As most of you know, I suffer with BPD, severe depression and suicidal ideation, among other diagnoses.
The Canadian winter hits me hard. The lack of sunshine for so many days, sometimes weeks in a row, and the bloody freezing temperatures, adds to depression. I have tried a SAD lamp, I have raised my Vitamin D, but nothing works, and the deeper we go into winter, seems to be the deeper I sink. I feel constantly anxious, unmotivated, and emotional. My fear of failure intensifies to the point of being terrified to try anything new.
I am also aware that the instability and insanity of this past year has exacerbated the depression and anxiety for hundreds of millions of people. We run off routine, whether we like it or not, and routines have changed so much, they feel irregular and unsettling. Humans are a social species by nature, and isolation is taking its toll on most of the world, in one way or another.
So I combine these two situations and try to use my coping skills to keep me afloat. I remind myself, that each day, the daylight is extending ever so slightly. I emphasize that this too will pass, just like it has, for season upon season. I tell myself that in a mere 8 weeks, birds will be chirping, and the sun will emit a taste of the upcoming summer’s heat. I may feel suicidal, I may feel anxious, and depressed, but somehow I manage to get through; holding a tiny iota of hope in the back of my mind.
Something felt different this time. I became utterly unproductive. I stopped writing and podcasting as I did not have the ability to focus. I was afraid for others to read or hear my words, expecting them to judge me as harshly as I judge myself. Fear held me back from everything. I felt like there was something different to this situation. Something particularly dark and heavy, and for the life of me, I could not put my finger on it. My coping skills were not working, and for the first time since my last suicide attempt I felt that dagger slice through my skin as it ripped hope away. What was this darkness? Was it even mine? Had I subconsciously taken on the feelings of others, which I tend to do as an empath.
I don’t like not knowing things. I research and read constantly, just to be informed. I absorb everything I can about my conditions, and the ailments of others. I reread my journal to see if it would trigger anything, and quite frankly, it was pissing me off, as I am aware and can identify most of my triggers, but this heaviness felt like someone placed a boulder in a backpack and strapped it on little me.
Well, I had a revelation yesterday. The lightbulb finally turned on, and the light led me to the answer. Now, these next few paragraphs may seem ludicrous, ridiculous or perhaps even selfish. Most of you won’t understand, and that is ok. All I can do is share my reality and hope it does more good than harm.
It’s my birthday in two months. Society would consider it a monumental number, and most would throw parties, and celebrate their successes in life. It’s ironic actually, as I am not one to consider numbers important. Age is a mindset, not always just a number, and for me, watching my mom die from cancer I learned at a young age that quality of life is more important than quantity.
The deep down details of my past are not relevant for this story. All you need to know is I was abused starting at 6 months old and lasting until age 14. I have never known a day without trauma. I was pretty messed up and although I didn’t understand the long term consequences of death, I did know that if I was dead, no one could hurt me anymore. That being said, I had been warned many times not to touch my grandmother’s pills because “they could make you very sick or even die”. I took them all, and as I was passing out I became violently ill, throwing up like crazy, which triggered my mom to come down, and they rushed me to the hospital. It was chalked up as “childhood misadventure”. I was eight years old.
I was 19 when my mom passed away. She had just turned 44 just three weeks earlier. Growing up with trauma and watching a parent die for six years somehow reinforced the thoughts of death in my head. At 19, 44 seemed like a good age. Not too young and not too old, and I had convinced and embraced the fact that I too, would die around that age. Over the years, it went from being a thought to being a core belief. I was sure I would die by suicide, or cancer, or anything really and accepted a young death as my reality. I made peace with it. I knew I was never having kids, so my death would not be a big deal to anyone, except a small handful of people.
It was a very strange feeling as I crept up to the age my mom was when she died. Was it possible that I was not going to die? How could this be happening? I didn’t prepare for a life after 40, mentally, financially or any damn way? Why did she die? Why couldn’t it have been me, since I had planned for it? The day came and went, and the next thing you know, I had outlived my mom. I only got to have a Mom for 17.5 years. It made my head spin, and my emotional state plummet. Now what was I supposed to do?
The future was now terrifying, and full of unknowns and uncertainties. I felt I had no choice and made one last attempt to take my life, a few years back. I needed to be able to have control over this one last thing, since everything else was spiralling. Obviously, I failed.
Fast forward to the present and I have survived three major suicide attempts, and a handful of overdoses. With my cumulative years of trauma, plus the adoptee rate being four times higher, and living with only recently diagnosed BPD, which has the highest suicide numbers of all mental illnesses…statistically I should not be alive. Some days I don’t know how I am still alive, or why for that matter, but here I am.
This whole upcoming birthday thing, while I realize it is just another day, is still entwined with my core belief that I should not be alive at this age. I have no family, I own nothing of value, I can no longer work, I have accomplished very little, and as much as I try to make them stop, these thoughts of suicide have dominated my mind for decades, with thoughts of diseases chasing closely behind.
I gave myself a time limit; if things didn’t improve by this birthday, then at least I will have tried my best, and it will be ok to go. I spend almost all my time in hyper-alert survival mode. That is what gets me by each day. I don’t know how to live in any other mode for an extended period of time. Survival keeps me in control of one thing…me. If I let go of that for too long, would I be able to stay alive?
It’s such a simple thing for the average person; celebrate, or don’t, and move on to the next day. I am in a conundrum. Part of me is holding on to a tiny bit of curiosity, wondering if something could actually get better, while the rest of me is repeating the destructive circle by holding onto those old and unnecessary core values. It is a difficult internal struggle that seems to worsen as the day draws nearer.
I guess what it comes down to is curiosity over fear, or fear over curiosity. Am I brave and strong enough to let go of that control for now, and face the uncertain future, holding on to that sense of curiosity and an iota of hope? Maybe I can, maybe I can’t, but I have to try. Besides it’s not like suicide has an expiry date. Maybe I can test the waters and still have a back-up plan.