Content Warning ⚠️ discussion of suicide which may be disturbing to some readers. Please decide if it is safe for you to continue & contact lifeline or your local suicide hotline if you are struggling.
There is a gun lying at the bottom of the bed as I write this. Sadness wells in my heart as I stare at its polished timber stock and realise that for the longest time I would have preferred to put that black barrel into my mouth and pull the trigger than spend another minute riling in the mental confusion and emotional agony that has seemingly dominated my world for so long.
All in all, I’ve likely spent more time wanting to end my time on earth than I have spent simply enjoying its wonder, and right now, that makes me sad.
From the time I was eight years old I felt suicidal urges. Having children, getting married, having kind friends and good jobs never did change the part of myself with a core belief that I was a worthless piece of shit and I did not deserve to live.
Subconsciously compartmentalising our life was probably the only way we could feel one way and live another. We adorned a series of masks until we lost whatever once lay underneath completely.
We would become absorbed in one section of our world and all others would fall away as though they’d never existed at all. Me at home couldn’t remember me at school. Me the girl of good morals and values couldn’t remember the me that let others get hurt in her name. Me the wife and mother couldn’t remember me the poet and the dreamer. The Me that fell in love with our husband didn’t know the Me who could only ever be attracted to women. The Me that succumbed to years of Anorexia as a teen couldn’t compute any other state of being and the Me that accepted chocolate on our first night out of home couldn’t remember why it had ever been scary.
The emotions of our different selves can bleed into all of us, we often feel things suddenly and out of context. The urge to cry or laugh or roll our eyes can hit in the oddest of moments, as can the urge to self destruct. I know now that the part of me that saw death as the only way out of an agony she couldn’t understand, didn’t know or believe it was possible to ever feel any differently and when her despair flooded into my heart I could only feel the world through her pain.
Sometimes the walls between our mental compartments begin to dissolve and I remember things long lost to me. The gun at the foot of my bed let me remember that we had argued with our old psychologist, The Guru, over multiple sessions that our depression was absolutely terminal. We had told her (and fully believed) that we should have the right to end our psychic suffering with euthanasia and we were 100% certain it was impossible for us to feel any differently.
But We were wrong. I was wrong.
I am only alive right now because of medical intervention, because of family and friends and worn out mental health professionals that wouldn’t give up. I’m alive right now because this gun and I only crossed paths today and we did not meet back then.
Another important thing that is oddly difficult to admit to myself is that I’m alive right now, because I choose to be.
I used to incessantly search for ways to end my life, a voice inside at the time was very firm about having to do this. They portrayed our suicide as being inevitable, it was our destiny. It stated that we must know every method available, that we must be prepared to engage at any moment, in any situation. We were built with one purpose, to enact a hit, upon ourself and it was presented as a quest we must succeed in no matter what. For reasons I can’t understand let alone explain, we accepted this without question and without logic.
Funny how once you have spent enough time searching for ways to end your existence, the habit of scouting for options never completely goes away, even when we no longer have any desire to use them. I see a gun and I am immediately overcome by the urge to point it towards myself and pull its trigger.
For so long We thought the men in white coats were after us, reading our mind somehow from afar and seeing the darkness within. We were soldiers in a huge and imagined conspiracy, fighting against a system Hell bent on capturing us, while in truth it was simply a war by ourself, against ourself, that only we knew about.
We felt we could be interrogated by doctors or police officers at any minute trying to force us into abandoning our ‘quest’ and while we didn’t ever doubt the validity of our mission, we knew they’d accuse us of being crazy. We likened ourselves to the position of accused terrorists facing a Guantanamo Bay style situation and felt we had to know how to survive any efforts to break us. Ironic, considering the whole objective was our death anyway.
Thanks to “training” from The Empress as a child, we knew we could hold our breath under water and pretend to stop flailing while being held down so we felt we could withstand waterboarding. We knew we could take punches and we could block out pain quite well should we need to. I’m not entirely sure why we felt admitting we needed psychiatric help would be something that would have to be tortured out of us, but we believed we were sane and the world was crazy & out to get us, so… I guess delusional denial is a strong beast.
Being ‘caught’ and hospitalised was the most terrifying thought in the world to us, at the time I’d rather have bathed in spiders. I won’t pretend it made sense, phobias seldom do. Fear of being crazy was probably initially related to a fear of being rejected, memories of our father yelling about how all crazy people should be locked up might have something to do with it. But anyhow it escalated into madness at some point.
Looking back, it’s pretty sad really.
I glanced at the closed bedroom door and picked up the shiny 22, it was surprisingly heavy for a small caliber weapon. I examined the rifle, turned it towards myself and looked down the barrel, you could see daylight, it wasn’t loaded and the clip was out. I put the gun in my mouth somewhat compulsively, couldn’t help myself. The metallic taste of ice cold steel felt oddly comforting, like I now held an important power. I reached down awkwardly and fumbled with the trigger. It’s doable, I thought, but awkward due to the length of the barrel, you’d need to sit on a chair or something, use your toe. I caught myself suddenly and realised what I was doing and thinking wasn’t okay. Old habits die hard.
I put the gun back down and sighed. It filled me with an odd sensation, grief. Grief for us. Grief for all the time lost to self doubt, self hate, anxiety, regret and fear. Grief for the death of hope. Grief for the death of suicide as an out from the pain of life.
Now that I’m aware of my compartmentalised self states and they of each other, I see our life through a different lens. It’s no longer ‘mine’. It’s not okay for me to end our life anymore because I know I’d be ending the lives of the others and that, well, that feels decidedly wrong.
Our life has been complicated, fascinating, beautiful and heartbreaking. I have had the opportunity to feel many things in many ways. The chance to view the world through so many perspectives is something I am very grateful for, and yet as the urges to self destruct finally subside I find myself in the strange situation of dying anyway.
This time there is no gun to our head, no pills to swallow or trains to leap towards. Now cancer has taken the choice from all of our control and after a lifetime of essentially being Co dependent with myselves, it’s kind of nice to let go. We are all going to die, that’s unavoidable, but now we all have to decide whether or not we want to live first. Even me.
If you or anyone you know is struggling, please contact lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or Google mental health hotlines in your area.