The first time I ever thought of the word suicide must have been at about 13. That was when most of my life started falling apart. Home had turned into a place where I had to take care of my mother so I was no longer free while I was there. School had turned into a survival match between the bullies and the teachers: both parties seemed to want me to suffer every day.
Nothing was safe, and nothing was sacred any more. I felt more angst and pain than I thought was possible, and saw no way to express it. I tried writing, drawing, music, nothing seemed to help. I felt completely lost and scared and that I was all alone out there. Most of the time, it felt like I was trapped in a foreign planet where everyone else seemed to speak a whole different language than I did. They were all doing normal middle school things, and I was over there in existential crisis, trapped inside my own dark and abusive thoughts.
For weeks I stayed up all night trying to think of a way to fix these problems. I am firm believer that any problem can be fixed with the right strategy. Even in my depression, I felt that way. But I could not find any solution. I was too young to get a job, I was too scared to run away (and I didn’t want to leave my dog).
I finally realized that there was one way out – I could die. If I died, then suddenly I don’t have to go to school and get made fun of, I don’t have to go home and take care of my mother, I don’t have to figure out my life plans any more, I could just stop being a problem to the world. I felt sick the first time I thought of it and pushed it out of my head for a few days. But then, like a tiger hunting in the jungle, the thought pounced back onto me in a moment of weakness. I had a pang of longing in my heart as I realized that my death would take me out of this awful situation. This time it stuck with me for a while. I had heard people say that suicide was ‘selfish’, but I didn’t really understand what that meant (I still don’t to be honest). Living seems to be pretty selfish, why would dying be more so?
I thought a lot about what death meant. I had been a Christian for a while, but never really believed in the whole afterlife thing. I had no concept of what death was like and being such an unknown thing scared me. I tried to imagine what death was like by closing my eyes, holding my breath, and being perfectly still. I imagined doing that until the end of time. It sucked. I didn’t think that was what death was like.
So then, I thought about death being nothing. Death would mean that all that I was would suddenly cease to be and everything that I had learned and thought of, would suddenly disappear. It hurt my brain to think about that. I realized that death also meant that I would lose all of the things I cared about in life, that much I knew was certain. If I died, there would be no more mac and cheese, no more puppies, no more Lord of the Rings and so on.
I realized that I had two options: live or die. Dying contained a lot of unknowns which scared me. Living contained a lot of problems that I didn’t like and couldn’t solve. I really couldn’t decide which one was the better option. That was really my reason for stalling. Not some belief that every life is precious, not some faith-based reason, not a deep seated will to live, not a dramatic savior swooping in to save me. I didn’t kill myself because I couldn’t choose between life and death. One of the few times that indecision and black and white thinking can be a good thing.
I made a pro and con list of living. It seems crass now to distill life down to that level, but it made sense at the time. I wish that I still had that list, but it got lost in a move, along with my Bag of Emotional Baggage. That’s not a joke, I used to keep everything that I cared about and felt emotions for in a bag. I would look through that bag when I felt bad. Losing it was devastating, but that’s a sad story for another day.
I believe my list was something like this:
Pro for Living:
- Sunny days
- Video games
- Mac and Cheese
Con for Living:
- Bullies – they will stop one day
- Taking care of mom – she took care of me when I was younger
- Hating myself – I will learn and be better one day…probably
- Feeling lost – “Not all who wander are lost” – Gandalf the Grey
- Emotions – ???
- Puberty – will end at some point, right??
I remember very clearly writing in solutions for all the things that were on my con list. I had the mental capacity, even then, to see that those things were fixable problems. I think what helped me was to writie the pro list first. I then felt that there were so many things that I enjoyed, that I couldn’t miss out on those.
I decided that the problems from living could or would be fixed with enough time. The uncertainties of dying might be really really bad, or could be great. I don’t like to gamble, so I decided that the best option would be to live.
So I then sat down and thought about how to add more of the things I liked into my life.