What it feels like – living with ‘chronic emptiness’ and suicidal thoughts

A young woman discusses her experiences living with suicidal thoughts and the recent progress she has made in recognising some achievements and feeling more hopeful. Trigger warning – the piece does discuss the issue of suicide very openly and dispassionately. The piece was first posted on the author’s site, Easetheride, on 2nd July.


Last year, I don’t remember exactly when, I was in a bad place. I mean, I was in a bad place a lot of the time thanks to COVID and the numerous changes happening in my life. But when it got particularly bad I found myself back in the throes of planning my suicide. To the point that I chose a date that if things didn’t feel like they were progressing in some form, I was going to take my life.

Today is that day. July 2, 2021.

I originally chose a date last year that I ended up pushing forward for various reasons. I wanted to go to my cousin’s wedding. I wanted to be able to say goodbye to J. There were things about the upcoming school year I felt I needed to be there for. Lots of things would occur after that initial date I set that I didn’t feel ready to miss.

Then flash forward a whole year and here we are. Again.

In reality, today is no different than any other. Well, actually, it’s my maternal grandfather’s birthday; the one who died when I was seven. It’s also the second official day of the new school year. That’s why I chose this date to begin with. I figured it was already a sad day for my family and this was the point when things were most stable with my caseload at work.

In truth, I’ve always been looking for what would burden people the least. I know that my death would be somewhat impactful; J used to make me list the people it would affect. Still, part of me has always believed that the after-effects wouldn’t be longstanding except for maybe my parents. I’m easily replaced in all other functions (school psychologist, babysitter, client, etc.) So because of that, I figured if I could just find the date that was already associated with some type of loss and would incur the least consequences on others, maybe that would be enough to override any problems it caused. It would be the most acceptable timing.

I can immediately hear every one of my providers, past and present, trying to negate that logic. And they’d be right to.

It was Dr. N in the first place who suggested that I might want to consider re-thinking my date. I had been holding onto it like a to it in a vice grip, clinging to this last resort option and unwilling to throw it away. And she knew, as we trudged closer, that it was weighing on me. All of the sudden it felt so close.

So a few months ago, she started pushing. Maybe I might like to eliminate my date altogether? Or if not, maybe I might consider pushing it back again? After some hesitation I agreed and, unable to devise a new date I felt was sufficient, I left things up in the air. I suppose that’s my way of agreeing not to kill myself anytime soon. She was pleased about that. In fact, today she thanked me for continuing to work with her and not making a permanent decision.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how I would feel on this day. Like I said, there isn’t really anything special about it, other then the act I earmarked it for, but still it feels like it represents a lot for me that might be worth processing.

For a long time, I have always said that suicide is something that seems inevitable to me. Maybe not now, but eventually, I would find myself in the place that taking my life would be the only veritable option. I just figured that my life would never get to a place where I didn’t feel constant agonizing shame over my every choice, grief over things lost or never to be, crippling anxiety over ever minor decision and dialogue, and chronic emptiness from what was lacking. It just didn’t feel possible.

I still deal with a lot of those things listed above, plus a lot of really heavy emotion. Just last night, two very minor comments from others left me curled in a ball in my bed, yearning desperately to hurt myself but fastidiously determined not to. I slept for over 14 hours on and off because I had no motivation or energy to face my minions. Even taking a shower felt herculean.

So those moments still exist, more frequently than I wish they did. However, I’ve also experienced enough moments of happiness, feelings of success, and fragments of hope to know that there is another side in all this.

A year ago I took stock of my life and saw so little. Now? My eyes are open to the measures of progress I’ve made.

I am learning to be more forgiving of myself for not being perfect. A year ago, the fact that I had broken my routines would be incredibly destructive. Right now though, I’m just trying to slowly build up my habits again and be accepting of the bumps in the road. I’m trying hard not to be so reliant on keeping to my streaks and instead going with what my body and mind need that day.

I am letting others into my world, even though it is super scary. A budding relationship with a new guy has taken up a lot of time and space and wow, it sure has every defensive bone in my body on guard. But what I’m trying to do is put myself out there without the pressure of needing this relationship to be everything to me. I’m just working on being me, unconditionally, and seeing what sprouts.

I am slowly growing my sense of self and beginning to trust my instincts instead of questioning them all the time. Little choices that I used to fret over are slowly becoming easier to make.

I am setting better boundaries with myself and others.

I am recognizing my intrusive thoughts for what they are and calling them out instead of letting them dictate my feelings of shame or embarrassment.

I am getting through the intense emotions with greater power. L tells me frequently that the amount of time it takes me to work through severe feelings is lessening and I believe her.

I am also starting to believe in myself at work, to shed some of that imposter syndrome that frequently paralyzes me. Even when I don’t, I’m comforted by the fact that I’m doing a lot of studying to get myself where I want to be.

