Note: Before reading this article, please be aware that I discuss sensitive topics such as suicide and self-harm that may be triggering for some people. If you are sensitive to these topics, you may want to consider not reading this article. Please use your discretion before continuing.
In September 2017, I experienced what I now describe as a mental break where I saw something traumatic to me, and it impacted me in a profound way.
(I don’t see the point in recounting what I saw here. It does not matter. Everyone’s triggers will be different.)
The next day, I felt utterly hopeless and like I wanted to die.
It was a normal day, except it wasn’t. I actually went shopping at Costco with my mom that morning. It was raining, and I was wearing a blue hemp kaftan and had frankincense and myrrh essential oil in my hair. As we walked into the store, I told her a funny story my neighbor had told me, and we doubled over laughing.
I laughed so hard.
And yet, there was a darkness inside me that I couldn’t shake.
Later that evening, as my then-fiancé and I sat on my front porch after dinner, I cried and told him that I felt like I didn’t just want to die but that I needed to die. We were both afraid, and he held my hand as I told him how I felt.
I felt like nothing mattered. Despite having an amazing family, a wonderful fiancé, two jobs I loved, and four adorable bunnies that gave my life purpose, I felt like none of it mattered and that I needed to kill myself because the world wasn’t ever going to be right and I couldn’t be a part of it anymore.
So this article is about the isolation I felt while experiencing these feelings and how they changed my life.
I Felt Like I Could Talk to No One (And to This Day, Haven’t Talked to Anyone Besides My Husband About These Feelings)
I’m ready for the criticism on this.
It seems like anytime someone says they’re having feelings of hurting themselves or killing themselves, the immediate reaction is that they are in danger and that they need to:
a) get professional help (such as from a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.)
b) call the Suicide Hotline
c) be admitted to the psychiatric unit of the hospital
I didn’t do any of these things.
In fact, I was afraid to talk to anyone about these feelings. I didn’t talk to anyone besides my now-husband.
We talked about getting me professional help when my feelings and thoughts didn’t get better. I talked about killing myself for months. I felt depressed about the world (I’m an empath; if you don’t know what that is, you can read an article I wrote about it here. It’ll make a lot of sense why I felt this way if you understand what an empath is). I felt like I couldn’t be here anymore, even though if nothing else, my bunnies needed me to take care of them.
I didn’t self-harm and hadn’t self-harmed anytime in the last several years, but I thought about how I would kill myself. I felt like I “couldn’t” kill myself because I wouldn’t be able to carry out the act of doing it, but some hours, I felt like I had to.
Sometimes I would get home late at night and think about hurting myself or feel like I needed to hurt myself. I talked with my then-fiancé about all these feelings. He was worried, but he knew I trusted him and didn’t reach out to anyone about my feelings (I suspected he Googled a lot, though).
Were These Feelings “Bad”?
I realize how “bad” all this sounds. But I also realize there are other people out there who feel like this every day and feel like they can’t talk to anybody about it because it will be taken the wrong way. By being “taken the wrong way”, I mean that their feelings won’t be accepted as normal and that they’ll be treated differently for experiencing these feelings.
I am an adult. I am a person. It’s my personal choice whether or not to seek professional help. I have resources and a network of people who could help me if I chose. I ultimately chose not to speak to anyone else besides my husband because I felt like no one would truly understand. I was also afraid of not only being judged but of people encouraging me to “seek help” (thinking they know what’s best for me) or treating me differently because of my experience.
I came to realize that these feelings weren’t bad. They were how I felt. It was neither good nor bad that I felt like I wanted to die. I couldn’t keep labeling myself or my feelings. It wasn’t serving any purpose. Was I suicidal? Was I depressed? Maybe. But it wasn’t going to do any good labeling myself those things while I was experiencing my mental break.
A Little History
This wasn’t the first time I’d thought about killing myself. But it was the first time that I seriously considered it.
At the age of 13 and a self-proclaimed atheist (you can read more about that here), I didn’t really see the point of living if we were all just going to die anyway.
I thought about killing myself and thought that eventually, that was something I might do. But I never had any real desire to die and eventually stopped thinking about it. I realized that I was a teenager and my life would—hopefully—get better once I was an adult and could do whatever I wanted (it did!).
The break I experienced in 2017 was a completely different thing.
I don’t know if deep down I necessarily wanted to die, but felt like I needed to die. I had a rough plan for how I’d kill myself, though I knew the chances of me following through with it were slim.
I was in a place where I felt like nothing mattered. I felt extremely apathetic and that was scary. I felt like it didn’t matter if I killed myself or not. I simply felt like I couldn’t deal with the world and didn’t want to be here anymore.
I’m the type of person who wishes I didn’t exist because, as an empath, the world can be very hurtful to me, and sometimes I truly feel like I can’t take it (this is also one of the major reasons I’ve decided not to have children—I’m anti-natalist—among many other reasons).
My husband and I talk about death all the time and are aware that one day we are both going to die, and while this thought is saddening, it’s also liberating knowing I won’t be on this planet forever, and it makes me appreciate my time here more.
Ultimately, however, I feel like the fact that nothing mattered actually led me to keep going.
How My Desire to Die Impacted My Daily Life
Feeling like you want to die changes things. I no longer felt any need to be happy or pretend to be happy about life. I no longer felt like I could do things I didn’t want to do. I actually felt like I couldn’t do these things.
No longer caring made things simple. Not easy, but simple. If I wanted something, I bought it. If I didn’t want to do something, I said no. There was no longer any agonizing over my choices. Who cared?
So the following life changes happened.
