.” And the only thing worse than feeling crazy is feeling crazy and alone.
There have been times when talking to someone else about my experience with mental illness has been the only thing that made it feel “real” enough to matter. There have been times when talking to someone else has helped me to actually organize my chaotic thoughts and figure out how to cope. And there have been times when talking to someone else about mental illness has turned into a two-way conversation about how each of us experience it – because we do not experience it alone.
The best way I can ask for help in this is just by asking you to listen. Please. Let me know that you’re here, and you care, and I can talk to you if I need to. Because sometimes we can talk about the weather, and other times we can talk about how sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in my everyday life. Your ear can be my lifeline.
… So, am I having suicidal thoughts?
Yes. Thank you for asking.
Looking for your own listener? Your own lifeline? There is help:
Talk to someone close to you or find your nearest suicide support helpline.
About Samantha Hogan
"Hi, my name is Samantha and I have acne and depression." Having spent the majority of her life defining herself by these factors, Samantha is now working to change her own attitude as well as those of the people around her. Although she has been diagnosed with BPD, MDD, and GAD, she does her best not to "suffer" from them. Relaying her experiences with honesty and finding humour in what she can have helped her find balance and connect with like-minded individuals. You can find her on her own blog, Sadness and Skin Problems, to read more from her.