The Ongoing War

This is a pretty difficult thing for me to do, but I wanted to share in case it could help someone else. People who’ve never experienced this won’t understand it, but those who have, will. I pray that it’ll help you.

I’ve struggled with constant thoughts of suicide for a very long time, and learned to overcome it in my 20s by educating myself. But for more than half of my life, these thoughts consumed me and ruled over my life, treating me like a puppet. Looking back now, I realize it was because I didn’t understand it–no one did. For a long time, I deceived myself into thinking that it was something I could turn off when I knew full well that these thoughts came and went on their own. Ignoring the severity of it only drove me closer to the dangers of acting out on those thoughts every time the desire to commit suicide came and went, which led to a couple attempts.

People who’ve never struggled with suicidal thoughts assumed it was caused by a lack of will to live, or a lack of gratitude toward life, or a lack of respect towards oneself. While this might have been true for some people who struggled with these thoughts, for me, this was a huge misconception. These thoughts were triggered by something deeper, something beyond my own control; which was why it felt uncontrollable and unpreventable when the urges turned into attempts. Suicidal tendencies often felt like a computerized motor that drove me to self harm or self destruct–against my own will. That’s the best way I can describe it.

In the past, people tried to help me by telling me things I should be grateful for–as if they automatically assumed I wasn’t. Some people did this by comparing my life to other people’s lives who have it worse; or tried to help me by reminding me of the people who loved me and how heartbroken they’d be if I killed myself. This method only worsened my situation because my struggle with suicide had nothing to do with the lack of gratitude or the lack of concern for others. Their misconceptions only confused me and made me feel like the struggle was MY fault and like a horrible or weak person for having these thoughts, when they weren’t even in my control. They assumed I produced these thoughts on my own and assumed I was sulking in self pity. They couldn’t see the ongoing war in my mind, heart, and body, to overcome.

People’s common misconceptions of my personal struggle with suicide also made me feel like I was a selfish and ungrateful person. It made my burdens weigh heavier. I often felt like they were falsely accusing me of being a liar when they refused to believe me when I’d tell them I couldn’t control it–when I was telling the truth. Eventually, I had to stop talking to others about it because I realized they didn’t understand what I was going through. I didn’t even understand. And I knew it wasn’t their fault but I felt like I had to separate myself from them and stop talking about it for a while.

Later on in life, I came to understand that struggling with suicide does NOT define how weak a person is. In fact, it defines how powerful that person’s will to survive truly is when they battle against the brain’s decision for them to self terminate on a daily basis. It’s constant.

When I went soul-searching within myself years ago, I discovered the reason and origin of these thoughts and why they would flood into my mind beyond my control. I understand now, more than ever, that my mind’s production of suicidal thoughts didn’t mean I was selfish, weak, or ungrateful. Rather, it was my body’s way of letting me know that I was ‘sick’ and that I needed to do something about this sickness before it overtook me. I believe that when a person experiences self destructive thoughts, it’s similar to a computer that tells itself to shut down–such as an overwhelming power-surge, or from being stagnant or idle, or from a simple ‘chip malfunction’. In a similar way, I believe the brain sends signals or messages to that person in the form of suicidal thoughts and urges, telling them to ‘manually shut the body down’ and this response can be stemmed from a variety of different reasons. This explanation is what makes most sense to me, from my own experience.

There were many factors that triggered these thoughts because my mind knew no other way to cope. When I was in the orphanage, no one taught us to identify or cope with emotions. So, when faced with certain traumas–such as waking up next to a dead sibling, or suffering abuse, or experiencing severe hunger, thirst, and sickness–countless emotions overwhelmed me. I remember feeling like there were many tornadoes trapped inside me and I didn’t know how to get them out. I was also very heavily confused about life, as no one even explained to us how we came into existence, that I hallucinated (perhaps from malnutrition and deprivation of knowledge) and experienced many nightmares and lost touch with reality for a while.

All of these things overwhelmed me and I desperately wanted the experience to stop. At the time, I didn’t know what suicidal thoughts were, but I did know these thoughts began while I was still in the orphanage, when thoughts of wanting to fall ‘asleep and never wake up again’ began flooding in. How was I to know then that I was suicidal? But at least I know when it began and how it started.

