Something to do with squirrels: A frank letter about suicide and mental health
Content warning: this article contains a discussion of suicide, mental illness, self-inflicted wounds and descriptions of violence.
This letter was written by a USFSP community member who wishes to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the letter.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the USFSP Wellness Center suicide prevention resources page.
Being suicidal is not fun. It may make for great entertainment (see: Lethal Weapon, Virgin Suicides, Bell Jar, etc.) and make for some interesting stories. Especially about squirrels. Like the time a random squirrel jumped into a transformer at a power plant and blacked out the entire university for a week. Or the angry squirrel that jumped into my friend’s bicycle spokes, which flipped him over onto concrete, but they both lived to tell the tale (I’m not sure how the squirrel survived). Or the daredevil squirrel that fell from a power line and into the road. Somehow it got out of the way of being squashed by my rolling machine of death.
I’m telling you, these are great stories to tell at parties. Feel free to use them in your conversations. I know it’s sometimes hard to sustain conversations at parties you didn’t want to go to, so I’m glad to help out in any way I can. But back to the whole being suicidal thing, which doesn’t involve any more mentions of demented squirrels…
It is not fun to experience the lifelessness in your body and the subvert mindset your brain uses to fuck with you to the point where dying actually seems like a reasonable option. Not to mention my brain can mess with me to the point where emotional pain can turn into physical pain, which feels like 20 butcher knives stabbing me throughout various parts of my body for days on end.
That’s my brain. It hates me. And I hate it. I like to call it “brain chaos.” We have a strange love/hate, on-again/off-again relationship that sometimes feels like a bad teen soap opera on FOX (see: The O.C., which is a guilty pleasure of mine, or whatever show the kids are watching these days).
I’ve had thoughts of suicide often during my ongoing 15-year struggle with depression. Most of the time, they are passive and fleeting. Usually thoughts like “if a car hit me and I died, I really wouldn’t mind,” or “I wish I had the guts to go through with it” or “I wonder if an overdose is a painful way to die.” I soon became so used to having such thoughts that it became my “normal.” Being suicidal became part of my identity. I didn’t know what happiness felt like (still working on that one). I never want to take my own life, but my brain chaos still lurks in the shadows behind those gaudy, paisley curtains. It peeks its gnarly head out every so often to tell me it’s always there. It hopes that I’d finally succumb to its charm of dying a death only I would find noble. Only I don’t let it win.
Some things I have done in the middle of a heavy depression/suicidal thinking episode:
- I forget to groom or eat.
- I give up on everything. I always think “if I’m not going to be around much longer, then why should I put any effort into bettering my life?” It’s why I nearly failed high school and did not pursue the degree I wanted post-high school. It’s why I didn’t try hard in college. It’s why it took me so long to figure out my life to only meander through each day wondering if that’s the last day of my life.
- I play horribly depressing music 24/7. I have a Spotify playlist titled “The Mellow and Phlegmatic Playlist,” which is mainly just Sufjan Stevens, Fiona Apple, Cat Power and Aimee Mann on repeat.
- My impulsiveness and risk-taking kicks into full gear. I drive fast. I cut myself. I over-medicate myself. I walk into places and neighborhoods I shouldn’t in the hope someone will kill me. I drink more and am willing to try new drugs.
- I spend a lot more of the money I don’t have, which leads to the debt I’ve had trouble paying back.
- I don’t care about ruining relationships.
- I don’t care about pizza.
- I don’t care about anything.
It’s taken years of much needed hard work to develop healthy coping skills to alleviate the strain on my mental health. With proper counseling and medication, I’ve been able to get myself to a place where I can take control of my life and continually learn and become my better self.
The best advice I’ve received: Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t keep yourself holed up somewhere with your brain planning mutiny. Do something. Don’t let your thoughts consume you. Cause they will. You know they will. I know they will. I continually have to work on not letting my brain manipulate me. I have to keep my mind active on things I like to do because if I don’t, then one thought becomes another though, which leads to another, and the next thing you know, you’re playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Only, you know, with your horribly depressing and self-deprecating thoughts snowballing out of control, not of Kevin Bacon. Though, sometimes depression can lead to thinking about Kevin Bacon. I don’t know why. It just does. Unless that’s just me…
Suicidal ideation is an exhausting process, and when it has hit in the past, I could barely move, and I isolated myself. Spoons? I had none. They were locked in the dishwasher. Isolation kills. Really. Take care of yourself. Make tea. Take a shower. Distract yourself. Start small, then work up to doing things you love, talking to people and getting out of the house. And, of course, if you are in dire need of help, don’t forget that your phone is always a few feet away (unless, it too, is locked in the dishwasher).
Short self-care tips I’ve picked up:
- Get a healthy amount of sleep (meditation helps me fall asleep)
- Eat nourishing foods
- Hydrate (with water, and tea, lots of non-caffeinated tea, not booze)
- Do art
- Burn some sage (just don’t burn the house down)
- Pet a cat (Or multiple cats. Or a house of cats.)
Keep strong this holiday season. Keep fighting. Your brain is lying to you. Don’t let it win. Do whatever it takes to survive. You’re worth it. Your life is worth it. Your brain may tell you differently, as does mine on a regular basis, but you are worth it. Period. Also, know that you are not alone on your journey. Keep close to those who can support you.
When you are finally able to leave the house, have fun, and as always, beware of the squirrels, my friends. Beware.
With finals and the holidays approaching, be sure to take care of yourself this season.
Visit http://www.usfsp.edu/wellness/counseling/ to find out more about how you can use the services they provide.
Visit this link for a great list of coping tools: http://www.thepathway2success.com/100-coping-strategies-for-anger-anxiety-and-more/