Shout out to the inspiration for this title: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf
I want you to know that considering suicide isn’t nearly as rare as many people would lead you to believe.
You’re not weird, you’re not crazy.
People are REALLY uncomfortable talking about this super common thing, which then leads to people feeling ashamed, different, or like a burden for feeling this way.
You’re not being dramatic, you’re not being weak, this thing is real. I swear it.
I want you to promise to read to the end of this post, take a really big breath, and drink a cup of cold water. That’s it.
Okay, let’s go.
I heard a really common phrase last week:
“Every moment when I was almost willing to give up was the biggest pay off.”
I think we’ve all heard variations of this, but it helped re-frame my very constant relationship with suicidal thoughts in a different way.
I’ve had depression for about twenty years. Specifically, in my early twenties we figured out that my brain just doesn’t make or process enough serotonin, which leads to a constant low mood. It’s a very common condition called dysthymia. A lot of my day-to-day is about decreasing inflammation and increasing serotonin to help.
My first total existential crisis – the “why am I here? what’s the point?” variety of meltdown – kicked in when I was about fifteen.
College was the first time I found mirrors of my experience, which I believe help immensely, being able to know what you’re going through is real.
A poet I knew said that reaching out for help when you’re not doing okay mentally was the bravest thing you could do. Up until that point, all I had heard was “suicide is selfish.”
I implore everyone to never say that phrase again. It undermines what people are going through, and isn’t at all helpful. It just induces more shame, not having a single thing to do with thoughts of suicide.
Understanding that my thoughts weren’t selfish, but WERE a thing worth asking for help with is what led me to counseling in my early 20s, which helped identify my dysthyma. Up until last year, I was managing well with diet and exercise – some days harder than others, but rarely with unmanageable dips.
Then last year around this time, I was severely suicidal, worried I wasn’t going to be able to survive on my own. Yaz birth control had tipped the scales too far on my brain chemistry and I was in a scary place, so I ran away to my mom’s house in South Carolina for a few weeks.
That was a sprint to stay alive.
This past year has been the marathon.
I have been suicidal (although not as intensely) over the past year more times than I can count. It’s the weight I acknowledge and carry around, expending a lot of energy on babying it.
A lot of “I see you, but we’re not doing this today.”
A lot of “fine, I get that you’re not leaving, but can you take two steps to the side?”
A lot of hunkering down through the storm.
A lot of removing anything that feels like it’s going to expend too much emotional energy so I can survive this.
It doesn’t help to reach out. I wish it were that simple. It’s something I’ve had to figure out how to frame, how to shift the weight so a new part of me can carry it when one part gets tired.
That quote above didn’t make me feel like something life-changing was around the corner, like this was going to magically melt away.
Expecting that then not getting it would make me lose too much hope. Getting happy then ending up right back where you were is how we lose people that we thought “were finally doing well.”
But it did make me realize this thing I’ve been carrying is my workout; the payoff is in the training. It helped re-frame my weariness.
The self-awareness I have gained around knowing and understanding my struggle with suicide is a gift in itself, and it’s one I hope to impart to you by sharing it.
Now that I recognize my thoughts, they’re not quite so overwhelming or scary. They still suck – don’t get me wrong – but they are a bit easier to shift to one side.
Same way type 1 diabetes has made me more courageous and resilient, suicide constantly whispering in my ear has made me really fucking strong. Power lifter status. Now I can throw cars out of my way, proverbially.
And if not even we can stop ourselves, sure as hell no one else can.
No matter what is leading you to these thoughts – loneliness, feeling burdensome or inadequate, being weary from a health issue you’re carrying, I want you to recognize the inherent strength you have in carrying this thing.
I know you wish you didn’t have to be strong just to get through life, but isn’t it cool being a superhero?
I know that knowing you’re loved doesn’t mean a whole lot, in the end. It just makes you feel more guilty for being so exhausted, but isn’t love in itself kinda magical?
I know that knowing people need you feels like more of a weight than a gift. But it is a reminder that this weird little universe we live in seems to have something planned out, the people it puts in one another’s lives.
I think it takes some of the weight off, knowing that this is something you can get through, even in the times you feel like you can’t or don’t want to. The pain of feeling like you want to end things is intense, but what a fucking warrior you are for it.
I hope you find the breath to talk about it – just a little bit to whomever you’re most comfortable with. Even if it’s your dog. Just get the words out.
A feeling acknowledged isn’t as heavy.
Find any tiny little thing that brings you joy. A flower. A dog outside. A ridiculously hard workout that makes you sweat through your clothes. The sound of a kid playing. Love, Simon on HBO.
Let it help you move through this thought until it’s not as intense, a little lighter to carry again.