Do you ever wonder what would happen if you just didn’t get out of bed? What would it look like if instead of getting up and showering and getting dressed and walking the dog and getting on the train to go to work, you just didn’t do any of that and stayed in bed all day? Or how about two days? A week? A month?
A couple weeks ago, I was telling my therapist how I tried to kill myself once. It wasn’t necessarily a feeling of depression or hopelessness, though I felt those things. It was the feeling that I didn’t belong, that my friends are better friends with each other, that I’m not one to be chosen for anything by anyone. It was a lot of the feelings I’ve come to recognize in myself as rejection sensitive dysphoria. It’s kind of amazing how being rejected by one person or opportunity can make me feel like I’m unwanted by any one or any thing, how I don’t deserve to be alive or take up space.
I had been out with my friends and when the bar bill came, I didn’t have enough and two of my friends were upset because they each had to put so much in. Remembering it now, it seems like such an innocuous thing. I could have apologized and promised to pay them back. In fact, it seems like I had a lot more options than silently going home and eating an entire bottle of pills. I cried when I told my therapist about swallowing one dry pill after another, not making the decision to end my life once, but over and over again with each swallow. I want to die. Swallow. I want to die. Swallow. I want to die. I want to die. I want to die.
The pain I felt telling this story to my therapist was by far more intense than the pain of actually living it. It’s like I carry around all this pain from living through trauma. I have the poverty, the neglect, the religious indoctrination and subsequent rejection. And now I also have the traumas that I’ve made for myself.
I joined a 12 step program when I was 29. I was sober for 7 years. I went to meetings, and the “meetings after the meetings,” and I did step work and I held nothing back. They kept saying that once you stop drinking, your life gets better. And around me, everyone’s lives were indeed getting better. But not mine. Which meant I was doing something wrong right? Because they say if you quit drinking and do the work, things get better.
A couple years into my sobriety, my depression was so bad that I stopped getting out of bed. I remember that first morning I felt so anxious, going back and forth between feeling like there was no way I could physically extricate myself from the mattress and feeling like the consequences of not getting up would be even worse. I lay there debating with myself until it was too late, wondering if I should get up and go to work after all until the time for work came and went. I spent the rest of the day under the covers, powerless to turn on the TV or distract myself with my phone. I wondered if people at work even noticed I was gone. Night fell and somehow I was able to sleep through the night, even though I’d spent the entire day in bed, and on the second day, it was slightly easier to stay in bed because I had already done it once. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” as it were. So I stayed in bed again. And again the next day, and also the day after that, and so on until I hadn’t left my bed for two weeks.
I was able to keep my job thanks to a boss that I didn’t respect but for whom I’m incredibly grateful. But those feelings.
Every day, I wake up with nowhere to go. I wake up regretting that I didn’t die in my sleep. I wake up wishing I could go back to sleep. I’ve been sleeping for 10–12 hours a night and though my body doesn’t need more sleep, I still wake up exhausted and all I want to do is escape consciousness for just a little while longer, and then just a few more minutes, and then just a little more until I’ve slept away my whole life. Every morning I wake up feeling that familiar feeling of anxiety, of being in between, of trying to talk myself into extricating my body from the bed to wash it and dress it and take it somewhere we’ll find meaning, and of knowing that it doesn’t matter, that life will continue on whether I stay in my bed or leave it. Nothing matters.
I can’t help but feel like this is an overreaction. Cue the self-judgment and feelings about feelings. I lost my job in November. People lose jobs all the time. People stop paying their credit card bills all the time. People struggle to buy food, and maintain relationships, and participate in routine self-care. Are all those people also depressed and suicidal, or is it just me? Am I the only one that can’t seem to manage what life throws at them? Am I the only one with the tendency to just crumple when things get hard? If getting laid off can send me into such a tailspin, I’d venture to guess my mental health was pretty tenuous to begin with. Every day is full of opportunities, but instead of making me feel hopeful and optimistic, I’m even more depressed because of all the opportunities I can’t make myself take every single day. And so every day is the same because I don’t ever do anything different. I lie in bed and think about my trauma. I think about the things in my early life I couldn’t control and I think about escaping those patterns but I don’t know how. And I re-live all the depressive episodes I’ve had before, drowning in anxiety with the covers above my head wondering if anyone will notice I’m gone but too afraid to find out.
My therapist asked me last week about my suicidal ideation and asked if maybe it’s time to check myself into a hospital. I told him that wouldn’t help because at least now I’m showing up for my classes three times a week, I’m claiming my unemployment and sending my resume out into the void, I’m feeding and walking my dog and paying my rent. I hate my life and I wish it would be over but sitting in a hospital where they don’t care about my quality of life just that I have one, racking up more medical debt I’ll never be able to pay, and missing school and my other day-to-day responsibilities doesn’t seem like very much of a solution. I have also thought about this at length and I’m not stupid. The people in my life care about me even though I can’t really understand why. I know acting on the SI would be traumatic for them, too. It occurred to me that when someone dies, their birthday is always a hard day for their loved ones, as is the day that they died. If my birthday is already going to be difficult, I am not going to add a second hard day, especially when it might coincide with another day of celebration, so if I were to act on it and make an attempt on my own life, it probably won’t be until the summer. I’m not sure how comforting he found that, but at least he didn’t bring up checking myself into a hospital again.