Lately, I don’t think very much about suicide. It’s not that I have been beating down suicidal impulses, but simply that when I’m doing better, I don’t think about dying.
But then there was last night.
I think that when I was sick with the stomach flu over the last few days, I didn’t end up getting the right dose of everything. In particular, I think I may have not managed to get enough Effexor into my system. But who knows; I had also continued decreasing my Wellbutrin earlier in the week. Meds management is one of my biggest challenges in 2017.
Anyway, it started up in the late evening. The sense that there was no point, no purpose, and everything was just much too difficult. Early in the evening, my husband and I had been talking about planning a trip to the South Pacific in the fall. I don’t know if we’ll really do it or not, but travel is just about my favorite thing ever. I’d been feeling kind of excited about the idea. But by bedtime, I wondered why. Then I thought, well, maybe I would go and feel the sun on my skin and swim in warm ocean, and at the end, that would be the end. I’d just kill myself and never come back home.
At bedtime, I couldn’t fall asleep. I paid attention to my breathing. I listened to a guided meditation. I read. I tossed. I think we went to bed at 11:00, and I know I heard the clock strike 1:00. The dogs woke me up at 4:00 to go out, and although I sometimes tell them to go away and go back to sleep, Daisy had been injured a few days before and was off her regular routine, so I was worried about her. I got up and let them out, waited a bit, brought them back in, and crawled back into bed. But there was no more sleeping for me after that.
Instead, I couldn’t go of the suicide thoughts. No, it would be more accurate to say: they couldn’t let go of me. They were rats, gnawing away at my brain, chewing through any promise of future pleasure or satisfaction. They were relentless, insistent. “There’s nothing left for you,” they said. “You will always come back to this, only this, the emptiness and the worthlessness and the loneliness.”
I moved into the guest room, to leave my husband in peace. I played another guided meditation. I briefly thought about my breath, but soon shifted to think about a belt around my neck, tightening. There’d be a little bit of fear, a little bit of struggle, but not so bad. The bad part would be my husband’s suffering. He doesn’t deserve that.
Better to swim out into the sea and just keep swimming and swimming, until I’m too far from land and too tired to swim back. Then he’ll think it’s an accident. It will be easier for him to bear. The problem with this “plan” is 1) I don’t live near the sea and 2) even if I drive to the beach, the water here is so cold I can’t even bear to wade in up to my waist. This would have to wait for a trip to someplace tropical.
Which matters more, my relief or my husband’s ability to keep going?
I was fully aware that these thoughts were probably chemically induced, which meant they would pass. But the rats felt more powerful than this awareness, just as they were more powerful than my mindfulness skills. (“That’s because you are so lazy,” the critical voice says, “if you practiced more each day instead of only 10-15 minutes, if you had some self-discipline, you would cope a lot better…”)
At some point, I remembered that breathing isn’t my only coping skill. Acceptance, that’s right. I can allow hard feelings. I can allow suicidal thoughts. “Okay, rats,” I can say, “you are digging and chewing and destroying. And I will be as kind to myself as I can while you do what you have to do.”
My husband’s alarm was beeping in the bedroom. It was Friday morning, he was tired, and he wasn’t responding. “Time to get up, honey.” I got up with him, made oatmeal, fed the dogs. I spent the morning being gentle with myself, reading a book, taking a short walk, allowing myself to notice how big the potato plants have grown in our garden.
It is sad and lonely and discouraging to have suicidal thoughts take over my head yet again. It’s different, however, than it was even six months ago. I know they will pass. I can simultaneously loathe myself and think I should die, but also be kind to myself, simply because I know that’s the right thing to do. Or at least I am choosing to believe it’s the right thing to do, even when those big, sharp-toothed rats suggest otherwise.