My Story- Suicide and Depression

Five years old. That’s how old I was when I first thought about suicide. I was sitting in the car on the freeway and thought, “if I open this door and just fall out of the car, it will all be over.”

Twenty years later, I still have the same thoughts. “If I just turn the steering wheel, it will all be over.” “If I just use that knife or take that rope or walk off a cliff or loosen my seat belt on a rollercoaster, it will all be over.” I know it’s faulty reasoning. I could miraculously survive one of these methods of suicide, or if there is life after death, it may not be over. It just seems like such a good option sometimes. It seems like the only escape.

I don’t remember when I first felt depressed. Much of my childhood memories are flashes of pictures, glimpses of what may have happened with some vague feelings attached to them. I know that I cried a lot. I remember crying in bed nearly every day from elementary school through middle school. I remember the loneliness was so real that it felt like an extra layer of skin too tight for my body, suffocating me daily.

Therapy seemed useless. How can you cure loneliness? Drugs seemed useless for the same reason. In fact, no one even knew. So there was no way I would have gotten help anyway. I couldn’t tell anyone I wanted to die. Telling someone would make it real. I was afraid of it. I was afraid of the feelings, afraid of the thoughts, afraid that if anyone knew, it would give me a reason to follow through on those thoughts.

I wasn’t always depressed. In fact, I was usually pretty happy, at least with the people who would notice if something was wrong. That was part of the problem. Why would anyone believe I wanted to die when I smiled so much? I had no good reason for wanting to die except for being bullied and not having friends and not being able to communicate how I wanted to and stresses at home and difficulties in school. But I knew I had things good. There were lots of people who were worse off. At least I had a good family and freedoms and God. Life couldn’t be that bad. So I convinced myself to keep living, and I did, and I did a pretty good job of it until college when I started my first suicide attempt.

I practically begged to be heard. I blasted loud music in my room with lyrics about suicide. I wrote Facebook posts and notes stating how much I was hurting and how hopeless I felt. It wasn’t fair to my roommates to expect them to save me, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was drowning and had no where else to turn. I wanted someone to blatantly ask me if I was going to commit suicide because I had a plan and I needed help, but I needed someone to recognize how serious it was because I didn’t know what else to do.

I did end up going to a therapist, which helped minimally, and I attempted suicide again when I returned to school after summer break. It was a slow downward spiral with little hope of changing. Of course, with the periods of happiness and hypomania, it still didn’t really feel serious. I made it through college though and moved back home for a while.

The thing is, the suicidal thoughts never really went away. I took medicine, I went to therapy, I did everything you are supposed to do to feel okay, but I was still broken. I had one year of happiness. One year where I felt so happy that describing the feelings produced happy tears of gratitude and appreciation. There were still dark moments, but they were few and far between.

I became depressed again, plunging into the same cycle of suicidal thoughts and darkness of the mind. I finally found a therapist that helped. I finally had hope.

I have hope. I still think of suicide. I still get depressed. I don’t think people realize the extent of it. How can you take it seriously when you know I’ll never act on it? Or at least will likely never act on it? Even though the threat is minimal though, I sort of wish it was acknowledged more.

I don’t want people to worry, but I do want them to know. I just want positive thoughts, understanding, prayers. I mostly just want to know that I’m not alone, that I don’t have to do it alone. I have accepted depression. I have accepted that the suicidal thoughts will likely never go away. I just don’t want to do it alone. I don’t want to face this alone. You don’t have to understand, but please just let me know I’m not alone.

Grateful for Autism

It has taken me a long time to be grateful for autism.

It is easy to wish your life was easy. It is easy to want what you don’t have and to think that if only you had something, or didn’t have something, that life would be perfect. At some point though, you may realize that you don’t really want a perfect life.

I consider my life to be perfectly imperfect, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love autism because it makes me different. I see things in ways other people don’t. I hear things and feel things and notice things differently than others. I live in the same world, but I experience it differently than most.

This has made life more difficult. Autism has made making friends more difficult. I have doubted myself and questioned the need for my existence. I have had unrealistic expectations of myself because I didn’t realize how real my autism is. I have thought I was broken or damaged or alien or not fit to be around “normal” people.

Up until recently, I didn’t think a diagnosis mattered. It was just a name for certain symptoms or characteristics or tendencies or whatever you want to call them. What a diagnosis does for me though is it helps me know I’m not broken or incapable or unworthy. Nothing about me indicates that I have autism, which makes it easy to wonder what is wrong with me when I struggle. But having a diagnosis helps me realize that some things ARE harder. I can’t expect as much out of myself because it’s just not realistic.

