The fine line between living and dying is your will to live; only you and you alone. Anais Nin summed it up best with this line: You cannot save people. You can only love them. I believe that staying alive is primarily based on your will to live. Of course there are physiological components that will hold you back but I’ve personally witnessed a few examples where your resilience and passion to live has beat the odds of medical guesstimations. By that I mean expected times for both recovery and end of life.
Unlike terminal illnesses, there is no ticking timer for mental illnesses. It’s a chronic illness that, for myself and some others, can be taken on and off like a hat because we are just functional enough. This charade doesn’t last for long though. Two years ago, a cute fluffy grey cloud that disguised itself as a villain had lingered and baubled over my head for months. I hadn’t felt so strongly about dying for a few years but the depression ate away at me. Months and months after I was discharged from the hospital, I still felt like death and I wanted to be dead. I eventually realized that I was teetering between life and death and that in itself was exhausting.
I had to make a decision; am I really going to try to live or am I going to end it all right now? I chose to live and it has kept me alive since then.
Before we cheer and hurrah at this success, I need you to breathe in what the struggle is really like. I need you to imagine what months and months of anxiety, depression, and insomnia creates. And why grasping for a will to live is incredibly difficult. More importantly, why you can’t tell someone, “Just take it easy. Just let go of the stress. Just believe in yourself and do it. Just do it.”
So here is a precious piece of me.
This passage was part of my journal entry before I wrote my suicide letter to my family & friends. It was right before I overdosed and swallowed any pills that I had in order to stop the crumbling earthquake inside of me.
“Fuck. I can’t deal right now. Breathe. Ok. Breathe. Back to my feelings. Let’s start with anger. That one is easy. Ok, maybe it’s not that easy. None of this is easy. And I’m so tired. I don’t where to find the strength to go on. My life doesn’t make sense anymore. What the fuck happened in the last 8 months? [My ex] is gone. Arthur is gone [my bunny]. My family is fucked up. Everyone is too tired to understand. No one is listening. No one understands why I want to die. I have Ari [boyfriend-now-husband] now but what’s the point when I don’t even want to be here. I need to go. I need to go now. There’s no other way out. I constantly feel like shit. I keep feeling trapped in my own head. I can’t get out of it. The sadness. It won’t go away. It’s consuming me. I need to go.”
I feel naked and exposed sharing this with the world but I want anyone who is feeling this right now to also know that you are not alone. I understand and I’m here to listen to you.
I know how haphazard the health care system can be when you just need someone to help you feel safe. Perhaps your experience has been different but I’ve heard several problematic accounts from others. For example, I might not have occupied a hospital bed if I received professional help that didn’t turn me away from the emergency room because I wasn’t suicidal enough, or I wasn’t manic enough. If the crisis line took me seriously, I wouldn’t have hurt myself because someone could’ve just stayed with me until I felt safe with myself again.
Nonetheless, I was part of the walking dead many, many months after I left the hospital, and continuously thought to myself, “Why am I still putting myself through this mental and physical torture? I would rather be dead.” I cycled through 5 different medications and each medication was supposed to take 6-8 weeks to really “kick in”. There was always a new side effect with each pill; I was constantly gagging and nauseous, I had a mouth as dry as cardboard, I barely ate, I lost a tonne of weight, and my hands were shaky. The cherry on top was the stigma that I was bombarded with. Unsurprisingly, I had someone tell me I was stupid for not wanting to live because there are sooo many people have it worse than I do.
Riddle me this: If you’re supposed to be happy when someone has it worse than you, are you supposed to be sad when you have it better than someone else?
Drumroll please… That’s exactly why that statement we often hear is full of ass backwards logic. You’ll rarely find the answer to a complicated question based on duality.
But here are more questions:
What is your will to live?
What hinders your will to live?
What defines your will to live?
Is it your livelihood, or is it your determination? Or both?
Does any of that really matter?
Combating mental health stigma means questioning your own judgments and assumptions, hence why these questions I’ve proposed are important. Until then, please keep your negative thoughts to yourself. No one needs to know that you think someone has chosen to attempt to commit suicide or has succeeded.
I’ll continue to elaborate on what having a will to live means for me next week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Let me know in the comments below. And since it’s an open discussion, I want to hear it all. Give it to be baby – uh huh, uh huh.