Before we begin, I have to issue a trigger warning. Suicidal ideation and Self harm are mentioned in this post and I want to urge you to consider your own health before continuing.
The other day a friend from one of my online support forums posted this picture. It describes something that I have been feeling for a long time, but have struggled to find a way to explain it to my friends and family. Below is the blog post I’ve written to try and explain it. I was going to put a few less depressive posts between the last one and this one, but since I’m not ready to share outside the safe support communities yet, I might as well post now. One of the only other places I’ve found this best described is Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, so please forgive the multiple quotes from her book/ the movie.
I thought about cutting my wrists three times before I had made my morning first coffee. By my second it was up to ten times. This is a normal day for me. No I’m not an attention seeking 16 year old. Nor am I in a hospital. I don’t even have a single cut on my body. I am nearly 30 and I have compulsive suicidal thoughts.
I don’t actually want to die. I tried once before I was 20. I did the whole self-harm thing, but I know it wouldn’t achieve anything. I’ve seen the pain left by friends and family suicides. During happier periods of my life I had no thoughts at all about self-harm. So its alarming to find the thoughts back, and stronger than ever.
On bad days I spend the day at my partners work. Being in a different environment and with him helps mute the thoughts a bit. As a way of letting him know when I was having a suicidal flash without saying words that invoke violence and panic, I told him my brain was being stupid.
“What’s wrong?” he asks.
“Oh I just have stupid brain.” I reply and we both know what it means. While I was with him I told him about three occurrences of ‘stupid brain. “Again?” he exclaims. I’d only mentioned every third or fourth occurrence.
It’s not actually a conscious process. I can be doing something routine, mundane and normal like driving my car. Then image flashes into my mind, like a glimpse into an alternate reality, a premonition. And I shake my head and its gone. On better days the thoughts don’t bother me much. I shake it off and move on. On bad days I lie in bed, painfully aware of where every blade in the house is, terrified that today would be the day I give in to the compulsions. I once read that mental illness is like holding a glass of water. The glass isn’t heavy, it’s easy to hold at first. But the longer you hold it the more tired your arm gets and the glass feels heavier. Eventually the weight of the glass is too much for your tired arm and you must either put it down, or drop it. A year ago when the thoughts started it was easy to push them aside, keep them to the back of my mind and not let them get to me. They were temporary and when life picked up they would go away again. But now, now I pray each day that today is not the day I break. The visions more violent, more detailed.
But have you tried to explain to someone that you have thoughts about cutting your wrists 10 times a day at least? They’ll lock you up. Put you in hospital or call you 20 times a day to ensure you are safe. Or they get angry.
“What will hurting yourself achieve?”
“Suicide is selfish!”
My therapist asks if my meds need upping.
So I maintain my mask of normality. As I walk in the supermarket I don’t let on that I can almost feel the blood dripping off my fingers. I drive my car pretending I am not anxious that I might veer it into a tree accidentally on purpose. The effort of keeping these thoughts just thoughts is exhausting. It’s a constant battle with your own brain, battle lines are drawn depression and anxiety vs rationality and reality.
In desperation one day I googled “I can’t control thoughts about suicide” and found a lot about Obsessive compulsive disorder. I don’t have OCD, but I understand now lots of my anxiety symptoms are common with some OCD symptoms. I don’t need to do things to know I haven’t hurt myself, I do sometimes make rules, count or like things just right. My brain bargains with itself, daring itself to complete the final act. Susanna Kaysen, who was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder describes it best here.
I have no conclusion to this post, because it is not something I have solved, a puzzle finished packed up and put back into its box. This past week has been a glimpse of hope with the thoughts slightly less intense. I don’t know if the process of writing has helped or if my brains chemicals have slightly corrected themselves. Whatever it is, a brief respite from the thoughts makes me certain I can hang on to that glass of water a little bit longer.
Please, if you need help call one of the lifelines below or talk to someone you trust.