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  • Writer's pictureWrenAves

Suicide Is Not My Choice, Suicide Is My Captor

[CW: It's all about suicide]


I wrote this blog in 2020 but I never published it. The more experiences I have had with suicide and the more terrible "you have capacity", "take some responsibility", "it's your choice" responses I have had from people who are supposedly trained and paid to understand suicide, the more I have realised it is probably an important blog to share.


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Something that bothers me about the common understanding of suicide is that suicide is pretty much universally described as a “choice” a person makes when seeking to escape or end an unbearable situation. (I say “choice” like this because I do not believe when people feel they have no other option, it can legitimately be called a “choice”). Suicide is seen by many as a practicality - a self-inflicted death because life was too hard, too sad, or too painful. Sometimes this is seen as tragic, something which should have been stopped; sometimes people are shocked and confused, because they could never imagine being in that position themselves; and sometimes people think it reflects a personal inability to cope, a weakness, or a lack of resilience to challenging situations. The varied responses are usually always tied together by this singular belief that suicide is an escape and subsequently responded to on this assumption.


But for me, “being suicidal” is not a singular experience, and cannot be described as such. “Escape” is not my only experience of suicidality. I have felt unbearable pain, both physical and emotional, and this has often made me consider dying. When pain is so severe, anything which could bring it to an end can seem like the most sensible, even comforting prospect. I have lived with and around suicide so much that I am sort of acclimatised to it - suicide is part of my everyday. It is a tool which sits in my back pocket as a “get out” card for times when things become impossible. It exists as my last means of control for situations in which I feel powerless. I often “daydream”, so to speak, about ways to kill myself, imagining situations in which I have lost control, and devising ways to end my life to escape them. I can feel more secure in my safety just by preparing those thoughts. It isn’t always comforting though, sometimes suicide is immeasurably grief-filled and frightening. I might want to end the pain I am living in, but that doesn't necessarily mean I want to die. It also does not lessen the fear of death itself. The fear of being in pain; of being afraid; of not dying but causing serious injuries to myself; of leaving loved ones; of hurting others. Suicide as an escape is, by itself, a deeply complex and many layered experience… but I also experience suicide as a phenomenon entirely different to this. Not as an escape, but as something I wish to escape from. This other form of suicidality may have the same name, but it is not the same. This other form is a darkness, a black hole with no end. I do not feel in control of it. It is not a decision to end pain. It is not me choosing to take this path.. This other suicide is like a demon or a dark spectre which hangs over me, whispering to me, tempting me to sip sweet nectar from its goblet of death. This is the only way I can explain it. It’s the difference between jumping from a ledge and being pushed. Once it washes over me, this suicide is not a symptom of a greater pain or an attempt to free myself from a tangled web of depression, it is more like a compulsion. Something I have to do, even if I desperately do not wish to, even if I’m not sure why. It simply becomes an overwhelming urge to end my life, coupled with an internal struggle, working out how to keep myself alive.


The process often begins with the world greying. I know that this is suicide announcing its presence. Colours fade, things lose their beauty, everything looks dirty and broken. It’s as if I’m inhabiting a different world. A world where everything good has been removed. This usually happens over a number of weeks. Next comes this overwhelming desire to be alone, to stay up all night and sleep all day. I begin to feel detached from life, separate from people. It doesn’t feel bad, rather, I crave this separation. Then the thoughts arrive. It’s time to leave. It’s time to die. You need to kill yourself. Like a beckoning call. I get a sickening nervous excitement when thinking about how I could carry it out, but at the same time, I feel a resistance. These thoughts are not my own and they feel uncomfortable in my head. I’m not convinced by them. I do not want to die. My life is OK right now. Why am I thinking these things? Why am I entertaining these thoughts? Why am I playing out these scenarios? I get no answers to these questions but I feel quite sure I will not actually go ahead with any of these plans, so in some ways, indulging the whispers of suicide is like morbid curiosity. I’m not actually going to do it, I say to myself as I list all the items in the room I could use to end my life.. So what is the harm in thinking about it? 


And so I do. I think and plan and scheme, and as I do the dark spectre wraps itself around me more tightly, inhabiting more of my life, my body, my mind. My thoughts change from a harmless indulgence to… but I could...maybe I should...what if I did..


As time passes, it feels as if I am being pushed into darkness by a shapeless mass of nothing. But I am still me. Suicide takes over very slowly, snaking its way deep enough inside me to eventually twist my actions to match its own, as it kills itself over and over again. I begin to feel a little out of control of myself. The thoughts are not just thoughts any more, but possibilities, and that is frightening, so I try and make bargains with suicide, asking what can I do instead? I go along with things, bluffing, hoping it will be content with my compliance and withdraw, knowing I am on the right track. I devise suicide plans, gather things I may need, rehearse the plans, organise my paperwork, write suicide notes etc. All the while, thinking to myself, I will not need these things, because I am not actually going to do anything. It feels harmless, clever even, as if I am winning. But this is how suicide works. It plays games with me, tricking me into completing tasks which would have stood in my way further down the line. As time passes and I weaken in my resolve, I realise that I have put up no defence whatsoever. Suicide has been laughing at me. I have been playing its game the whole time. 


