I've noticed a strange phenomenon over the past few months: I've felt more able to handle things. It's not like everything in my life has been spectacular. (Hello break-up, foot injury and other health scares, and new work routine! 👋) And in the past, I met any challenge with the mindset, "THIS IS THE WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ANYONE!!1!!." Lately, though, I've been more like, "Ugh, this is happening. Ok. Moving on..."
Most importantly, I have not felt suicidal.
To be able to feel sad or meh or super-stressed without the presence of suicidal thoughts is MAJOR. I've had suicide as an open escape hatch for probably 15 years. The thoughts didn't usually escalate, but they were my security blanket whenever I got scared or overwhelmed. As it's only been three years since I narrowly avoided the fate of Robin Williams and so many others who have acted on their suicidal thoughts, I talk about these things with the hope of normalizing them and showing that progress IS possible--because I certainly didn't feel that way before going inpatient three years ago.
For me, I think that suicide and anxiety emerged as protective impulses after I experienced some things as a kid that were just too big for me to handle. When you have scary or traumatic experiences, the emotions that you feel are huge and terrifying. They swallow you up. And when you're a kid, you're genuinely not equipped to handle them... and so you might grow up feeling like you can't handle anything. I think that's what happened to me. And that intense vulnerability made the idea of suicide very appealing and comforting. Not only was it an "out," but it was an out within my control--unlike my emotions, or anything, really. Suicide gave me a way to escape if things got too heavy.
Considering how often things used to feel "too heavy," thank God I'm still alive.
I had never been in any kind of therapy until college (and that was just occasional visits to the counseling center), so the negative messages I had internalized went unchecked for a long time and became automatic, often manifesting as self-hate. Outwardly, I was a perfectionist overachiever, and inwardly, I was really negative, consumed with ever-spiraling worries (hence the need to "sparkle punch" now and actively find the good!). Since being inpatient, though, I've gone to therapy nearly every week. Therapy has taught me to question my negative thoughts. To stop reading into everything. To stop seeing myself as the "problem" in every situation. To stop blaming myself for everything. Thinking in a more positive way has been major in alleviating the suicidal thoughts.
Therapy also brought me back to reality, which I desperately needed, since anxiety always kept me in the future. Thinking that a situation will never change or improve is simply not how life works... despite what my ever-faithful anxiety tries to tell me. Scary or unpleasant situations do end. When my mind can't recognize stuff like this on its own, I need to take over and remind myself of what is real. I need to fight back against the steady stream of "protective" anxious thoughts that drag me further into the future, keeping me alert against every threat, however distant or illogical. I need to remind myself that I am safe in this moment, because most of the time, I am. My old therapist used to refer to the questioning of anxious thoughts as "reality testing," which drove me nuts because my anxious thoughts always seem so real! ...but they're not. I can see that now.
I used to be incredibly self-conscious of my mental health struggles, especially about feeling suicidal, since that is sometimes a tough thing for people to hear or understand. I did, and still do, worry about revealing more about myself and being judged as a total freak. But I know that I'm not a total freak, and openness is the only way to break the stigma. In the words of that great prophetess (and mental health advocate) Demi Lovato, "I used to hold my freak back, now I'm letting go." I may feel nervous about speaking out about my issues, but in my everyday life, I'm totally fine with being in therapy and with having been inpatient. Therapy is just a way of life now. I look forward to EMDR every week. Intake forms are my bitch. Positive self-talk is my daily reality.
Suicidal thoughts can always come back, but at least for now, they're in remission, and that is wonderful. Progress is possible. <3