For those of you who are unfamiliar with the letter s, forward slash, the letter i, it signifies suicidal ideations.
We are going to dive into these three simple characters to a depth that may completely horrify, devastate, or sicken you. On the other hand, you may leave this pitch black building feeling enlightened, grateful, or astonished. Either way, you will certainly feel something (regret?). Which brings me to the introduction:
Being numb sucks. Sometimes, my body parts go numb. I also have sharp pains that bounce through my body at various times. Totally random. Couldn’t pinpoint (unintentional pun) the body positions that trigger these, or the outside elements that may or may not play a significant role, or the digestive phase of my burger or pizza. All I know is, these zaps of electricity occur in my left arm and both hands, my left leg, my spine, my feet, and my toes.
If you know me personally or have been reading this blog (thanks, btw), you know I have suffered numerous physical traumas. Namely, car accidents. Some resulting in head and spine injuries which I thankfully recovered from. Mostly. So, these electric jolts and sharp stabbing pains have been taking place as long as I can recall bits of middle school. This likely explains why I tripped a lot. I fell on occasion. I’ve sprained my ankles and wrists and stubbed toes and D’OH paper cuts (least favorite) countless times. People think I am accident prone. I’d say they are probably correct.
Anywho, fast forward to the here and now and I have learned so much about neuroscience, psychology, mental wellbeing, various topics relating to healing various ailments, while simultaneously staying away from traditional methods of correcting these issues. (i.e.-Doctor appointments, prescriptions pills, various therapies). Instead, I was exploring what I was more interested in- how these things affected my behavior, why I did this or felt that, etc. I rebelled against the traditional therapies for a very, very deep, dark, personal reason. Now we are inching closer to the s/i part.
When I was fifteen years young, I experienced my very first panic attack. It happened while in class, and I remember that I could not get a full breath in and I started to panic. My heart was racing and I panicked until I really, really couldn’t get a half breath in. And then I hyperventilated and every single person in the room was freaking out. My teacher, who I adore to this day, was so upset. She screamed for someone to get me a candy bar and a Coke and a paper bag. I may be giving incorrect details but this is what I seem to recall the most. Just recently, a couple of school friends and I reunited and one had mentioned this to me and many memories started flooding back to me. I had almost forgotten about the incident altogether, but since it became fresh to me, I began thinking about the time period and the s/i I experienced shortly thereafter (I’ll get to eventually) became this- a blog post I should have written a long damn time ago.
S/I is something I have found to be quite common- among those seeking help, and those who unfortunately never did. Suicide is something you see or hear about in the news, or something you have dealt with among your peers, or something you have experienced among extended family. Less frequent are those who have dealt with this level of pain among their inner circles and immediate families. It is a subject nobody wants to ever talk about. So, yeah. Let’s talk about it. Right now.
When I had my panic attack out in the population of kids I’d grown up with, I felt like I’d become a kind of spectacle. I didn’t really understand what it was that had happened to me. I saw a male Psychiatrist at the hospital one time, and I had a Primary Care Physician. I’m not sure who prescribed this to me, but I was just starting puberty (late bloomer), and was taking Zoloft.
S/I is not really commonplace when taking Zoloft. I doubt this drug had a profound effect at all, really. I was still experiencing periods of overwhelming devastation and hyperactive excitement and extreme fatigue. Totally all over the place, depending on my environment and the circle of people around me- or totally isolated. I still wanted to sleep and drool all over my desk in some classes and was 106% engaged in others (Biology, Psychology- certainly not Coach Baptist Minister Pierce’s history class- God love him).
But I vividly remember the first time I felt so desperate to stop living. To just simply stop going on anymore. I so badly just wanted the pain to go away. For the memories to go away. For the numbness to stop creeping in. For the lightning bolts to stop striking me in any given place at any given moment. I just wanted peace.
Every time I have these thoughts, I replace them with others. The thing about reading, doing your own independent research, working in mental healthcare, and engaging with other people like you is that you learn about yourself, what causes what, what you can do to fix it, and identifying that you share a common thread with others like you (you’re never alone) and sometimes that thread is basically all you need to use as your literal lifeline. This is why it can be so difficult to leave someone you really love, especially when you have been there for each other in very difficult times. But there was one time I wanted to leave so badly, I took a handful of pills, and I swallowed them down one by one- gag.
I can’t recall how old I was. I may have been fifteen still. For some reason, seventeen pops up but I don’t think this is accurate. It may not be relevant anymore. Measuring distance and time has always been challenging to me. I never measure ingredients, either- I just do what feels right. But I remember taking a lot of pills.
When you know you’re a handful, sometimes you think about how you negatively impact people around you. People you love. You don’t want them to suffer anymore. You don’t want them to feel sorry for you. You don’t want to be a spectacle that leads to embarrassment or shame. You just want peace. And maybe quiet. You want the thoughts in your mind to stop. You want your brain to just… stop.
S/I happens without warning. It happens on a rainy day. Or a sunny day. It happens in the woods. Or on the bed. Or in the tub. It happens in the car. Or at church. Or at work. It happens randomly. It is an electric jolt of feeling. It is a numb. It is a sharp, stabbing pain. Hits you before you even recognize what it is. Let me tell you what S/I is:
I D E A t i o n
An IDEA is something you may or may not be able to control. They happen constantly. Depending on how well your life is going, your ideas may at times feel darker and more burdensome than not. Regardless, thoughts are bound to happen and S/I is something that can impact the highest and mightiest to the lowest and weakest. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor or rich. If you grew up in the city or the suburbs. Or the woods. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had trauma or if your life has been filled to the brim with it. Doesn’t matter if you experience behaviors relating to any other known “mental disorder”. Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been married, divorced, or how long you’ve been single, whether or not you’ve had children, whether you graduated high school or Damn I Wish I Could Have Been a Doctor school. Religious, atheist, farmer, engineer.
None. of that Matters.
So what does matter?
Well, let’s define matter! Matter is the shit all around you. And you are also matter. Everything is made up of matter. So I have found a great coping skill any time the ole S/I suddenly appears and I’m all like- hey, what’s up? I matter, remember? And the thoughts begin to become more controlled, because they become something of real substance. I imagine sweeping the pile of dust off the porch and thinking about my radio friend, Tom, who shared this sage advice: You don’t have to be rich to clean off your porch. Likewise, you don’t have to commit the act of suicide should the thought ever pop into your head. Sweep it away, just as you would anything else that’s annoying.
I’m going on over twenty years of random, unpredictable, deeply disturbing and uncomfortable bullshit- both mentally and physically exhausting- but, I matter. And you’re matter, too.