No one wants to hear about the hard days or the mental struggles when positivity doesn’t win.
These are the worst days.
These are the days when I wonder if I should be medicated, restrained, locked up. It doesn’t help if I remind myself these days are infrequent. All I want to do is scream, to go running through the RV park in my Wal-Mart bathrobe, past the million-dollar-rigs and the outdoorsy-weekend-adventurers, letting them know I’m not one of them. I’m not retired. I’m not traveling for fun. I’m nobody’s grandparent. I’m the bare-knuckle desert that can gobble their ATVs in a frenzied windstorm. I’m puncture-vine to the soul. I’m a living chindi, a Navajo spirit that represents all that’s bad in each of us. I’m the crazy lady next door.
These are the days when the voices get the upper hand and I begin to believe the lies – I’m nothing, I’m a failure. Lies love absolutes: Always, never, none. The voices ridicule my dreams. You want to do what? You? Never! No one believes you can. You always fail! If it gets loud enough the voice planted by my own father years ago roars, You’re just a fuck up! It clings to me like ectoplasm, the goo of ghosts, and I wrestle with something unseen and yet stronger than iron chains. With an empty cup of coffee in hand, I sit on the cold thin floor of my RV and wrestle with my own slimy thoughts of suicide.
Wind whips our torn awning, reminding me it needs to be fixed. Three weeks ago it tore free in wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour. It was the day after we spent three days fixing a broken steel beam while Progressive Insurance debated coverage. We didn’t have time for debates, broken down in an abandoned parking lot on the vast Navajo Nation of Four Corners territory. We were in the Arizona quadrant enjoying fry bread, pinto beans and make-shift solutions. We’re homeless, though friends and family have grown weary of the word so we make up better ones so people can feel more comfortable with our situation. We share fun stories so people can respond to the adventure of it all.
Anytime I moan about the frustrations of our circumstances or lament the lack of access we have to healthcare, someone inevitably scolds me or reminds me the world is suffering and life is unfair. No one wants to hear about the hard days or the mental struggles when positivity doesn’t win.
The desire to fit in is strong.
I think about that in my depressed state. Why does the mental comfort of others matter? But isn’t that our dilemma, those of us who struggle with mental health – to fit ourselves into boxes labeled “normal” so we can be properly stacked in a community? The desire to fit in is strong. We have to silence the voices inside lest others cringe at what is clearly abnormal, poking through like an embarrassing tear that reveals underclothes. In my state I hear the voices whine, I don’t care. I want to shout it aloud, but a thin thread of me yet cares.
All I want to do is write. I imagine writing in a bubble. It’s quiet, serene. Tap-tap-tap like my fingers are Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, co-creating stories out of history. But writing is not always a safe space. Often, it’s isolating and allows me to disassociate. If the bubble gets pricked – an interruption of sorts, I can feel extreme rage. These are warning signs to me, warning that I’m coming unhinged, and while others can’t see it, I’m at war inside myself on all fronts – body, mind, heart and spirit.
I don’t have 13 reasons why I want to commit suicide. I don’t have 13 reasons why I want to live. Anyone who battles suicidal thinking knows reasoning doesn’t exist in the pit where the thinking is toxic and made-up voices shame and sabotage the self. The voices aren’t real; they aren’t audible. It’s more like messages or beliefs that gum the brain and panic the emotions. It all builds up to a combined pain that is physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. The toxicity crosses all barriers until the only thing that brings relief is the thought of ending it all. Suicidal thoughts become my Tylenol.
There’s nothing simple about suicide.
It is hard to write about suicidal thinking. It’s one area I’ve kept out of my public writing topics. I either feel too vulnerable or I feel I’ll not be able to make a difference with my confession. Yet, during a week when I battled silently without even my 2 a.m. friends knowing the bombs were dropping inside, six social media encounters challenged my silence:
- A publisher of another blog called for a project to engage people in a discussion of suicide by sharing their 13 reasons. I realized I had none.
- A concerned mom of a teen warned other parents not to let their high schoolers watch the controversial Netflix show, “13 Reasons” because therapists and teachers worry it glamorizes suicide. Shame never feels glamorous.
- No less than 10 Facebook friends posted the Suicide Hotline as their status. It made me feel isolated.
- One family member posted a link to a US government site for veterans that has an app for PTSD (yes, there’s a frigging app for everything) and when I responded that it doesn’t overcome feelings of isolation, she argued without trying to understand. I felt I couldn’t let this family member know of my mental suffering.
- A safe friend and advocate posted a Ted-Talk touting a neurosurgeon’s developing drug intended to “prevent” depression and PTSD. It made me feel uneasy, not hopeful.
- Yet another veteran took his life. I had no comfort to offer his grieving friend.
Anyone who battles suicidal thinking knows reasoning doesn’t exist in the pit where the thinking is toxic and made-up voices shame and sabotage the self.
This is a tangled ball of yarn, and as one who battles suicidal thoughts I can see all the threads that tie me to both the problem and possibilities. I can’t untangle the ball in a single post but I believe it’s time for me to open the discussion on what it is to live with suicidal thinking as part of my own complex package called PTSD.
Today, the voices are quiet. I was able to reverse the suicidal thinking, cope with the negative emotions, emerge from the shame, find physical relief in two good sessions of sleep, and feel connected once again. The magic pill? The turn around? The therapeutic tools? None. I don’t know why, other than I hung on to that single fringe in the dark. I didn’t give up this time. I’ll return to this topic and sort out my own truths – why, what works, what doesn’t, and be brave enough to say, if we’re going to discuss suicide, we need to include the personal perspectives of those silently battling it.
Suicide cannot be explained or overcome in 13 reasons. Not even 13 posts. We need open discussion without right or wrong answers. There’s nothing simple about suicide.
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
Charli Mills is a born buckaroo, wrangling words and creating a literary community at CarrotRanch.com following a 20+ year career in freelancing and marketing communications. Charli Mills brings a fresh voice to the western genre, writing fiction about frontier places and its pioneer women and underdogs who are often marginalized by history. She has extensive relationship experience based on a 30-year marriage to a veteran spouse. Together they face the challenges of PTSD and living without a home.