It has taken me a long time to forgive myself for being different. It has taken me a long time to forgive myself for not talking to people or not making friends or being unable to communicate my needs.

Today though, I am grateful for autism because it has made me more grateful for the friends I do have. It makes me grateful for the good days. It makes me grateful when I can communicate what I mean in a way that people understand and connect with. It makes me grateful for quiet moments, sweet scents, and soft textures. It makes me grateful when I can help someone or change a point of view in a positive way or influence another person for good. I still struggle with being okay with having autism, but I am grateful for it overall.

My Story- Forgiveness

I could have named this my story of abuse or family or any number of things, but I decided to name it my story of forgiveness because it’s not about what happened to me, but how I changed because of it.

I had a pretty good home life. My parents loved me. In general, we were well taken care of and had everything we needed to live. But we fought a lot. My parents fought; my siblings fought. I generally did not fight and was considered the peacemaker of the house, which was sometimes a lot of pressure as a kid.

I also tended to not get in trouble. I remember my parents chasing after my sister with a shoe when she slammed the door to her room. I remember my dad telling my younger brother that it would be taken out of his blood when my brother had thrown a book across the room. I remember the fear of not wanting to be hurt and the pain of seeing my siblings punished.

I don’t want anyone to think my parents were severely abusive, that was just the parenting style they grew up with. In fact, the real abuse came from my father’s mother, my grandmother.

Up until about a year ago, I would avoid my grandmother as much as I could. I associated her presence with discomfort and pain. I don’t remember what age I was, but probably around 10, when the incident occurred that formed my most vivid memory of abuse.

I was at my grandparents’ house, probably helping them to paint or something. They wanted to feed me dinner. It was macaroni noodles covered in mayonnaise. I can’t eat mayonnaise, it makes me sick… But you don’t say no to grandma. So I had the great idea to flush my dinner down the toilet. Well, grandma found out what I was doing and took the noodles out of the toilet, rinsed them off and forced them down my throat. I still get sick just thinking about it.  I would rather be beaten than forced to eat something.

It has been hard to forgive that. It has been hard to associate my grandmother with anything other than hate and pain. Miraculously though, it happened this year. I stood there and hugged this woman who abused me, who I cringed at the sound of her voice, who I feared more than anyone in the world. I held her and softly assured her that things would be okay. I protected her; I loved her.

My story of abuse isn’t that bad. I didn’t get broken bones or physical scars. I did get emotional scars that stayed deep for many years, but I have forgiven. I don’t know how I forgave. It didn’t change how much she hurt me. It didn’t change that I don’t trust anyone alone with her. It didn’t change her. It just changed me.

I changed. I forgave my parents first, especially my dad. I forgave him all of his faults and the physical and emotional crimes I felt he committed against me and my mom and siblings. I forgave him because he is human. I forgave him because he needed it, and I needed it too.

Forgiving my grandmother was completely unexpected. I didn’t know it would happen. I didn’t know it could happen. But it has been freeing, incredibly freeing, to let go of that pain and that fear, and just be free.

Thank you to my brother, Greg

Dear Greg,

We’ve been through a lot together. Ever since we were kids, we knew the darkness more than our other siblings. It connected us. We could talk about things other people didn’t understand because we understood each other. When we went through hard things, we could talk about it. I’m grateful it’s still like that sometimes.

Thanks for being someone who understands. Thanks for sharing with me the things that are important to you and that you get excited about. Thanks for introducing me to random music I would never listen to on my own. Thanks for the late nights of talking when I know I should get to bed. Thanks for checking on me to make sure I’m okay when you realize something is wrong. Thanks for the times you’ve defended me and stood up for me. Thanks for the laughs and the tears that all brought us closer together.

You are my little brother by birth, but my big brother in everything else. Big in spirit, height, talent, love, emotion, abilities, dreams, and more. I love you and I’m glad I have you as a brother. Thank you for being my brother.

Thank You to My Sister

Dear Cindy,

Thank you for being my sister. Thank you for the long nights where we stayed up talking long after the lights were out. Those nights kept me alive. I don’t think you knew or realized the extent of my loneliness, but I was always less lonely with you.

Thank you for letting me go with you to your friends’ houses. Most people would probably be annoyed that their little sister was always coming along, but even if you did get annoyed, I felt loved and accepted by you and your friends. I know I wasn’t always the most fun person to be around at our sleepovers, but I always had fun.

