My favorite poem of all time is Dorothy Parker’s Resume (you may also know it from the film Girl, Interrupted)
Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acids stains you
And drugs cause cramp
Guns aren’t lawful
Gas smells awful
You might as well live
I have loved this poem since I first read it when I was around twelve years old. Now this might seem like a very morbid poem for a twelve year old to latch on to, but it really resonated with me. The reason? Because I was suicidal. And I would continue to be suicidal for years. And here it was – a wonderful, glib, bite-sized nugget, telling me that it’s better to stay alive. I immediately memorized it and it became an invaluable lifeline. It still is.
I did not plan to live this long. For quite a while, I was positive that I eventually was going to commit suicide. That was the prognosis I gave myself. It seemed inevitable. I knew the statistics. I knew what the world was like out there for a girl like me: mentally ill, overweight, “different”. It didn’t look good. Thankfully, I did not kill myself and managed to survive adolescence. Obviously, this is a very good thing. The problem that I am dealing with now is that old habits die hard, and these thoughts keep creeping back. I feel incredibly unprepared for adulthood because, for most of my teenage years, I was positive that I was never going to reach it. My years of suicidal ideation, while mostly over, are still a part of me . . . still a hurdle I’m trying to overcome.
I’ve blocked out most of the ages 12-16 (PTSD, psychosis), but what I do remember is that suicide always seemed to be in the back of my mind. An option. This is called suicidal ideation: wanting to kill yourself but not having any concrete plans to do so. I spent years in this headspace. My answer to problems was often, “Well, I could always just die.” No problem my teenage self could have was a match for death. No matter how bad things got, I knew that I could always take a bottle of pills and they would go away. It became so normal for me that even at 18, after taking my SATS, I had extra time left so I decided to play a game: How many things in the classroom could I kill myself with? That is how I passed the time after my SATS. That was my answer to every life problem. There was security and comfort in suicide.
Most tweens and teens are constantly preparing for adulthood. It’s how most of those years are spent. Outwardly, I followed my peers and went through those motions. But inwardly, I didn’t see the point. This means I either missed out on or forgot a great number of life lessons that were supposed to prepare me for my later years. The years I am living in now. I feel as though I am missing key life skills. There is no course on how to be an adult. Only life experience. Experiences that I missed out on. Teenagers prepare for adulthood by thinking about their future, making mistakes, and then learning from them. For at least four seminal years, I only did one of those things. I didn’t really plan for my future because I didn’t think I had one and I never learned from my mistakes because every time I made one I thought the best option was to just off myself. I now feel that all I did was make mistakes, and today I am living with the consequences. My mother once told me “You need to forgive yourself for things you did – and didn’t do – when you were 14.” This is proving harder than it sounds. I am currently trying to learn from my adolescent mistakes in more practical, undramatic ways. I am finally shedding my security blanket.
Shedding the blanket of suicide is the hardest thing that I have ever done. It is the hardest thing that I have ever written or spoken about. People tend to freak out when you tell them you have suicidal thoughts. And for good reasons. But that has kept me silent for too many years. Until now. I truly believe it’s time to end the verbal suicide taboo – starting with myself. I still deal with suicidal ideation today. It’s a habit that’s hard to shake. For years, I lived in a world where I didn’t have to deal with my future because I was positive there wasn’t one. Now I am living in and building a world in which a future is possible. Not having suicide as my constant fallback plan is very uncomfortable because it forces me to deal with things in the real, tangible world, instead of in my comfortable, morbid fantasy.
I have never made any kind of “serious” suicide attempt. Sometimes, I saw this as a weakness. I was too scared. Now, I think that one could instead see it as a strength. I am very much alive, and very happy to be so. I am now learning adult things. I am learning about taxes and how the healthcare system works. I am learning about how to form solid relationships and how to talk at parties. Yes, sometimes I still slip up and fantasize about what people would post about me on Facebook after my tragic, untimely demise. But I am getting better. I feel like my life is a gift. I could’ve easily lost my battle with mental illness and become another statistic. Many people in my situation do. But with the help of my amazing family and friends, the band My Chemical Romance circa 2006 – 2010, countless books, and the ability and space to create art, I never acted out on my thoughts. They remained just that, thoughts. Thoughts that I no longer need, And am now learning to let go of for good.
This is an uphill battle for me, but I still have Dorothy Parker’s words as my battle cry. Razors, rivers, acid, drugs, guns, nooses, and gas have nothing on me. I might as well live. And that is what I plan to do.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts call 1-800-SUICIDE for 24/7 support