Before I had my first child, I was sure I would be an anxious mother. Given my personality and my history with general anxiety, I thought I would be one of those moms who boils binkies and reads ingredient labels to make sure there isn’t poison in the baby food. To my surprise, after I gave birth I realized that I was not anxious in the slightest. I had heard of moms who sat up at night, staring at their children to make sure they continued to breathe. I thought that would be me, but it wasn’t. I never feared for my kids’ lives and still don’t. If you ask my friends, they will tell you I am a pretty laidback mom. I don’t let them play with fire, but I don’t really care if they eat dirt every once in a while. You get the idea.
What I didn’t expect- what completely caught me off guard and knocked me off my axis- was to be a moody, depressed, emotionally unstable mom. And I certainly didn’t expect to be a suicidal mom.
And yet, in November of 2016, just 6 months after my second baby was born, I found myself in that place. I was unpredictable. My relationships, most notably my marriage, were shaky at best. I was convincing people I was okay, but just barely. I woke up ready to go back to bed, and I went to bed dreading the morning. I was barely keeping my head above water, and I was starting to lose the will to swim anymore. When I asked my husband what he remembers about me during that season, he told me “I knew things were bad when you kept saying ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and I started to believe you”. I remember constantly saying “I’m just done”. And I didn’t mean I was done with the day, or done with the kids, or done with my marriage. It meant I was done. I didn’t have the energy it took to get through the day, and my reserve tank had run completely dry.
Over time, I found myself in a state of complete numbness. The exhaustion gave way to emotional silence. And it was deafening. Imagine living your life in a vacuum, void of any ups or downs; just being stagnant day in and day out. Now imagine doing that, but trying to keep a marriage and two children alive. I could have won one million dollars and been given an all-expense paid trip to any destination of my choosing, and it would have felt like just any other day. One night I sat at dinner with some of my closest friends and told them, “I’m not sad. I’m not angry. I’m just… nothing. I feel nothing. Day in and day out, I feel nothing”. It was the scariest part of my journey, but unfortunately the worst was yet to come.
One day, after months of trying to survive in my vacuum, I was driving to the YMCA (because someone told me if I just worked out more, I could cure myself. God bless) and a thought popped in my head.
“If this is what I’m going to feel like for the rest of my life, I really hope I die soon”
It passed across my brain like any other thought. It wasn’t dramatic. It was a matter of fact. It was true- I couldn’t imagine living another 60+ years in the state that I was in. And in that moment, I realized: I was suicidal.
I remember being confused; it wasn’t at all like they describe it in the movies. I had no grand plan to jump off a tall building or drive off a cliff. I didn’t have any fantasies of leaving a long suicide note for my friends and family. I didn’t think about my funeral. I just didn’t want to continue to live if this was what my life was going to look like. I hoped I would get terminally ill, or get into an accident. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I definitely wanted to die. Even as I write this, I am acutely aware of how intense that sounds. It’s hard to admit that’s where I was- but it’s true. I lived in this state for months; longer than I care to admit. I was okay with the idea that this might be the thing that took me down. If I ended up dying because I just stopped wanting to live, then so be it. I could feel myself rationalizing my decision; everyone has to die somehow. This just might be the plan for me. Maybe I was never supposed to live for a long time. Everyone will figure it out.
So, how did I get out. That’s the big question. And I wish it was more of an AHA moment than it actually was. The truth is, I just did some research. I had a moment of clarity, and in that moment I googled “post-partum depression” and realized that my symptoms lined up 100%. I couldn’t believe I was reading someone else’s account of her own illness that sounded exactly like my own. I realized I needed help, and fast. I got myself into therapy. I told my friends I was struggling. And I committed to at least trying to feel better. It wasn’t easy, but I had just enough strength left in me, and enough support around me, to push towards recovery.
I am grateful that I sought help, and that the help I found was exactly what I needed. I am thankful that my diagnosis was uncovered and I was able to find a medication that helped pull me out of that pit. But I know that not everyone is as lucky as I was.
Had I not gotten help; had I let my feelings fester and tried to just keep moving forward, I’m not sure where I would be. I can’t picture myself doing anything to end my own life, but I can’t rule it out either. What I can see, is how I could have ended up there. It’s not a big jump from “I hope I get in a car accident” to “I’m going to make it look like an accident”. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get to that point, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.
My point in sharing this (it’s definitely not because I just felt like writing about my history of depression and suicidality) is to help others understand the thought process that is so rarely explained. No one successfully completes suicide and survives. And so, we rarely get any insight into what goes through the mind of a suicidal person.
Before experiencing it myself, I would have told you that suicidal people are dramatic, or selfish. I would have judged them harshly and thought “how could you do that to your family”. But now, I would tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth. You cannot possibly understand unless you have dealt with it. And I’m not sure I can explain it fully. But my hope is that my story would make the problem feel less out there and more right here. I want people to know that suicide is not always caused by external forces. It can’t be solved by anti-bullying policies and stricter gun control (although those might help). It’s deeper than that. It is a heart issue- not caused by the sufferer, by any means, but still an issue that lies deeper than we often make it seem. It is about lack of hope for any change.
I’m not convinced we can stop suicide altogether. I think it’ll happen one day, but that has to do with a certain dude (we’ll call him JC) coming back and fixing a whole lotta other stuff that is ugly in this world. Until then, I am just hoping we can find ways to talk about it more, and empower “survivors” to share their stories. If we can’t stop it, the least we can do is try to understand it.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE:
If you are feeling this way- or even close to what I’ve described- please know that you are not alone. And please know that, even if it doesn’t feel like it now, it can get better. It will take work, but it will be worth it. I am linking some resources below if you would like to take a step today towards a healthier you. Or, find me on IG @thrivethirtyone and send me a DM. I’m here to chat. You are worth fighting for.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Talk Space- therapy for all
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
also: You can always call your insurance and ask for mental health assistance!