At the age of 6, I was very confused about the contradicting thoughts in my mind and heart. I knew I didn’t want to end up like those siblings who died in their sleep and was afraid of death, but a large part of me hoped not to wake up anymore. I wanted to be able to understand and explain these conflicting emotions and thoughts, whirl-winding inside me, but I didn’t know how, and that frustration only produced more thoughts of suicide. It literally felt like I was desperately trying to hold myself together from being torn apart by this overwhelming feeling. I was so exhausted that it perhaps damaged my mind’s ability to rest.

By the time I was adopted, whenever I experienced any bit of emotion–whether good or bad–suicidal thoughts would come flooding in. I was very confused for a long time, because even the sense of excitement and happiness triggered thoughts of suicide and I didn’t know why; and it led me to believe that good feelings were also a bad thing and I wasn’t able to enjoy anything in life throughout my youth. Unidentified emotions made me feel like I was being drowned by countless tornadoes inside me, one after another, and all I wanted to do was sleep all the time so that’s exactly what I did. But it didn’t make the desire to end my life go away–especially, when I was continuously bombarded with more traumas as the years passed.

When you know and can feel that the mind and heart desperately seek for a moment of rest or a pause or for life to just stop, because the sleep that you get feels like it’s not nearly enough–I believe this is when my body decided to take over and put suicidal thoughts into action. You cannot imagine how this feels unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. It’s like a machine taking over inside you, trying to make you self destruct against your own will. And I’m sure adoptees and other individuals who’ve experienced this know exactly what I’m talking about. It was a constant ‘arm-wrestle’ against a desire that only wanted to terminate my life.

It has nothing to do with a lack of will to live, or lack of gratitude toward life, but the mind and heart’s desperation to find true rest or to cope with something when no other remedy seems to work. The urges to self destruct came fewer and farther between once I came to terms with certain traumas. The feeling of tornadoes being inside me, came to an end. But my mind still produced suicidal thoughts on a daily basis, and it took me years to realize that this was my ‘normal’ and that it was okay–as long as they didn’t manifest into a desire of their own again. I can’t ignore the fact that suicidal thoughts are triggered regardless of whether or not I am at peace within myself. I can’t re-wire my brain to respond differently every time something new happens because at this point, I realize it’s permanent. But I can find a way to balance out those thoughts and learn to live with this sickness.

I have to say that only by the Grace of God (and I don’t say this lightly) was I able to find a way to separate myself from those thoughts and desires by producing counteractive thoughts and desires. Creating a new perception served as ‘a divide’ for me and kept suicidal thoughts pressed to the back of my mind and prevented those thoughts and desires from taking control. I was able to find a balance in life by focusing on a better thought that motivated me NOT to self destruct, but to simply get through the day. And it’s what helped me to get through this sickness–for over ten years.

When I first learned to balance my life, I began waking each morning as if it was the last day I was going to live. And when I went to bed every night, I went to bed as if I was finally going to enter into that eternal, peaceful rest during my sleep. This thought may be morbid for normal, everyday people, but it’s what helped me to relax and sustain the thoughts and wants of self destruction while triggered throughout the day. It allowed me to enjoy life as it came and finally helped me to experience that sense of restful sleep that everyday people get to experience when they go to bed at night. I’ve learned that building limits and boundaries like this for myself is what helps me to live a balanced life and I hope that it helps you, too. I literally began living ‘one day at a time’ and after that, things started to get better from there.

I haven’t wanted to commit suicide for a very long time, even though the thought of it will always remain there. I don’t ignore it but I keep watch over it–like the way a diabetic monitors their blood sugar levels or a pacemaker monitoring the heart rate. I always resort to living ‘one day at a time’ whenever I feel the urge is about to take over again and it’s enough to get me through each day. It’s something that’s worked for me and I hope that if this doesn’t work for you, sharing my experience will at least guide you into finding the right way to cope with this sickness. Doing nothing will only result in more attempts–and eventually death. I’ll keep you in my prayers because sometimes, if all else fails, God’s help is the only thing that works.

 

Shared by KAD Jamie L Drennan

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