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I feel suicidal

Sometimes I feel genuinely suicidal. At these times I really wish I wasn’t here anymore. I feel like it would be better for everyone. I want desperately to not have to manage my life anymore. I don’t have any energy left and I don’t know how the next day, week or year can be struggled through. It doesn’t feel worth it and it doesn’t feel like there is any chance that it will get easier, because even on ok days I feel like my life is hard to manage.

When I feel like being alive is unbearable, and sometimes I just do, I can see how people get to the point of being suicidal, and I can see how the next steps occur. However…
I can tell you that I have never actually been suicidal. I have come as close as you can I guess but I have never made a plan. I have thought about what would happen after I did it and usually that has been quite enough to pull me back (and on really bad days it nearly isn’t), but I have never made the choice to take action on these feelings and thoughts. On occasion I have truly believed that after a while the people in my life would be better off – you could assure me they wouldn’t but I wouldn’t believe you. But I have never made a plan or taken action. I think my children play a large part in keeping me here.

Disability, not reaction…

Now I know there are literally millions of people experiencing a more difficult life than mine, and many by some extreme margin. I am not an idiot but knowing that doesn’t make it easier. Knowing that I probably don’t have “reasonable tangible cause” to experience these extreme feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness just makes me feel ashamed that I cannot manage even this privileged life that I have been handed. It adds to the crushing weight of belief that I am a failure. Feeling that shame, and knowing my life is objectively good makes no difference.

The thing is that I have different neurology. I am “neurodivergent” and that means that my responses to living in the world are much of the time more extreme than for most other people. My different neurology and trying to manage it in our society had lead to and commonly leads to mental health difficulties like recurrent depression and anxiety. Mental health difficulties do not only occur due to crap circumstances. Sometimes it is based in the way our brain functions. Sure, they can be made worse by difficult moments, trauma, times of stress, rejection, physical illness and many more things, but you can feel this way without an obvious source. Sometimes people have no idea why they feel like this, and I would wager that many of those have an unavoidable difference in neurology. This is not something they can control.

Losing the battle

Two years ago my cousin died of depression. I think about her a lot and the choice that she made. I will never make that same choice, but I have become really irritated by the language that is used around this. I don’t believe that she was selfish or that she cared less about her loved ones feelings than I do. I simply believe that like cancer, some people die from depression and some don’t. She did not commit a crime or give up. She did not want to punish anyone. She did care what happened after her pain stopped. She lost her battle with an evil illness that inherently is more difficult to recover from than any other. She fought, she loved and she lost. And we lost her.

I read her letter. I won’t disclose the content as that is private to family but I will say that when I read it, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of understanding her completely for the first time. She had some shit circumstances around her physical health but it was this coupled with a difference in the way her brain worked that made her struggle so much.

We don’t want to talk about it until it is too late

What I need to say is that seemingly fine people can be depressed. Seemingly fine people can have neurology that means they can switch from actually being fine to feeling suicidal within a day. ​Lots of people feel suicidal often. There are people everywhere wondering nearly every day whether it wouldn’t just be better if they ceased to exist. It feels horrendous and real. When your neurology means that this feeling can come on quite quickly, it feels super embarrassing to switch. The thing is that no one talks about it. Lots of people feel it but no one talks about feeling suicidal. Why? Because no one listens, they react.

I never told my cousin that I often felt this way. She never told me. I wouldn’t have reacted but she did not know this. When we did speak, not long before her death, it was too late. She had made a plan.

Responding rather than reacting

The person who feels suicidal needs someone to hear that they are very very distressed. They need you to really understand that they are struggling to an extreme degree in that moment, even if it doesn’t last long. For me, I need that feeling treated as real and worth attention, not dismissing as silly, or passing, or an “out of proportion reaction”, or worse, as an excuse. The feeing is real and it needs real support. This reaction is one of two possible ways that people react, with an under-reaction. The other reaction that we don’t need or want is for you to react from fear. Many people don’t say how they feel, when it is just a feeling, because they are afraid of inciting some form of panic. If I say to my family that I feel suicidal, that is pretty scary for them.

So what can we do?

We need to talk about feeling suicidal without being suicidal. We need to talk to people who have never felt this way and tell them what we need in those moments, on those days. We need to feel loved, without being pressured into taking action. We need a meaningful, calm and significant response to our need without any guilt, shame, fear or drama.

We need quiet presence.

What could I have done?

If someone takes their own life, the people around are left with if only. They are left with “what could I have said or done more, or differently”.  I know. I have been there too. Maybe I could have helped. Probably not. Not unless we had been able to just talk openly about this, because then it may have been possible for either or both of us to realise that our brains work differently from others, and that might be ok.

One of the problems is that I have also been there for people who have felt suicidal and for those who have been suicidal and not died. They either were not successful in their attempt through intervention or because they designed it to be so. Regardless, the feelings they experienced were extremely serious and needed support. Sometimes limited medical support is given after, however the response that I have seen the most often is judgement. If not the first time then definitely the second. If you recover from mental illness and relapse, the judgement is massive. You are expected to stay “fixed”. For this reason, once you have been supported before the likelihood of speaking up if you are struggling again is low. We, who struggle, all know that most people don’t want to hear it and don’t know how to respond, yet when people die, they want to know what they could have done.

I am tired of pretending to be ok

I am tired.

Right now I have some close friends, and family who actually do know how to respond. They are amazing. They listen no matter how many times. They take it seriously and they don’t freak out unnecessarily. I am beyond lucky. I am so grateful.

In the past I have had wonderful friends, kind and usually compassionate, but who eventually just did not get it. They did not know how to respond time and again to these issues. At first, they stopped listening one time. When I said things to indicate that I was struggling again it was met with silence. After that, I was met with either judgement or irritation. I would hear “I just cannot see that you are trying to manage your issues” or something similar. They believed I needed to try harder. When I did try and understand myself better, any discovery was met with the view that I was trying to excuse my issues. Then they start talking amongst themselves and saying “if she isn’t helping herself, I am not sure what we can really do”. Lately, in view of this I have become quiet. I have been tempted not to say I am struggling even to those friends and family who know how to respond. I am afraid that this might be the time when they are silent. The “oh ok, they have had enough now” moment because I see it. My brain is very good at giving me warning bells.

I get it. Being in my life can be a rollercoaster, for me and for everyone around me. I don’t blame anyone, but it does hurt.

I am tired. Tired of feeling like this. Tired of driving people away. Tired of being judged. Tired of people thinking I make excuses. Tired of being quiet. Tired of being tired.

​Being tired for me leads to feeling hopeless. Feeling hopeless leads to feeling like I don’t know how to manage tomorrow. That is how we get here.

How can we learn how to make it ok to talk about this?
How can we teach people how to respond?

Written by Emily Wilding Fackrell

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