Thank you for being real with me. Over the last few years, I have been trying to understand myself. I have struggled and broken at times and I know it gets frustrating, but I’m so grateful for the times you’ve broken down with me. I’m grateful that you don’t let me go through it alone or let me close into myself. It’s probably hard to be my sister because there’s many things I can’t explain so you would understand, but thanks for being there for me anyway.

Thank you for making me part of your family. I always feel at home when I’m with you. Thank you for always standing up for me and loving me and allowing me to be myself. No matter who we are with, you always make me feel like I belong.

I am so grateful for all you have taught me. I have learned so much from being your sister and your friend. I would not be who I am today without you. I would not be as understanding or patient or kind without you. I would not be as good of a person without you.

Thank you for your example, your spirit, your love. I am so grateful to call you my sister, and I am glad we’re not just sisters but best friends.

A Desperate Ruse

Earlier this year, I heard this story that I related to suicide. The story was given with a different goal in mind, but I could not help but connect it with my own feelings of falling mentally and emotionally.

Here is the story:

“Without safety ropes, harnesses, or climbing gear of any kind, two brothers—Jimmy, age 14, and John, age 19 (though those aren’t their real names)—attempted to scale a sheer canyon wall in Snow Canyon State Park in southern Utah. Near the top of their laborious climb, they discovered that a protruding ledge denied them their final few feet of ascent. They could not get over it, but neither could they now retreat from it. They were stranded. After careful maneuvering, John found enough footing to boost his younger brother to safety on top of the ledge. But there was no way to lift himself. The more he strained to find finger or foot leverage, the more his muscles began to cramp. Panic started to sweep over him, and he began to fear for his life.

Unable to hold on much longer, John decided his only option was to try to jump vertically in an effort to grab the top of the overhanging ledge. If successful, he might, by his considerable arm strength, pull himself to safety. In his own words, he said: ‘Prior to my jump I told Jimmy to go search for a tree branch strong enough to extend down to me, although I knew there was nothing of the kind on this rocky summit. It was only a desperate ruse. If my jump failed,the least I could do was make certain my little brother did not see me falling to my death.

‘Giving him enough time to be out of sight, I said my last prayer—that I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could make it home safely on his own—then I leapt. There was enough adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands down on the surface, I felt nothing but loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the gritty sensation of hanging there with nothing to hold on to—no lip, no ridge, nothing to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over.

‘But then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size. My faithful little brother had not gone looking for any fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited—silently, almost breathlessly—knowing full well I would be foolish enough to try to make that jump. When I did,he grabbed me, held me, and refused to let me fall.Those strong brotherly arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly above what would surely have been certain death.’”¹

As I listened to this story, I put myself in John’s place. How many times have I felt like I was hanging on for dear life with no way to reach safety? Depression is very real. I can’t emphasize enough how true that statement is. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on the edge of a metaphorical cliff and felt my fingers slip when there was nothing to grasp. I can’t tell you how I grateful I am for the people who have not fallen for my desperate ruse to save them from seeing me fall.

I have found myself on cliffs too steep for me many times. I have frantically searched for a way out of my situation only to feel my mind sinking deeper in despair and hopelessness. I have gotten others to safety, not knowing if the same thing was possible for me. I have told others to leave, trying to convince them that I will be okay or that I did not matter. I have put on a smile or downplayed my distress as my own desperate ruse so that someone else would not have to see me fall. And I have jumped many times in an attempt to save myself, only to slip towards my death. Sometimes it was the hands of others that caught me in those desperate moments. Sometimes it was an unexplained miracle that stopped my fall. But whatever it was that saved me, I still remember that desperate moment of grasping with nothing to hold on to.

If you don’t understand suicide or what it’s like to think about suicide, I just want you to understand how real it is. I want you to understand that it’s not a decision to die, it’s an attempt to save yourself. And if you don’t notice the signs or don’t see the indications, it’s because that is our desperate ruse to save you from seeing us fall.

Vulnerable

There are certain things people never talk about. And if they do talk about them, it is generally only with the closest of friends in sincere moments of quiet understanding, or with relative strangers because we’re afraid of losing friends by being honest.

That’s why it is so hard to have a blog linked to my personal accounts where friends and family members of all types of relationships can see what I post. It is like putting a mirror in the middle of the road with a sign that says “please don’t break me.” Every time I post something about autism or depression or suicide, I pray that I won’t be broken. I hope that people will understand. I hope that it won’t make people afraid of being themselves around me or nervous to talk to me or resentful of how I feel or think about things.