As the darkness gets darker, I begin to realise that there is no escape. I will have to die. Things that were once pleasurable slowly cease to exist, happiness fades, I don’t laugh any more. Nothing is funny. The only thing which remains constant is the now unending knowledge that I must die. It just has to happen. There’s nothing I can do. The world is ending around me, the only thing which still exists is death, and I must embrace it. The thoughts are constant now, as suicide shows me my death on a loop, whispering to me from inside my own head, telling me this is how it has to be. It’s inevitable, it says. This is how it was always going to end.


This inevitability is both frightening and sad. It’s like a feeling of grief for my own life. When the feeling first comes, I want to resist it, to push it away, to escape from it. I have the strong urge to save myself, to stay alive. I want to run into crowded places and shout “HELP ME, I’M GOING TO DIE”. I want to cling to people and beg them to save me. I want someone to see this creature on my back and fight it with me. It is terrifying. Like the long walk to the gallows. But as time moves forward, it feels as if I begin to make peace. The longer it lives in me, the stronger it gets, and the less I am able to fight it. The less I want to fight it. It starts to feel good to lean into it. Why did I ever feel sad about this? As if in a trance, I find myself doing things I know will contribute to the feeling, I start to self-destruct. As it grows, it pushes more of me out, and fills the gaps with its creeping tendrils. Before long, I am not sad that I must die, I just know I must. 


Life begins to reach a place where the only thing left which provides hope, excitement, and warmth, is suicide. Slowly, one by one, it has removed everything good in my world, and replaced those things with itself. It’s like being in an abusive relationship. Suicide rids me of my friends, my comfort, my sense of self, and in place of those, there it sits, waiting for me, feasting on the life I built for myself. After a while, there is nothing left but suicide. I cannot think or feel anything else. I have nowhere else to go. I cannot hide. It has twisted my world around itself so that it is the only option, and it begins to feel so right. As if we were meant for each other.


This complexity of thoughts and feelings is so incredibly difficult to explain to other people. The process is not as simple and straightforward as I have laid out here. I may go back and forth between different states over time, weaving in and out of feelings and decisions, bargaining and plotting simultaneously. This dark suicide creature can also be accompanied by my ordinary feelings of wanting to die. The feeling of torment, of being forced to kill myself, and the immense distress and fear that causes can lead me to want to kill myself simply to escape being forced to kill myself. That might sound utterly ridiculous, but I guess within that thought process is the sense of reclaiming control over my death, and of ending the fight between me and this dark suicide creature. 


In trying to sum up my thoughts and feelings of this experience, I realise that not only do I not have the language to fully explain it to others, but that I am unable to really map it out myself. I do not know how to conceptualise something when the concept does not exist. All I can really say is that suicide is not a singular construct, and is in no way as simple as “an escape” from a bad situation. If this was an entirely theoretical or academic area of discussion, it would be less of an issue, but the current widespread (mis)understanding of suicide as this “choice” a person can make to escape something, is actively harming and killing people. Where suicide is understood this way, the suicidal person can simply be framed as needing to learn to cope better with whatever difficult life situation they have encountered, or considered to have the capacity to choose death. There is no understanding of the feeling of needing to die, of being forced to die, of encountering suicide not as an action, but a being. A living creature with its own motivations and goals. Suicide to many mental health professionals is just a choice a person can make, or, crucially, not make, and therefore can and should be dealt with alone.


…but I didn’t choose suicide, it chose me, a voice whispers in my head. Why does nobody ever understand that small, but deeply significant difference?


Asking for help in these situations is not a sign that I am weak, ambivalent, low risk, avoiding personal responsibility, dependent, attention-seeking, or being dramatic. It means I am being preyed upon by suicide and need help to repel it. But when you approach a mental health professional and say, “I’m suicidal but I really don’t want to kill myself”, they don’t see you as any kind of risk to yourself. They don’t understand that people who do not want to die, cannot always stop themselves from ending their lives. They don't believe that asking for help is taking responsibility. They don’t realise what an exceptionally important moment this is, where this person can still be reached, still be helped. That the door between this person and the world could close at any moment, but they have this incredible opportunity to pull them back through and lock the door behind them. 


All they see are their low risk tick boxes, their prejudices, their assumptions.


Mental health clinicians have always described suicide to me as an escape from the pain and terror. But, for me, suicide is the pain and terror. By the time people finally start to hear me, that my death is no longer a question, suicide is so deep it has become a compulsion. It is something I must indulge, no matter how I feel about it, just because I must. There is no other reason.


As I write this, I am entering another of these cycles. The world is greying, becoming ugly and broken, and I am viewing it from behind a veil which grows more opaque with each passing day. Within the cycle, this is the worst place to be, because currently I do not wish to die, but I can feel myself being drawn in… all the while knowing that I have only the briefest of windows to ask for help. Too early and I will be dismissed, too late and I will not want to ask. I know that soon, I will begin to be dragged through a door I cannot come back through by myself. I know that soon, I will not be able to call out, because I will be too far away for anyone to hear me. I wish I knew why this happens, and better yet, how to stop it happening, but all I know with certainty is that it isn’t something I am “choosing”, it is something I am being forced to do.



Wren


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