I tried to kill myself when I was very young. Still in elementary school. I don’t remember exactly what I took. I think it was a bottle of aspirin of all things! Nothing happened. So I went to school as normal, ate the school lunch, a corn dog, and immediately started throwing up in the bathroom. The school nurse called my mom and I went home with a “stomach bug”. I have ever again eaten a corn dog. I don’t remember the abuse starting that early but small little flashbacks lately are giving me clues to it beginning far earlier than I thought.
I tried to slit my wrist when I was in the 6th grade, something I remembered right now at this very moment and had no recollection until I started writing. But it is vividly clear to me now. I made one cut and barely broke the skin, not horizontal but vertical, started to bleed, ran and got a bandaid, and went to school. Seems like before school was not a good time for me. My friend at the time, Shea, asked me, why is that bandaid on your wrist? We were walking to PE. I told her the cat scratched me.
I tried to kill myself again when I ran my car into a ditch and hit some trees when I was a late teenager. This was a spontaneous moment of I am done! I was driving along and decided this is it. My car flipped, EMS was called, and I told my parents assumed I fell asleep at the wheel. This was after years of abuse were nolonger tolerable. After my parents did nothing to get me away from the abuser. After nothing changed, I just wanted to die.
I tried to kill myself again by taking many many pills that I knew would most definitely kill me. The hospital didn’t let that happen. Loads of ipicack (no clue how to spell that) a very insensitive doctor “Well looks like you had some peas for dinner before you tried to kill yourself” and my stomach pumped full of charcoal, I lived.
I never felt happy that I lived. I never felt a senseation of ” wow, I am glad that did not work and I lived!” I just went on to the next day, waking up every morning wishing I were not still alive.
It wasn’t until I met my husband and had my daughter that I noticed my mind had switched over unknowingly, unnoticed, to waking up happy.
Ten years ago, after my best friend’s husband attacked me in his garage, that old dialogue came back. Not every day. Not as purposeful. But it was there. Just a whisper of “Are you really happy to be alive? Do you sometimes wish you were dead?”
I know what it feels like to want to die. I know what it feels like to not want to live. I know what it feels like to not have hope. I have been there many times. Once your brain knows that feeling, it is not simple to turn the switch. I nolonger want to die. But in a PTSD flashback I notice my mind says “I don’t want to live like this”. I’ve discussed this with my psychiatrist and she has said it is very normal to not want to live in a state of PTSD. My psychiatrist knows of this dialogue and she has said it is not suicidal thinking it is just depression talking.
Not wanting to live is not necessarily saying you wish you were dead. I think it is more of a not knowing HOW to live. How do we wake up and say, ” I want to live!” How do we choose life? When our brain keeps reminding us that we have frequently chosen death. We have frequently thought that dying would be easier than living. It is a huge leap. But the leap must be made.
I may not be thrilled about life but I can still choose to live. I can say the words, “Today, I choose to live. I choose to live. I choose to live. I choose to live.” It is much easier to let our mind wander to “I just wish I were dead” but do we really wish we were dead? I don’t. I do NOT wish I were dead. So I needed to clarify, what do I really want? Well, I wish that I were not suffering. I wish that I were not in pain. I wish that I did not have flashbacks that put thoughts into my head wishing for death rather than this memory. But in all reality I do not wish I were dead. I want to LIVE. I just don’t necessarily want to live under these conditions. It is a distinction that must be made. Just because we do not like our circumstances and wish we did not have to endure them another moment does not mean we wish our existance ended. It is our inner brain conversation that we overlook, we repeat without awareness of the consequences, and out of depression and despondency and defeat, we may say words we don’t really mean. But our body hears these words. Our mind hears this internal conversation that says over and over again, I just don’t want to live. When in reality, we just don’t want to live THIS WAY.
Change the dialogue. Change the internal dialogue. One step at a time. If you have been suicidal, if you have been through trauma, you know what it feels like, your body remembers wishing death over another moment of pain. But we CAN try to change that dialogue. We can try to make a tiny shift. It may only be tiny. It may only be just for today. It may be just for this moment. Try to say it, “Just in this moment, I choose to live.” I know the struggle. You are not alone in it.