I remember being very young when dying seemed like a good idea. Maybe 7. I lived in a complicated family situation. I never felt safe at home. People at school didn’t understand me. What friends I had didn’t understand me. Heck, I didn’t understand me. Looking back, I probably had signs of Post Traumatic Stress, even in the midst of the traumatic stress. I even could have been schizophrenic and psychotic. I was incredibly paranoid. I believed ghosts and spirits haunted me, hovering over me while I slept, waiting to choke me. I always felt haunted and followed. I felt the world was out to get me.
Everywhere I looked, I saw ways to die. Every time a car drove past me, I twitched. It would be so easy, I thought. Even now, I struggle with compulsive thoughts of death. A slight turn to the left, I’d be dead. Two steps into traffic, that is all it would take. Generally what stopped me was the idea of hurting other people. The easiest way to die, via car (either driving or as a pedestrian), would almost have to affect another person. And the last thing I wanted to do was ruin someone else’s life because I wanted to end mine.
And thus began my list of pros and cons for killing myself. Yep, I got right down into the nitty-gritty logic of it. And it went something like this:
I’d be dead. I wouldn’t be tortured by my demons anymore. I’d be free from the prison of my mind. How else could I get away? I’d tried running. You can’t run from something that is a part of you.
I’d be in heaven. Whatever that heaven looked like, especially for people who killed themselves. But even the idea of meeting my Maker for a moment, even if it were to be condemned, seemed a better fate than what I was experiencing. For many, this would be a con, but I’ve been blessed with an understanding of God’s love and mercy, and I want so badly to be back with Him that it has occasionally sparked thoughts of suicide.
It honestly seemed logical at times. With my recent car accident, for example. I had life insurance on my car. If I died, the bank would dissolve the loan. Same for my student loans (I believe). I also had decent life insurance so my other debts and my funeral expenses would be covered. My mom already had cemetery plots for us. I’d be buried in the shadow of the Bountiful Utah Temple. I would be at peace there. My family would eventually come to terms with it and be at peace. I was, after all, worth more dead than alive, almost literally drowning in debt and anxiety. And you can’t incur interest if you’re dead! …right?
I’d be dead. I wouldn’t have my body, at least for a time, and I wouldn’t get to experience the good and bad that comes with that. I would cease to have mortal experiences. I wouldn’t be able to cook for people, tell jokes, or share my experiences to help someone else who might be hurting.
I’d have to die. Which seems all around unpleasant, no matter how it’s done. I don’t like blood. I’m not a fan of pain, despite the self-harm (usually mine was a little more…creative). I’d have to have a funeral, and having been to several of those and helped plan my fathers, I knew how expensive that was.
My problems wouldn’t end with me. The financial burden of a funeral, the emotional burden on my friends and family and community, any repercussions my method of choice might have on those I may not even know (i.e. car accident).
I didn’t actually know what would happen to my spirit when I died. Would God be mad? Would I burn in Hell, as I’d been told happens to those who kill themselves? Would God show any mercy or understanding, knowing what I’d been through? Would there even be a God when I got there, or would I just stop existing? Or reincarnate? Would that life be any better?
I’ve been making this list for over 15 years now. At times, the Pros have outweighed the Cons. And because of those dark times, it is a miracle I am alive to even share this information with you.
Which leads to a great question–Why am I sharing this with you? I used to think it was because I wanted to help people who were suffering like I was. And sure, that is part of it. But as I’ve begun to focus on my healing, I’ve realized it is really for me.
Ever since I became privy to the idea that I did, in fact, have some control over my thoughts and what swirled around in my brain, I have been fighting to restrain my demons. Ignore them, evict them, destroy them. The harder I fought them, the harder they fought back. If I pretended they didn’t exist, they would yell louder. If I acted like I didn’t see them in the room, they would get closer, breathing down my neck.
But then something remarkable happened.
I stopped fighting. Now, not fighting isn’t always a good thing. At first, it was more like I had lost resilience and didn’t care anymore. I would just take the punches. But when I stopped fighting, so did the demons. I looked them in the eyes. I acknowledged them for what they were. And then… I made room for them. Instead of pushing them out, I opened the door. Okay, you’re here, I thought. And you aren’t leaving. I get that now. If you want to drive so bad, I might as well give you a seat.
For those who don’t love my running metaphors, here it is: I accepted the fact I had demons. I didn’t try to control them. I looked at them with loving kindness. They were demons, it wasn’t their fault. But more than that, they were a part of me. Like it or not, they had a huge part in shaping who I was. Which, modesty aside, is a pretty strong a** woman with an incredible sense of empathy and love for others. And I love that about myself.
Because I accepted my demons, does that mean my mental health is peachy? Oh heck no, I have three diagnosed mental illnesses and more to be diagnosed, I’m sure. I’ve been through a lot of garbage–of course I’m going to have problems! But because I’ve accepted my demons, learned their names and attributes, I can keep a lookout for them. I can start to see what is me and what is a demon acting up. I’ll acknowledge them, let them finish their fit, and go back on with life. And seeking medical help has done beautiful things for my mind and body. My mental health was so bad that my physical body was destroying itself to compensate. 7 medications later, I’m able to function as a mostly normal person. Some people can’t tell that there is even anything wrong with me. These combine with therapy, mindfulness and a deep relationship with God have pulled me out of my darkest days.
Sometimes, the dark days return. I’m sure there will be more to come, even now. But having traveled this road, I don’t let the Pros of killing myself look enticing anymore. I let them sit there, next to the Cons. I leave them both alone and have filed them under a new heading: Things That Can’t Stop Me From Living.