At some point, you begin to accept the sadness. You begin to feel comfortable in the emptiness, you begin to fear happiness. At some point I began to accept the endless crying, I began to feel comfortable in loathing myself, I began to fear seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
I told myself I wanted to be happy. I screamed to the world that I just wanted to feel okay again. And I cried to the air that I just wanted to like myself. But would happiness ever be as powerful emotionally as depression was? If I can clearly enunciate one thing about the deepest days of my depression, it's that I felt the most full emptiness that you could ever imagine. It felt like there was physically nothing in my body except for my organs — but I felt that emptiness more than I have ever felt any kind of fullness when happy.
There's one Snapchat I took in the winter of 2018 in which my eyes are swollen beyond imaginable, tears stained onto my cheeks, and my face emotionless. I wrote, "I have never felt so hopeless before." Every time I go back and look at it a pit forms in my chest and my heart skips a beat. Because I can still remember right now exactly how I felt on that winter day two years ago. So completely and utterly hopeless. But that emptiness was so full.
One of the themes for World Mental Health Day 2020 is "What people with mental illness want you to know." What do I want you to know?
If you are struggling right now, I want you to know that it is okay — it is normal — to fear happiness again.
If you do not struggle with mental illness, I want you to better understand the suicidal mind, my suicidal mind.
Every story is different, but this is my story and these are my thoughts. From someone who has experienced suicidal thoughts and ideations for years now, I struggle. Even on days like today, when I am not amidst a depressive spell, but when it is just gloomy and raining all day, I struggle with the thoughts that my mind forces in my thoughts. It's a day like today when I struggle to feel like I've made progress because the second one suicidal thought pops into your head again it feels as though you are back to square one.
Last year I was in Boston for a Christmas holiday tournament. I didn't perform as well as I had hoped, but I also didn't play unexpectedly bad either. It was a mediocre weekend. Walking out of the locker room after our final game, though, I shocked myself in the most terrifying of ways. Right before walking out the door, I took one final look back at all of my best friends and my mind told me "this might be the last time you see them."
This might be confusing to people who have never experienced anything like this, that "double voice" that people always talk about. Isn't it just you telling yourself it, but trying to blame it on someone else lest you take responsibility for it yourself? Honestly, I used to think that too. But no. There's a difference, in my opinion, between brain and mind. I can control my brain to think about what I want it to think, but my mind is its own entity.
This is where I feel like a prisoner in my own body, out of control.
My mind sent this thought into my head so subconsciously that my body nearly crumbled to the floor right then and there. From day one of my diagnosis, my therapist and psychologist had been begging me to acknowledge that hockey was my biggest trigger, but I couldn't accept it. I had to finish out my final year of hockey — I had to just push through it. But it was at that debilitating moment when I knew I needed to take action. It was either I take action on hockey being a trigger, or my mind was going to take action to remove me from this earth.
I took a break from hockey. I met with my coaches, my athletic director, my teammates, and my parents. I was captain, and I felt like I was letting everyone down. I knew I wasn't letting myself down, but I didn't respect myself enough to internalize that nothing else matters. I was too focused on feeling guilt over all the defensemen having to pick up my slack and get less time to catch their breaths on the bench, over my co-captain having to pull all the leadership weight on the ice, over putting my parents in the position of having to tell other parents why I wasn't playing. Even when I very well knew I was on the brink of ending it, I still couldn't give myself the benefit of the doubt to take a break and, literally, save myself.
I spent my nights sleeping over at school, on the phone for hours with my therapist, borrowing my friend's empty rooms to sob in private. Sitting here remembering and typing this all out, tears are welling in my eyes. As much as I feared (and sometimes still fear) happiness, I fear ever reaching that place again, which I know is a very high possibility with this illness.
I guess I'm not really giving any of you a clear cut answer as to what it feels like to have suicidal thoughts. Looking back at this article, it's all over the place. It's not edited or revised and it was clearly not planned out before my fingers started typing away. But I feel like this is only fitting for these topics.
On this World Mental Health Day, I hope you know that mental illness is messy, it's not a clear cut, planned out, or a revised thing. It affects you differently every time it makes its return. It hits you at the most random times. And it's a constant, life-long journey.