Suicidal Ideation is Normal.
“Suicidal ideation, the act of thinking about committing suicide. Is normal. A normal healthy response to an overwhelming, unrelenting, inescapable emotional pain.”
The words drop into my mind like a hammer. I’m normal. It’s okay. “I wish someone had told me that 5 years ago.” I laugh a little bit, but it’s not funny. I think of the years I’ve spent hiding this part of me, the hours I’ve spent ruminating and pondering what makes me so fucked up that my first thought when something goes wrong is “I want to die.”
The pain I’ve felt at the voice that said,
“I want to die,
I want to die,
I want to die.”
All of this is normal.
“When you get a chance, go with a friend to the place where you wanted to drive off the bridge, be the passenger, and talk to them, share with them what you felt, what you experienced, what your world was like then.”
“I can do that.” I think immediately of the bridge as it crosses Fish Creek park on 22x. How many days of driving that cursed yellow school bus did I think about turning the wheel just enough? Hundreds of times. Today, a question I had never thought to ask rises to my mind.
How much shame did I internalize from feeling there was something really wrong with me for thinking about it?
A few hours later I’m a passenger in the car, on route south to a family dinner. I’m dressed up and excited to be going towards my beloved’s families house to spend time with them. The traffic slows, but it’s the wrong time of day for rush hour. It must be an accident. We wait in traffic for a while, and as we pull slowly past the scene, I see clearly, the side of a car smashed in, the back passenger seat, where Alex would sit. It fills my stomach and my heart with dread, I hope dearly there were no children in the back seat. I feel deeply “I would be so sad if my son died.” This in itself is a relief to the cold hearted “It would be a relief to be free.” a few years back that was my internal response to moments like this.
As we pass by the accident, we both get quiet. The car is filled with a clear sense of the frailty of our mortality, the real possibility of losing the people we love on short notice, and it brings it all back to reality really fast. I squeeze his hand, and we sit in silence for a while.
A few KM later, as we exit onto 22x, I realize that this is the moment of speaking my thoughts to die on that bridge.
That moment is happening today.
That opportunity to be listened to
is happening today.
I quickly check in with Dan. “Are you able to hold space for me while I share about this place that I have been suicidal?” He says yes, and I am so greatful.
As we drive forward my voice starts speaking, and it feels not quite like my voice, but the silent repressed voice of all the times I have driven here. I speak in the present tense like it’s happening now. Like I’m walking through my thoughts.
“This is where I start thinking about running off the road. Before the bridge, so the bus would land in the water, and we’d drown. Less chance of survival. But the angle is tricky. Some days I speed down that off-ramp, feeing into the speed build, I’d need to be going fast to break the median. I remember feeling the courage it would take to take the plunge. Somedays it was exciting to feel the excitement of getting close to that moment.”
I can feel my body tingling all over, there is a visceral sense of relief, of being seen, heard and felt. I understand why I was invited to do this. I know I will do it again in other moments of pain.
“I feel I am useless. I feel I am helpless to change it. The kids I am driving are so far gone off the autistic spectrum, they are incapable of living normal human lives, I would be doing their parents a favor to end their lives and the suffering of parenting a child like that. But Alex was on the bus most days, I didn’t do it because I thought out of all of us, he might have a future. I couldn’t take that away from him. I couldn’t take him away from his grandparents like that. ”
My body starts shaking, and deep tears flow to my eyes. I wonder at the pain I must have been in all those years ago. I see my pain through a new lens.
“Suicidal ideation is normal.” I think to myself. Time to REALLY let it go.
“I hated that job, I hated the kids I drove, I was filled with contempt every day. I hated waking up early every morning and slogging through the cold weather to pick them up. So they could sit like lumps on the bus, and sit like lumps at school. They had no future. The bus never really got warm, even with three pairs of pants, and a big jacket and scarf and hat, and big mitts and the heat cranked. I was always still cold.”
I remember the strictness of my playlist. Only happy tunes, happy words, happy themes to the songs I listened to. No sadness allowed. I clung to joy like it was a life preserver in the middle of a choppy sea. I forced myself into it all winter, being the most upbeat person on the team, I stuffed my pain. I remember the joy in my heart when spring started to come that year, and I finally felt the sun on my skin again. I remember thinking “I thought I would die, I thought the winter, and the cold would kill me. ”
We pass the bottom of the bridge and head up towards the next offramp. We are passed the point of no return. I whisper. “This is where I was always silently relieved that I had decided not to do it.”
He says nothing, but I can feel him there. Listening to my pain, heart open.
I get quiet again, and sit with my feelings, with the tingling sensation in my scalp, hands, and spine. I know I’ve just healed that time of my life, and that desire to die on a deep level today.
It’s time to return to the lovely conversation we were having before this moment started. I shake my whole body and make a silly noise. I take a deep breath in.
“I’m complete. Thank you.”
He squeezes my hand, and we sit together in silence for a while before returning to our conversation. I hold his hand, watching the city lights sweep past us, and into the night, as we enter the countryside. It’s beautiful to be here, alive and enjoying the drive.
**** If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts. I wrote this today to let you know that you’re normal. It took me a lot longer to ask for help than I’d like to admit, and I know that it’s hard. But asking to be heard is one of the crucial steps in recovery, along with learning to love yourself. I feel I did it backwards, I feel it might have been easier if I’d know how to ask for help but it might also be a chicken/egg type thing.
If you need support in learning to love yourself, check out the 60-second depression recovery/self love hack I created in the darkest of days to help myself find the courage to keep going. JoyGasm.me/LOVE