Each and every day, I own my story. I’m trying to defy the possible endings that I could write, and create an entirely more attractive one. In doing that, there’s still a lot I want to work on.

I want to ease the attachment pain that centers around my relationship with L and come to a place where I’m not so significantly impacted by a break in our normal therapy routine. Right now, even something as small as therapy on a different day knocks me off-kilter.

I want to feel more self-assured about my own relationships instead of needing the reassurance from others.

I want to feel a strong sense of self-efficacy and be able to take credit for things that I do well, even if that’s just fighting off these stupid minions.

A lot of this comes back to the big one: I want to combat that core belief that tells me something is wrong with me, something unfixable, and it has made me unworthy. If I can keep chipping away at that by finding evidence to the contrary, I think a lot of things would begin to change.

I don’t know if I’ll ever completely be rid of my suicidal thoughts. L has told me that even if they don’t go away entirely, the volume will likely get turned down. And as I’ve already gotten small glimpses of that, it gives me strength and the expectation there will continue to be upward movement.

So what does it feel like to be here? Strange. Exciting. Scary. Perplexing. Overwhelming. Courageous. Vulnerable. Fragile. Curious. All of those and more. I feel grateful that I didn’t make a snap decision and do irreversible damage. I feel hopeful that good things are headed my way. I feel terrified to face them. I feel bombarded by my thoughts and feelings every second.

And while there’s maybe more to process, I think the main point is that I am still here and that is what matters. I will continue to be here, continue trying. All I’m asked to do is try, says L.

So I will.

by Easetheride, 2nd July 2021

White poplar (Populus Alba) – Flickr (creative commons)
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Reblogged: How I Work a Job With a Mental Illness

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Noragami by Anna Vanes ©

The blog-post linked below provides a variety of realistic advice about coping at work whilst managing mental health disorder symptoms. The blogger, Matilda, a supply teacher who experiences anxiety, OCD, attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression and suicidal thoughts, acknowledges the reality that work may be something that must be endured, “to continue our days of being warriors” but there are actions that can be taken to mitigate the difficulties.

The writer suggests keeping our job in context and maintaining a sense, however theoretical, of inherent freedom and control, as well as our individuality. We may be reliant on a job but it should never own us, physically or mentally. If unwell, we can seek to take time off work on sick leave to receive treatment or to rest. When a particular challenges arises, we can face it by telling ourselves that we are not physically bound to the task or the job: “I can’t stand the mess they (schoolchildren) make, I find the food mess disgusting. But I remind myself, over and over – it’s just a job. I get to go home. After this lunch, it’s over. I don’t need to do this again. Even though I need to do it again, I tell myself I won’t, because as my therapist once said: You don’t have to do anything.”

In completing our job tasks, we should avoid ‘toxic productivity,’ the writer argues: “it’s when you feel the need to be productive at basically all times, and only feel guilty when you relax.” To free herself from this tendency, the writer practices speaking basic actions out aloud: “Things like “Now I’m putting my glass in the dishwasher. That is enough for now. Now I will go and watch a movie. Now I will put my clothes in the washer. That is enough. Now I will go and take a nap.” Treating myself like a child has done wonders for my recovery…”

Reminding ourselves of why we are working and of how we will reward ourselves, again, revives our individuality and sense of having some control. Thoughts the writer reminds herself of include: “This hour I made x amount of money, just by doing this. When this day is over, I will have earned X; I’m doing this for me and my recovery; My bed is waiting for me at home, and it will feel even better to return to it when I’ve worked a whole day; I don’t have to go to work tomorrow, I will focus on getting through with this day.”

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Work influences our behaviour at home, physically, emotionally and, simply, in terms of reduced time to ourselves. The writer suggests developed preparation for the workday beyond basics of cleaning, clothing and packing. Mental health disorder sufferers may need greater personalised preparation, whether it is meditation, mental relaxation, counselling, watching T.V, journaling, re-reading ‘thought changing checklists’ or checking work time arrangements.

The writer says that she likes to talk through her work with her boyfriend or mum and to send email confirmations about work times to reduce her anxiety. As a supply teacher, she chooses her own work hours, necessitating, it seems, some administrative work from home. However, implicit in her preparation, especially, her active reflections on work at home, is a rejection of the idea of a strict work time-free time separation. For mental health disorder sufferers, especially, work preparation done at home can be beneficial. However, this should come with a warning that preparation should be empowering and not overly consume free time and become ‘toxic productivity.’ Any preparation should be done for the benefit of the individual and not her employer.

Fundamental to most of the advice provided by Matilda is for the individual to consciously and practically re-assert a sense of control over their employment. They may be economically bound to the job but it should also provide benefits. Moreover, being bound may not be the case long-term, it is not the case in their free time and should certainly not be the case intellectually.

Image designed by Anna Vanes. For stock image credits, click here.

To read the full blog-post at matildaminds.wordpress.com click below.