Every post is a risk. Every post means allowing myself to be seen as human, and let’s face it, we don’t like being human. Being human is vulnerable. Humans get hurt. They die and suffer and make mistakes. We would much rather feel invincible. And it is easy to feel invincible in this world. We can hide behind our electronic devices, not feel the elements by staying in our houses or cars or offices, and social media is almost designed to make us seem invincible by posting only the moments we want to glory in. It is easy to feel invincible when there are metal, plastic, tangible machines always between us and the rest of the world.

However, most of us know to some extent that we are not invincible. Here is where the gap lies. We have an image of invincibility that we put out to the rest of the world, while silently guarding the vulnerable person that we see inside ourselves.

I don’t want to be like that. As hard as it is to be vulnerable, I don’t want to hide behind walls I myself create. I want to be me always so that no one is surprised when I do something human.

It is hard though. Even though I know why I do this and I wouldn’t want to go back to hiding, it is hard to continue to be vulnerable. What keeps me going though are the messages I get that say, “I connect with what you’re going through.” The times when people tell me they understand or relate to a post. And it reminds me that I have to keep doing this because being vulnerable is the only way out of being scared. It may be hard, but if it helps one person it is worth it. And I know it always helps at least one person, me.

Seriously

I have a super hard time with being serious. When I was a child and throughout my life, I would get in trouble for laughing at inappropriate times, especially when people were trying to be serious.

It’s kind of a strange paradox that I struggle with how hard life is, but I also don’t understand why people get upset or frustrated with things.

I think the thing that bothers me most about depression is how serious it is. I’m just not a serious person normally. I don’t stress about tests or making things perfect or trying to be someone I’m not. I don’t generally stress about how I look or what people will think of me or what to say next in a conversation. I just take things one step at a time and analyze the situation as it comes up.

Even with my struggles with autism and talking to people, I don’t usually stress out about it unless I’m depressed. I’ve had people tell me I’m inspiring for talking to random people despite my challenges. To me though, it’s not inspiring. It’s just easy. Life is easy. Not because life isn’t hard, but because it doesn’t matter if you mess up. I don’t take life seriously because messing up isn’t the end result; it’s just a step along the way. If I fail 100 times, it doesn’t matter because it’s not the end. I only really fail if I stop trying.

Which makes depression so hard for me to understand, because I feel like a failure before I even begin. For someone who never worries about failing, starting out as a failure is overwhelming. I mean, it would be overwhelming for anyone; it just seems so abstract. When I’m depressed I don’t feel like myself. I feel asleep, far away, trapped inside my mind.

Maybe that’s why I have depression, because it’s the only way I could understand people’s struggles. It’s the only thing that I take seriously. I can understand seriousness and be understanding because I know the dark. The darkness is serious and it’s all around; so I can understand fear and hate and stress and sadness and hopelessness. Life is serious. It’s hard and crazy. But because of that, I feel like it’s so important to not take life seriously. If we acknowledge how difficult life is, we don’t have time to realize how beautiful it is.

I know we all have struggles. I know I’m nothing close to perfect. But the only thing I want to be serious about is not taking life so seriously that I forget to just live.

Why I Blog

When you talk so openly about life, it’s hard not to get anxiety every time someone new can see what you post. I debate almost every time on whether or not I should hide things from certain people, but then I remind myself why I’m doing this… because someone needs to.

People don’t talk about problems that they don’t think other people will understand. And so, people continue to not understand because no one talks about it.

Talking so openly about autism and depression and suicide and other important issues goes against human nature. We naturally want people to like us and understand us, and we don’t want to stand out or seem different. If you’re different, it’s harder to make friends. So we all try to be the same, but we are different and the differences are usually what makes the friendships interesting.

Once you get past a certain level of being different though, it’s like a completely different world. I am at that level. And because I am so different, I blog about those differences. By talking about my differences, I feel like I have been able to see that we are more alike than we think we are. So I continue blogging because one day I won’t feel as different as I do now and that will make it all worth it in the end.

Picturing People

The other day I was thinking about a friend of mine that I went to help with some cleaning. It was interesting though because this friend is in a wheelchair and has been for as long as I’ve known her, but when I pictured her I didn’t picture her in a wheelchair. In fact, I totally forgot she is in a wheelchair until I was trying to think of why I had helped her clean.

And I just thought… wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone could picture everyone like that all the time? What if we could all just see each other without our disabilities, without seeing what makes us different, and just see what makes us the same? How different would the world be if we could all see how we’re alike instead of how we’re different?

I know it sounds idealist, but if I can forget about someone’s wheelchair, I’m sure people could forget about my autism or depression or other faults. So maybe I don’t have to worry so much about all my differences. Because if I can picture other people without their disabilities, maybe they can picture me without mine.