Trigger warnings: suicide
How are you? Chances are if you’ve come to this post, not that great. Here’s a cup of tea, a warm blanket and a hug. If you stay like that for any length of time, Link will prance on over and sit in your lap and give you some top-tier quality snugs.
To be honest, I’m not that great, either. These last days I’ve been overly self-critical. I’m in an abusive relationship with myself, and have been for some time: telling myself I’m unworthy of love and attention, that I’m deserving of terrible things which have happened to me, that I’m evil and never going to improve or get better. I’ll never be enough. The berating is endless and inescapable.
What’s more, I’m a person who hides my pain for fear of hurting others, and sometimes, for fear of rejection, dismissal and belittlement. A lot of the time when we share that we’re struggling, we’re met with “People have it worse, so chin up!” or “but you don’t look depressed” or countless suggestions / unsolicited advice that will magically fix us. I want to do a couple other posts expanding on this topic, including toxic positivity and community exclusion, but today, I really want to focus on the effects of all of that. With the stigma associated with mental illness, self-harm and suicide, we’re left feeling ashamed an isolated, unable to reach out or ask for help. And when we’re stuck in a place of utter loneliness and hopelessness, ending that constant pain seems like the only option.
I make a lot of references to “The Hard Time” in my life. In reality, there were lots of hard times, or maybe my life is just one big hard time. But there’s a specific time that I come back to with these posts: 2014-2016.
Towards the end of this time, I became severely suicidal. As I’ve mentioned before, I was under a lot of stress. What I haven’t mentioned is that I was extremely apathetic. I stopped caring about things that I knew I cared about: things like my writing, going back to the UK, graduating… all of those things didn’t seem to matter, and not necessarily in an angst-y way, either. The best way I can think of describing it is an intense indifference towards myself and others. I was numb and I was shocked at how this emptiness could feel so damn heavy.
At this time, I was seeing two counselors and a psychiatric nurse practitioner: one who had been with me since 2015 and two who had been with me since my mother passed away in the beginning of 2016. But even with all the resources: all the crisis / safety plans and grounding techniques and breathing exercises, I still struggled against unbearable suffering. I still was disappointed when I woke up each day, still wouldn’t get out of the way if a truck came while I was crossing the street. In April, it all became to much. At 2:00AM on a Tuesday I made the decision that I was going to end my life and so I went home and got things ready: I wrote my note/will and I prepped my tools.
Three hours before I intended to kill myself, I got a call from my friend saying she found me a cat. If you’ve read OtaKitties, or the story of how Zelda and Link came into my life, you know the rest. You know she saved me. Something you might not know is that I didn’t stop wanting to kill myself; I didn’t stop being suicidal.
So what did change?
After a particularly bad day, I decided I was done. I got out all the pills and things that I had stock piled and it was like I was having an out of body experience. When I was getting the last bottle of ibuprofen out from my desk drawer, I glanced down and saw Zelda’s food bowl.
Ah, I thought, remembering both of my flatmates were out of town that weekend. If I’m gone, no one will feed her.
That was it:
I didn’t kill myself because no one would be around to feed the cat.
Years later, I still have trouble telling people my cat saved my life and why I will always have a cat or dog living with me. Even with Link, who is a service cat, I face a lot of social stigma and shunning. He has to stay with me in my room to help intervene when there’s a crisis or a severe flashback or anxiety attack, but my housemates have taken to calling him a prisoner.
Eventually, I got so frustrated: “He has a job,” I said.
“And what’s that?” they replied.
“Keeping me alive.”
I then faced a tirade of lectures on how that’s my job, how I can’t look after another if I can’t take care of myself, blah blah blah. None of this helped me. In fact, it did the opposite of helping me: it made life harder.
These past two months, I’ve thought about my death a lot. And in truth I still think about it. About two weeks ago I was driving back from the dentist, and I thought: nothing is keeping me from driving into that concrete wall. And I saw it: the wreck, the flames, my dead body, my funeral, my family and friends grieving and eventually moving on, and to me it seemed like the best way for me to go.
To be honest, these thoughts scared me. So now, whenever I am driving somewhere by myself, I put Link in the car with me because there’s no way in hell I’m going to crash my car with my cat inside. And that’s it.
Yeah, we’ve got to put on our own face mask before helping someone else or whatever. But what if the only reason we have to put on our face mask is to help that someone. Living for others isn’t a bad thing if it’s what gets you through a crisis, from point A to point B. Because, frankly, it’s a lot of pressure to have a life and live it for yourself. How many of us feel undeserving?
And maybe six months ago or so, I was also struggling too. Fighting this battle that I cannot win, but live to keep fighting and somehow that becomes meaningful. I was thinking about how hopeless everything seemed, now that my life had again failed to stick to its plan.
You wanna know what went through my mind?
what about Haikyuu!! Season 4?
Or Food Wars Season 4?
or Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Season 2?
I didn’t kill myself because I wanted to see the next season of an anime.
There have been so many times in my life where I’ve been struggling and when I tell people, they try to inspire me to live: “There are so many things you’ve not yet seen” and “your mom would want you to stay alive” and “think of all the children who would give anything at the opportunity to live that you have” and “think about all of the poems you haven’t written”. They say this is as if I haven’t already deeply considered these things, or as if I’ve forgotten them.
And while that’s great and all, it doesn’t make me want to live; it makes me not want to tell them that I’m struggling. It takes that deep shame that I’ve been feeling internally, and it confirms it. I feel so guilty with wanting to die and feeling hopeless. It propagates my isolation.
This is all a very long winded way of saying:
sometimes it’s not the big things that keep us here.
It’s okay if your reason for existence is something mundane or soft or dull, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about that thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s not flashy or if it’s uncool. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks its weird or that you’re gonna turn into a crazy cat lady. What matters is you’re not doing any harm to yourself, others, or your environment and it helps you. Your needs matter. Your experiences matter. And what matters is that it exists, and you exist. In spite of all the shit that presses down on you, you’re still here because of this thing, and because you made that choice.
And that’s a pretty badass thing, and you’re a pretty badass person. And I’m proud of you.
This one took some time to write, and I’m not sure if it even turned out how I wanted.
But it’s here, and I hope it helps someone.
Take care of yourselves, lovelies.
“I put Link in the car with me because there’s no way in hell I’m going to crash my car with my cat inside. ”
“I didn’t kill myself because I wanted to see the next season of an anime.”
This is just my observation, so please take it with a grain or two of salt.
People who haven’t suffered honest to goodness, clinical depression have no idea what it’s like. With good intentions, they behave just as you described (and endured). Piling on guilt like you described in your post just makes it worse. Much, much worse. You can’t reason your way out. The darkness is always there — _right_ there — and it constantly beckons.
There are only two things you can do. The first is get professional help, which you’ve done. That often helps, but not always.
The second is to find something — anything — that works. And clutch it tight.
It sounds like you found two things that work. That’s wonderful!
And what’s more, you’ve shared it with others, so now someone may come across this, feeling guilty that they have a pet or some other coping skills that others have ridiculed. And they’ll see it’s more than all right.
Hang in there. The next anime season looks like it has some winners in it, too!