Trigger warning: Extensive discussion of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
Things have been looking up for me as of late, but in the last week, things took a turn for the worst. I had been under a lot of pressure from exams and end of semester stresses, but I got through them all with almost no breakdown, something unheard of for me, well at least for the last year or so. Everything seemed to have sorted itself out, or so I thought. I finished exams and had a chance to relax, and suddenly I was hit by days of depressive thoughts and low moods. And somewhere in the mix, I started being hit with suicidal thoughts. Destructive, negative, and persistent, these thoughts tried to convince me that things were never going to get better, that people were lying when they said there was a light, that there was a hope. They tried to convince me that I would be better off gone.
And these thoughts scared me.
They scared me more than I wanted to admit. And yet I didn’t tell a soul. Because I felt like acknowledging them pushed me past a point of no return. I was ashamed of them. Guilty for them. Frightened of them. And this shame, guilt and fear just fuelled more of them.
They consumed my mind, to the point that it was all I could think of and I didn’t know why. I had to use all the strength I had to make myself keep going, to not swerve as I was walking home, to keep living another day, just one more day.
I was so scared that I went to the extent of writing it all down. And it was the writing it down that saved me. What had been intended as a sort of suicide note became my saving grace.
I was scared that one of the impulsive thoughts I was having would take me over and I would not return home the next evening. I was scared that I would not get to say goodbye to the ones I loved. And so I started writing one evening. Writing a note to all my loved ones to explain.
Once I started writing, I found I couldn’t stop. So many words were coming out. And in my attempt to pull my thoughts together, a sense of clarity came out of it. It became clear that this outcome was not what I wanted. But in those moments, I wasn’t sure how to avoid it, because the darkness had built a home inside my mind and didn’t want to leave.
The words of the Twenty One Pilots song “Lovely” come to mind when I try to explain how I felt going through this.
“You say things with your mouth/ Cobwebs and flies come out/ I hear a second voice behind your tongue somehow/ Luckily I can read your mind/ Flies and cobwebs unwind”
In my mind, it often feels as if I have two sides of myself. The side I call the “logical” and the side I call the “emotional”. Basically, the logical refers to when my rational, clear-thinking side is in control, the one that uses common sense and thinks through its actions, the side that can see everything in perspective. The emotional, on the other hand, is often clouded and impulsive. It is the side of me that rushes into things, and when it comes to anxiety and depression, its judgement is severely impaired.
In the song, it explains it beautifully. When the emotional brain is in charge, things come out of my mouth, and crowd my brain, but those words are “cobwebs and flies”; they are lies. The logical brain is the one that sits behind it, speaking the truths, such as you are loved and you are treasured and there is still so much left in this world to enjoy.
What I wrote in case I lost the fight really speaks to this, and I want to transcribe a section of it, because I feel it best expresses that which I cannot always find the words to express:
(Please note that it talks from the perspective that I had already lost and does not express my feelings in this moment).
“I am trying my hardest not to prevent hurting you because that is the last thing I ever wanted. I am fighting a battle everyday against self-implosion. I am fighting so hard and it’s exhausting. I am trying to do the right thing because I don’t want to hurt anyone, but if I did the wrong thing in a moment of weakness and surrender, I am sorry. …Often when I go to dark places, I can’t see you all. I can’t see my loved ones… Don’t blame yourself, please… We become good at hiding things, even from ourselves. I didn’t tell you what I was going through, because I didn’t even know how to tell myself. I didn’t tell you because I was ashamed of who I was at my darkest. I was afraid of myself and so I didn’t show her to you. I didn’t ask for help because my emotional brain told me I was a burden and that I would be unnecessarily interfering in other people’s lives and I know that you will tell me that I was wrong to think that, that you love me… and my logical brain knows that, she really does… but emotional me lies… I know that I am loved. Thank you for the love you have shown me because it made me fight harder… You kept me going”.
While I was writing my letter, I realised this. As I brought to mind, all the loved ones I would leave behind, I realised that there were so many reasons to stay. And that I had to keep fighting.
I was fighting so hard. And yet I felt like I was losing.
Again, the words of “Lovely” expressed exactly what I needed:
“Dear friend, here we are again pretending/ To understand how you think your world is ending/ Sending signals and red flags in waves/ It’s hard to tell the difference between blood and water these days… I’ll pray that one day you see/ The only difference between life and dying/ Is one is trying, that’s all we’re gonna do/ So try to love me and I’ll try to save you”
The line “the only difference between life and dying is one is trying” really hit me the first time I heard it and it still resonates with me every time.
Life is about trying. It’s about fighting. And even though we sometimes can’t see the end in sight, and it hurts, and is hard, we have to at least try, because giving up is not an option when life is on the line. This is where friends and loved ones come in. In the song, it expresses how there are others around the person to pull them up and give them reasons to stay, “to make you believe that you are lovely”.
Know that whatever you are going through, there are people around you who love you, there are people around who want to show you that you are lovely. Take this from someone who has been there, quite recently. Don’t listen to the lies that your mind tells you. You are beautiful and strong and incredible. And I will be telling myself this too.
The chorus of “Lovely” seemed fitting to end on: “Won’t you stay alive/ I’ll take you on a ride/ I will make you believe you are lovely”.
Look after yourselves, this week, my friends, and don’t let the negative thoughts take you down. You are strong. Don’t be gone.