I rolled over in bed and opened my eyes for the fourth time since this morning.
The afternoon sun peeked in through the blinds I had closed yesterday to shut all traces of light out.
I checked my phone. It was 4:17 p.m.
Out of the last 48 hours, I had slept for 37 of them.
I instantly wished I could go back to sleep and never wake up.
The thing about suicidal thoughts is they have many entrances:
Sometimes, they creep in slowly, until you wake up one morning and haven’t showered or done dishes in eight days and your dog is eating tortillas for breakfast because you’re too dysfunctional to leave the house to get dog food.
This is when you realize you can’t take care of yourself (or your dog) and that things would be so much easier if you were dead.
Other times, you wake up at 4:17 p.m. on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend just simply wishing you hadn’t. And just that thought alone is all you need to realize you’re in the hole again.
I laid in bed a little longer, shifting onto my back and staring at the at least six pounds of black dust gathered on top of the ceiling fan blades.
This, of course, made me feel worse. How dare I be alive when I can’t even keep my ceiling fan clean?
I got up, pulled on some sweatpants covered in dog hair that my husky had been sleeping on, and went into the kitchen to get a glass of water.
Sitting on the couch with my water and the weight of the world on my shoulders, I breathed. Deep.
I’d been here before.
I’d been in this shitty, shitty place before and stayed at this shitty, shitty hotel before.
I knew what this trip looked and felt like.
The aching sense that no one would care if you disappeared, or that their lives would even be easier (or—gasp—better) without you.
The empty feeling that you’re completely and utterly and epically alone, in both the literal and figurative sense.
The dark lens of depression that makes your job, house, car, decisions, thoughts, past, present, and future all look like radical failures.
The thought that the only way to end the pain is to end your life—and the fact that this becomes the next logical-looking step.
I recognized it all.
But there was also something different about it this time—something less intrusive and scary, something more familiar and gentle, as if I had opened my front door to a child standing soaking wet in a rainstorm looking up at me with sad eyes, their wet hair glued to their face, silently asking for a place to stay.
The things that were different this time created a completely new experience, one I hadn’t had before:
I knew suicidal thoughts wouldn’t kill me this time. In the past, it felt like someone else was driving the car. I felt impulsive, reckless. Unable to trust myself. This time, it felt as if I was in the driver’s seat. I had control over my actions and plans, and I could rally against my brain’s bad ideas.
I had coping tools to manage suicidal thoughts and painful emotions. I’d spent the last 11 months in trauma therapy, and learned to manage my emotions in a way I never had before. I could sit with pain and, as uncomfortable as it was, I could now tolerate it. This was a new development in my life, and one that bled over into managing suicidal thoughts. I could also sit with them and the discomfort they brought without acting upon them.
I could make better decisions now. I knew enough about the things that make suicidal thoughts worse and the things that make suicidal thoughts better to get my ass out of bed and into a shower. To feed myself reasonable meals, even if they were ordered in, rather than bingeing on pizza and ranch. To drink water rather than vodka (this was key).
I let it be what it is. I didn’t panic. I didn’t lose my shit. I didn’t even cry. Actually, that’s a lie. I did cry. But mostly, I didn’t resist it. Because I’ve learned that when I fight against myself, I lose. I continued to breathe. I continued to drown myself in eucalyptus oil, which soothes me. I continued to play rain sounds on repeat. I continued to drink tea. And I didn’t fight myself, for the first time in years.
Growth happens when we’re not looking. It happens when we can’t see it, when we’re too busy, when we think we’re standing still.
I wouldn’t have recognized the progress I’ve made if I hadn’t dropped into this Labor Day abyss.
Those of us who live with chronic suicidal thoughts may never fully escape them, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t change, and how we handle and respond to these thoughts doesn’t change.
There is hope that the experience you’ve had in the past doesn’t have to be the one you repeat.