I know that this isn’t technically a “My Opinion Monday Monthly” article, but this feels like the right place for this particular post. As you may or may not recall, I have spoken many times in previous MOMM articles that I have depression and anxiety. As someone who has struggled with self harm for twelve of my twenty-four years (a.k.a half of my entire life)… I have what I call “danger days.” These are days in which I am in danger of relapsing and harming myself.
I am extremely self-aware. I can tell when depression is coming and I can tell when I am in danger of making a poor choice. Not everyone is able to gain control of themselves and handle mental illness in this way, and for that I am extremely thankful. It took me several years to develop this sort of control and a clear enough mentality to be good to myself. My son is the biggest motivator behind that strength.
But this post isn’t about bragging about my ability to divert a catastrophe. I’m not here to tell you that for nearly two weeks I’ve spent most of my alone time crying and staring out windows. I’m not here to detail everything about the way I suffer depression. Instead, I’m just here to share a piece that I had originally posted to my personal social media. I felt that sharing it here is just important. Not just because I am in awe of how great my sketch turned out – humblebrag – but also because I want to encourage more people to think of alternatives to self-harm.
See – the thing about depression is that no matter how big of a smile you wear or how many reasons you have to be happy or how much medication you are on… Sometimes you wake up and you just feel as though you are going to suffocate when you breathe. When you have depression there are always going to danger days – times when suicide sounds is more plausible than staying in bed all day pretending that you’re dead. Because sometimes pretending just feel like enough anymore…
And painful as it is for me to admit any sort of weakness (something I know I need to work on in my personal life) – danger days are my greatest weakness. I never want to announce when I’m having them and I never want to talk about them. I have an aversion to acknowledging any sort of emotion – because I hold myself to an unfair standard that I’m too stubborn to change. As such, I simply suffer my danger days silently with crazy laughs and silly grins. I think that many people who have self-harmed know exactly what it is I am saying here.
My hyperawareness allows me to prevail over the blackhole of sorrow in my gut that I cannot control. This is not true for everyone, as much as I wish it were. The ability to detect the appeal of committing suicide and finding a way to rid of it from your heart, mind, and soul – one never really can perfect it. However, simply telling yourself to do something else – and then just doing it, no matter how small – that can mean the difference between life and death. Today – sketching instead of cutting may have very well saved my life.
We never know the damage that we can do if we allow ourselves to down within our foulest thoughts. So, waking up and just knowing that today was going worse than previous days – I chose to very plainly acknowledge my feelings. I took what was inside filling my lungs with desperation and pushed it onto the page. I like to think of it as tragically beautiful.
I worked on it from 11:00 A.M. to 3:15 P.M. I was alone from 9:00 A.M. until 3:45 P.M. and I don’t know what I would have done if hadn’t busied myself. Art is special for a lot of people and even if you’re not good at it – just keeping your hands busy will prevent the decision to self-harm. When someone is alone, they are at greater risk for harming themselves. Nobody can be with someone constantly, not unless they are admitted to a mental health facility (which is, unfortunately, not attainable or feasible for many at risk). As such, reaching out to people you know are susceptible to self-harming – asking them to do something small or maintaining a brief conversation. Even texting them for an hour could change their mood enough to prevent an incident – or even a suicide.
My reasoning for my sketch today was that a picture of slit wrists was better than actual slit wrists. I just repeated that to myself the entire time I was working on it – a picture of slit wrists is better than actual slit wrists.
A picture of slit wrists is better than actual slit wrists.
Don’t ask your loved ones to ignore their feelings. Don’t invalidate their suicidal feelings or their self-harming tendencies. Do everything within your power to comfort them, encourage them, and provide care to them. If someone is ever a high risk – call an emergency service. Contact a family member who can admit a minor to a mental health facility or hospital. And if you’re unsure, intervene anyway. You never know if today is the day that your loved one commits suicide.
It is my hope that this post serves as a reminder that mental illness is often suffered quietly. Anyone could be struggling with suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Please be aware of what you’re doing; what you’re saying; and what your loved ones are doing. There are signs that you can watch for, there are behaviors that you can track – there will always be warning signs. Sometimes they are small but they are always there. As I just said, you never know if today is the day that your loved one commits suicide.
Remember – just because someone isn’t wearing depression on their sleeves doesn’t mean that the depression is gone.
Never invalidate sadness. Offer your love instead.