1. I Cut Out Friends
I dropped one of my friends during this time (not the one that didn’t want to talk to me about death, she is my best friend). I no longer enjoyed spending time with her even before my break and truly felt like I could not hang out with her anymore after my break. It wasn’t personal. I just couldn’t pretend anymore with the way I felt.
2. I Stopped Spending Holidays with Dysfunctional Family Members
I could no longer spend dysfunctional holidays with my Catholic extended family, which I had been doing forever and never truly enjoyed it. Again, I felt like I literally could not do it. So I copped out of the three dreadful holidays every year I would spend with them.
There was a silver lining to this. Not doing things I didn’t want to do made me much happier. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now feel relief that I’ve been making conscious choices about what to do with my time. How I spend my time now is very important to me since I’ve had these feelings about dying, perhaps because I’m more aware of how limited my time really is.
3. My Sex Life Went to Shit
My feelings of wanting to die combined with the traumatic thing I witnessed made sex feel really hard. I felt like I couldn’t enjoy it or didn’t deserve to enjoy it because of all the horrible things happening in the world. I also kept having “flashbacks” of the trauma during sex. It was truly awful. It took a long time to get our sex life back on track.
4. I Spent More Money
My feelings made things that used to matter not matter anymore. For instance, I no longer cared about money. I bought whatever I wanted because I felt like it didn’t matter. If I bought something that brought me joy, could I really put a price on that at this point in my life? (This is a dangerous mindset to have when you’re on a budget—not to mention when you’re a freelancer that owes buku taxes at the end of every year.)
5. I Ate More Food
I also felt like it didn’t matter what I ate, although I generally eat really healthy, if I do say so myself. Who cared if I weighed 130 pounds or 230? Did it really matter? I ate a lot of gluten-free cinnamon raisin toast and vegan cream cheese during this time (I later dropped the few extra pounds I gained before my wedding with intermittent fasting).
6. I Appreciated the Tiny Things
These feelings also made me appreciate the teeny tiny things about my life that made me feel good, even if it was just for a second. These things could have been:
- Laughing with my family, like I did with my mom that morning at Costco
- Feeling the sun on my skin
- Eating some goddamn gluten-free cinnamon raisin toast with vegan cream cheese
- Spending time with my best friend, even if she didn’t understand what I going through
- Having a strawberry kombucha (GT’s what’s up!)
- Snuggling with my bunnies
- Having a great cup of tea
- KINDNESS. This one was huge. I felt so touched anytime someone was kind to me. It could have been the girl at the checkout asking me how I was or telling me to have a good day. It could have been a stranger smiling at me. It could have been my husband saying, “I love you”. It could have been my neighbor calling just to say hi. These tiny things meant so much when I felt so bad.
Perhaps most of all, I appreciated feeling better, even if the steps were tiny. Time passed, and while some days were fucking hard, things very slowly got easier. And even if some days I truly didn’t feel ok, that really was ok.
These Are the Things That Helped
So as I said, time went on. I made a list of things that helped me feel less like I wanted to die, which you can read in my empath article. In case you don’t feel like reading that article, these are the seven things that really helped me (although I do go into more detail in that other article about each one).
4. Reading Eckhart Tolle
6. Avoiding Triggers
My husband and I keep this list on our fridge to remind me to do at least a couple of these things daily. It really helps me maintain my mental health and strengthen my resilience, so the next time I do experience a trigger, I can handle it better and get through it easier.
Even though I felt so bad some days, these things did help. For instance, maybe I didn’t feel like exercising on a certain day, but I would read Eckhart Tolle, which was hugely helpful. Or maybe I didn’t feel like meditating, but I would ground, which was easy and made me feel better.
What works for me won’t work for everyone; I just know that these things are helpful for me even if I feel like I want to die.
Where Am I Today?
Today, I do still feel like I want to die on occasion. In the months after my break, my life largely consisted of “not ok” moments with rare moments of happiness. Today, it’s the opposite. I feel a lot better than I felt nearly two years ago, although some days are a struggle, I feel nowhere near as bad as I felt back then.
I got married less than a year (about 10 months) after my mental break to my amazing husband. At this time, I was doing much better and knew what I needed to do to feel less depressed.
I’m not saying everything is better. Just that I’m doing better.
So why the heck did I write this article?
I’m tired of not talking about my feelings because of the stigmatism associated with mental health and suicide. Over the last nearly two years since I had my break, literally the only person I have talked to about my feelings has been my husband. And that’s not only doing a disservice to him and to me, but to everyone out there who has felt these same feelings and doesn’t want to be labeled as suicidal or depressed or have people freak out about their feelings.
You may not have seen what I’ve seen or experienced what I’ve experienced. But maybe something happened to you that deeply hurt you and marked your soul and has made you feel like you want to die.
My goal in writing this article isn’t necessarily to offer you hope. Do I think the world is going to get better? Yes, I do. But that’s not the point of this article. I’m here to tell you that your feelings are valid. I’m here to tell you that it’s not wrong or bad to feel like you want to die. I’d even go so far as to say that if someone chooses to kill themselves (as my own grandfather did), then that’s a decision that is theirs and theirs alone. No one else lives your life. No one else feels the things you feel. Only you know if you want to keep going.
I hope you do, only because I’ve done it, and I know that I am better because of this—even though I feel differently about life now and things aren’t all roses—and have something to share with the world. I know you do too. It’s up to you if you want to share it, though.
I’ve learned that I can make a difference, even if it is small. The thing I witnessed—I work every day to stop it from happening again, and that brings meaning, even if it feels small sometimes, to my life. It makes me feel like if I die, I won’t be able to make a difference. But I’m here now, and I’m working daily to make the world a better place. I know you can too.