My suicide attempt is a part of my identity. This is something I do not say willingly or with any sort of pride. It is a resigned statement, an acknowledgement of reality that I would prefer to ignore.
I had hoped that almost two years after I made a conscious decision to try to end my own life, I would think about it less. Would perhaps be able to forget what had happened. Instead, I think about it at least once a day.
I think about the guilt I feel surrounding the whole event, guilt that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. I feel guilty that my parents still blame themselves for what happened. I feel guilty that I have permanently altered relationships as a result of my actions. And I feel guilty that there are still dark times when I consider suicide to be a viable option.
That is the kind of honesty no one wants to think about. But it is the kind of honesty that will keep me alive.
In contrast to who I was two years ago, the person I am now knows how to articulate those feelings. How to see past this darkness. How to practice self-care. And how to ask for help when I need it.
I thought a diagnosis and medication would solve everything. And I never considered the fact that diagnoses can be wrong and medication and dosages are at times a guessing game. I did not think that this would be something I have to work at constantly.
The days I have to pretend I’m fine are exhausting, when I have taken for granted that in college I could be open with friends when I feeling depressed or having dark thoughts. I am lucky enough to still have people in my life I can express these feelings to. But now most of my days are spent in a workplace with coworkers who would see me differently were I to divulge the extent of my mental illness. There have been times depression has made it difficult to get my work done and times that it has impacted my relationship with my boss.
That was never a part of the conversation when I prepared to graduate college. I was too focused on getting out of what had become a smothering and toxic environment to consider the possibility that my career could be impacted because of an illness I cannot control but also cannot talk about. On particularly bad days, I find myself googling whether or not I can get fired should I have to go back into in-patient psychiatric care.
And so I work to avoid the possibility that I would have to go back. I go to therapy, I visit my horribly condescending psychiatrist, and I take my medicine. I push away the fear that I’ll slip up and end up back in the hospital and instead I actively work to keep myself as healthy as I can. And since I’m a reward-oriented person, I started to keep track of just how many days I had valued my life and my mental health.
Because it’s 2017, I have an app on my phone that does that for me. It’s called Nomo and I’d highly recommend it. It’s a similar concept to AA, with chips you earn based on amount of time passed without engaging in a destructive behavior. I have two clocks, one for self-harm and one for attempted suicide. I have only had to reset my self-harm clock once. I have not had to reset the other.
This clock is at times more comforting to me than my therapist. On the dark days, I look at my clock and think, “Look at what you’ve accomplished. Think of how far you’ve come. You owe it yourself to go one more day.”
And so I keep going, keep living. Even if that means some days I have to tell myself “it’s going to be fine” so many times that the phrase loses all meaning. And at times I am fine. At times I am not. But such is life. Regardless of if you have depression or not.
By the time you read this, I will have earned my two-year chip for days passed since I attempted suicide. Yes, it’s a part of my identity. But how I choose to heal myself is as well.