There’s never once been a time when I have looked myself in the mirror and said the five words that seem to adhere themselves to a mental illness diagnosis:
“I want to kill myself.”
Not when I felt like I had my first psychotic break down (or my second, or third, or fourth), and certainly not when I reached the lowest part of my depression. And yet, if you asked me if I had ever attempted suicide, my answer would be yes. Multiple times. Had I ever thought about it? Yes, multiple times again. Daily, even. But not once had I ever thought those five words.
One of the first lessons someone with a mental illness diagnosis learns is that there are often no black-and-white situations. The line between correct diagnosis and misdiagnosis isn’t a mile wide, it’s a hair’s width. We learn to see things on a spectrum, on a scale. And yet, in this most prevalent of litmus tests for depression, these five words seem to be a yes or no, black or white area.
I’m here to disagree. Vehemently.
All too often, there isn’t a life versus death attitude that accompanies mental illness. It’s much more layered, a muddled grey than it is a color dichotomy.
There’s often more desperation and anguish in the expression than the pointed action of “I want to kill myself.” And what’s worse, the other phrases, which carry just as much weight and sincerity as that one if not more, aren’t even given a second glance. They’re completely brushed off and put aside because, after all...
...everyone feels like that at some point, right?
“I don’t want to live anymore.”
This sentence, much like the litmus tester, is one I’ve never spoken aloud, but I can remember a few times when I mentally said it to myself in the mirror, the tears running down my cheeks with both fists balled. It was the point where the depression took over and I’d absolutely had enough. What I was really saying was that I don’t want to live a life where I’m constantly feeling used up, depressed and frustrated.
“I just want to go to sleep and never wake up.”
Life presents itself with some fierce challenges sometimes. Fighting a battle against yourself is a long, tiresome journey of epic proportions. Being able to rest for just a few moments seems like the most luxurious perfection and it can feel like after years of fighting yourself, you have earned a permanent reprieve. This is my own personal indicator of depression, because what I’m really saying is that I’m tired of constantly fighting a battle that no one even knows I’m in and I need a goddamned break.
“I wish I was never born.”
This phrase often comes close to “rock bottom” when I’m clinging on to the walls of hope and love with bloody knuckles, waiting for someone to throw me a metaphorical rope. I feel like the one to blame for everything that’s wrong. If I were better, different, gone, life would be better for everyone and everything. What I really mean is that I’m tired of watching everything fall apart no matter how hard I try to keep it together, and feeling like it’s all my fault. I want the painto cease, not my life.
“I just want it all to stop.”
Variations of this one seem to be spoken to the friends or family who got a little too close when I’m emotionally vulnerable. I don’t want them to worry about me or involve themselves unnecessarily, but I want and need them to understand that I’m in pain. I feel overwhelmed by life: the things that have happened, will happen and are happening. What I’m really saying is that I need life to pause without negative consequences so I can take a deep breath, pull myself together and invest in some serious self-care, because I'm not okay.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
This one is the rock bottom, end of the line sentence that creeps up at the worst moments of my battle with depression. There’s no hidden meaning here, it’s very much self-explanatory. At my very lowest point, this was the phrase that played on repeat in my head. At that moment, I couldn’t exist as I was, I couldn’t live the life I had. My last words on Earth would have been these five, because they were the ones that matched the heartache. I didn’t want to die, but I could no longer live.
In the end, not everyone experiences depression or suicidal tendencies in the same way. But no matter what you mean or what phrase you use, the implications are 100% real. Being stuck in the grey areas of suicidal thoughts is no less painful, and yet it’s much less talked about, making it that much more dangerous.
There isn’t just one way to live life, and mine is an existence riddled with agony and pain from all the trauma I've endured thus far. And there isn’t just one way to cry out for help...
My cries are the loudest when I'm silent and withdrawn.