to be honest (and this might sound weird, but hear me through), sometimes, i wonder where i fall on this suicide thing. i firmly believe in holding on, in sticking around, in staying alive, but i also just wrote an entire book (of fiction) that occurs in a world in which an organization exists to provide the suicidal the death they desire.
(it sounds bleaker than it actually is.)
(or maybe i just think that because i wrote it and i’m trying to get an agent who will hopefully sell it so it’ll be published by a house with a team that loves my book as much as i do.)
part of the reason i wrote it is that i was comforted by it, by this idea of a place that could painlessly provide the deliverance some of us seek so badly sometimes — and maybe that sounds terrifying to others, the idea that people want to die, but i don’t know — i guess i see no point being afraid of things and situations that are often the reality for some. it doesn’t stop being true just because it makes people uncomfortable.
i’m not going to patronize anyone by saying that suicide is a bad, permanent solution to temporary problems because i find that so horribly reductive and cushioned in its own privilege — like, what if you were young with the weight of the world on your shoulders or if you were trans and stuck in a body that didn’t align with who you are in a world that despised you and treated you with horrific violence or if you were queer and trying to be out and open but beaten down, physically, mentally, and emotionally, for it?
what if you were alone and lonely and backed into a corner in a shitty situation? what if you were disappointed by life constantly, afraid that this is it, nothing truly changes, and you’ll always be stuck, a good-for-nothing, a loser? what if you failed at something so spectacularly; what if you lost your faith; what if, what if, what if?
what if you know that suicide is a bad, permanent solution to temporary problems, but the thing is that they’re not some tiny, little, one-off problems but things that have been building and building and building so everything put together is so overwhelming that your desire for the pain and hurt and damage to end outweighs the fact that maybe you don’t really want to die, per se, you just want all this shit to be over and dying seems to be the only rational way to find some peace?
what if you were hurting so bad, you were that desperate?
none of this is to imply that you need to have some kind of reason to be depressed and suicidal, that, if you haven’t endured some kind of trauma or catastrophe, you’re just being stupid and immature and selfish. i don’t mean that at all, and i don’t believe it even a little. mental health isn’t about circumstance, even if circumstance might be the explosion that sets things into motion and throws your brain into that initial spiral that keeps going and going and going. i mean, given that everyone reacts to the same (or similar) set of circumstances differently, it’s not fair to set that kind of thing as causality and say that, if this something bad happens, then it makes sense to be depressed and suicidal — and, conversely, that, if this something bad doesn’t happen, it doesn’t make sense at all. it doesn’t work that way.
besides, i believe it’s impossible to talk effectively about suicide and depression and mental health without talking about the real human lives that carry its weight. i also tend to believe that causality is pretty convenient bullshit to disregard the fact that real, physical, human lives are at stake. it’s easier to try to distill the depressed, suicidal human into a problem to be solved, not expanded into a human being to be seen.
it’s important to locate the things that “trigger” us, though, not so we can hang the status of our mental health on them and painstakingly avoid every single situation in which we might inadvertently be triggered but so we can learn how to work through those episodes and diffuse them. the first thing my therapist had me do when i met her was to note when my panic attacks were happening over the course of a week, what i was feeling in those moments, and what i was thinking when they happened. that helped isolate patterns, which helped us figure out practical ways for me to work through panic and anxiety attacks during my day-to-day.
and it helps — it helps to know the things that make your symptoms worse, just like it helps to know the things that help you cope. when i’m going through a bad episode, i cook. i try to read, and i try to write, and, when i can’t read or write, i spend a lot of time thinking about the things i want to do someday, the things i will do on my better days. i spend a lot of time being ambitious and storing up hope somewhere in the corner of my brain that i will see my ambitions through.
because it can often be difficult to feel justified in being ambitious when ambition requires some kind of long-term thinking and planning and you live with this belief that you won’t be around for long, anyway. it’s hard to be ambitious at all when you feel like you’re a damaged, broken mess, and who are you to hope, to dream, to want?
i dare say, though, we are ambitious — we have dreams; we have goals; we have shit we want to, we’re going to do with our lives — and none of this brain stuff gets to stop any of that. i mean, think about it, everyone has obstacles to overcome, and everyone has challenges to dismantle or work around, and everyone has issues and damage and brokenness.
which maybe is my way of saying that you can hurt, that you will have days when everything hurts so bad that everything seems to lose meaning. you will have days you just want an out, even if (or maybe because) it’s permanent. you will have days you just want everything to be over.
you will have days when you want, though, when you think about all the things you wanted to do but won’t be able to if you die, and i admit i cling to those lists sometimes. those mental lists have literally saved my life, providing that last fragile lifeline that kept me here because it would make me angry — i want to travel, i want to fall in love, i want to eat everything, i want to hear my favorite band live (again), i want to say the things i want to say.
i want to live.
because maybe here’s something that people don’t always realize: it’s not the lack of wanting to live that often brings us to the brink. it’s wanting to live but finding it too impossible, the pain too overwhelming, the damage too unbearable. it’s wanting to live but finding the world so intolerable and filled with hate and violence and prejudice. it’s wanting to live but finding the future so bleak and devoid of hope.
it’s wanting to live but finding it terrifying, the way dying feels like the rational, better option because you know, this is not how anyone should feel.
things i think about when i think about my book:
- how i plan on having NO DECKLE EDGES be a part of any publishing contract i sign
- how i’ll either be a pain in the ass to or best friends with my art department
- how i don’t want a blue cover or a black cover or people on my cover or anything that looks sad or dramatic or moody
- how fun it might be to sit around and go through pages and pages of type, all on the hunt to find the right one
- how much of a difference proper margins and line spacing make
- how i love it when art departments play with dimensions
- how so much of what i dream about when i dream about this book is how it will look and feel in my hands because books are physical things, whether you read them in paper or on an e-reader, they’re still physical things and they have shape and form and design