This blog post is going to seem a little dark, but it’s something that has been weighing on me heavily lately and I feel it’s important to talk about.
What’s the most scary thing you can imagine? Does it make your heart race?
I recently had a discussion after learning of a very young woman in my life who has been clearly battling with anxiety and depression trying to overdose on a bottle of pills. I cringed and my heart sank when I heard a family member say “she’s doing it to get attention.”
The thing is, she was in a dark enough place to have almost ended her own life. But she didn’t want to die, not really. That doesn’t mean she was only doing it for attention. Many people who think of suicide and even those who attempt it do not want to die. But they don’t want to be here, either.
I understand this, because I’ve been there before. I struggle less with depression than I do with anxiety, but I have had anxiety issues for the majority of my life, starting as a child. I briefly touched on this before. My anxiety can often lead me to depressive states. Like when it holds me back from human interaction, or doing things I’d normally enjoy. It’s easy to fall into a depression when doing anything other than nothing (and sometimes even doing nothing) can elicit a feeling inside of you so harsh and so complex that it squeezes the air from your lungs, grips you by the throat, and fills your body with a poison so toxic that the distress you feel from it can make it seem as though your systems are all shutting down while simultaneously speeding up.
What’s the most scary thing you can imagine? Does it make your heart race? Your skin grow cold and clammy? Does it make you nauseous to the point where you feel you could vomit? Does it cause your limbs and your spine to go numb? Does it make you feel faint, but also hyper alert? Does it make you cry and hyperventilate? Does it make you feel as though there is a pile of cinder blocks firmly planted on your chest? Does it make you feel trapped, as though you’re being buried alive? Does it keep you up all night? Imagine these feelings, all of them together at once, being a constant state of being. Imagine it taking over everything that you are. Imagine the exhaustion you’d feel trying to fight it so that you can function as normally as others do. Imagine it consuming you when you’re alone. This is crippling anxiety and it’s very real. And there is no off switch.
It’s so natural when you’re in this state of being to want to do absolutely anything to make it go away. And sometimes it feels like the only way out is to simply not exist.
“The torment of existence weighed against the horror of nonbeing”.
I don’t want to miss out on life. I have goals and aspirations like anyone. I have kids that, God willing, I’d love to watch grow up and have successes and families of their own one day. I have a husband that I’m glad I get to spend my life with. I have a home and a family and pets that I love dearly. I have a nice vehicle, and nice things. I have plenty in this life to enjoy and be grateful for that I would never wish to leave behind. The thought of death is utterly horrifying to me. But I also have crippling anxiety that has sometimes been big enough to make me question whether I want to exist even having all these wonderful things. That can be extremely hard to comprehend for someone on the outside looking in. I wish I could paint a picture in such a way that others could really understand and get the full effect. It’s brutal, and believe me, I know it’s often completely irrational. I also know it’s sometimes fleeting, though I can count on it to always come back. My mind is fully aware of these things, but it does not stop it. How can that be possible? I don’t know, but I live it every single day.
Some things that make people mildly uncomfortable, such as talking on the phone or opening up a bill received in the mail, can make me spiral into a fierce panic. Some things that people enjoy, like driving or socializing with friends, can make me feel as though I’m having a heart attack. If you believe that sounds like an exaggeration, ask any hospital how many people come in for heart attacks and leave learning it was a panic attack. Simple day-to-day activities can feel utterly impossible. Like a terror filled animal caught trapped inside a tiny cage, all we want is a way out. All we want is relief. We are physically, mentally, emotionally drained. We are exhausted because we are fighting this 24/7/365. We are plagued by something many cannot process or understand.
You see, we really don’t always want to die. We just don’t want to exist if it means feeling this way.