After my mother had passed, and already struggling with my injury worse than I ever had before, I remember sitting right here, at this very desk, and, wracked with big, heaving, sobs while the sun still shone outside my window, Googling “if I kill myself will I still go to heaven?” Heaven is not part of my belief structure, not now and not then either, but I thought that maybe the Internet could tell me if I was wrong, and if I was, then maybe I could see my mom again. Maybe I would wake up in a pleasant green pasture with a slight, comforting warm breeze on my skin, and see her smiling in the distance, my dog standing eagerly next to her with his tail pumping.
Grief is a horrible thing. When you’re already in a pit of anxiety and despair and fighting just to get up each morning, it makes you think weird thoughts that find you questioning everything. I remember also wondering if, by typing that phrase into the search box, a big red alarm light would go off in some room somewhere and the magical Google gnomes would send somebody to help me. Nobody came to help me.
Not long after, the news was flush with stories about the Mayan doomsday on 12/12/12, remember that? As the day approached I earnestly hoped they’d been right, and the world would end. I got terribly drunk early in the morning and sat on my sofa waiting for it, wishing it to happen, entertaining creative and imaginative scenarios about how it might all work. I passed out, the world continued to turn, and the sun rose over the eastern horizon the next morning.
Yes, I wanted it all to end; The pain, the percieved horrors of my existence, the strain I went through daily to do the most simple of things, the fear of running out of money and being forced out of my little agoraphobic nest. I wanted to go to sleep one night and just not wake up the next day, but here’s the thing – though I wanted it to stop, I did not want to die. In the time since I’ve come to realise that I will never kill myself, that it’s just not going to be a thing for me. That’s not a promise I say to keep people from worrying about me or something I have to repeat to convince myself of it, it is very simply a stone-cold fact, and recognising it as such has given me a surprising amount of comfort and clarity even when things were at their most dire.
People cut themselves because the physical pain overwhelms the emotional pain they’re feeling. They may even do it on their wrists, resulting in what’s commonly known as hesitation marks (Nine Inch Nails woot!), but if someone is set on ending themselves they will just fucking do it. It’s a decision that some make every single day and no amount of my rambling crap or three-fold pamphlets with crisis intervention info stuck to their refrigerator door with a Call 911 in an emergency magnet is going to make a goddamn bit of difference. I’m convinced that there’s very few of those, though, and that most people who think they want to kill themselves don’t want to die, but only want the suffering to stop and can’t tell the difference.
Before you fire off an angry retort, I do recognise how utterly simplistic that is, but does it have to be more challenging? Can’t it just be that easy, for many if not for all? Do I want to die really is a yes or no question, regardless of the ephemeral and gauzy complexities of the human psyche that may lead you to it. Saying, “I want to die,” out loud is not the same as saying it to your heart, and if you struggle to say it to your heart then you probably don’t want to die. You want it to end, whatever “it” is for you, and the difference is apples and kumquats.
Almost every month, sometimes more often, I learn about a first responder somewhere that has killed themselves, and as a paramedic I have attended suicides and attempts at it more often than I care to remember. In no way am I trying to suggest that suicide is not a major crisis, but by the same token I believe there are people in the same or similar situations who don’t recognise the difference between the two things and may believe they’re one in the same. There are also people who want to kill themselves out of fear for the future, or anger, or even revenge, and I have felt all of those things at one time or another too, yet here I still am proselytising like a mad man because, yeah, I didn’t really want to die.
Nb While writing this I had thought about offering a trigger warning at the top. I even know a few people who I think would get some insight from my general scrivenings if they read them, but don’t because they’re afraid of potential triggers, and I get that. In the end, I decided not to because the very people who may be triggered are the ones who may get the most out of it, and that’s important to me.