We Can Cope with That

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by An Anonymous Contributor

You know when you’re at the grocery store and the line is kind of long, or someone is moving kind of slow and you’re just looking around at the candy? Do you ever get that split second, impulsive, almost unconscious though of “I could steal this”?

Probably in that same instant you laugh to yourself about how silly that would be; that you don’t even want the candy bar you’re looking at; and then the cashier calls you up, you smile, and you move on with your day.

It isn’t perfect, but this is the closest analogy I have to describe what intrusive, passive, suicidal thoughts look like to me.

I’m pretty sure I have most of the diagnoses in the book (by book, I’m actually referring to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM): Major Depression, ADHD, Generalized Anxiety (or maybe an atypical OCD, we’re not quite sure yet), and most recently Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

I’d suspected that I’d had BPD since I was a junior in high school; a budding Psych major reading the DSM in the library on my lunch periods. When I stumbled on BPD I knew pretty instantly that things fit but I was also terrified. I read about how treatment was limited, and how most people experienced multiple suicide attempts and hospitalizations.

Most people who know me know that I live a life fairly opposite of the standard Cluster B personality short hand of “erratic, dramatic, and over-emotional.” But when depression hit again and my self-loathing was deep, my suicidal thoughts scarier than they ever had been, my self-harm less predictable and more severe, I asked my therapist directly if he thought I had BPD. And, though he hesitated, later explaining that he worried about weighing me down with the stigma that comes with the diagnosis, he said he did.

Though I’ve never attempted suicide, I have been plagued by intrusive, persistent, suicidal thoughts. Just like the voice in the back of your head at the grocery store telling you that you could steal that Snickers if you really wanted to; I have a voice in the back of my head telling me that I could kill myself if really wanted to–if the circumstances lined up correctly, if all my hope really was gone.

People were worried about me and checking in with me often. My family and friends were sometimes overwhelmed by how little they could do to help me; how powerless they felt in the face of something they couldn’t see or understand. I felt like I was slowly suffocating but my own brain was the one who wasn’t letting my lungs work.

My brain was the one keeping me awake every night telling me how much of a burden I was on the people who cared about me even though that care that they showed every day was a sign of how much they wanted me to stay alive and get back to being myself.

I still have a lot of trouble realizing that I can’t always trust my brain to be telling me the truth.

But the one strategy that’s stuck, that’s helped me get used to the thought that my brain is an unreliable narrator, is the podcast “Welcome to Night Vale.” It’s a fictional series about a small desert town’s community radio station where strange things happen. These include: Tuesdays occasionally being canceled due to scheduling errors, dogs not being allowed in the dog park because it is the home to strange, hooded figures, and civilizations of tiny people living below the alleys of the neighborhood bowling alley.

All of these events are reported in ominous, dark tones but, at the end of the day, the town lives on and the people realize that it’s not worth being afraid of all the things that they see, hear, and experience. They can live on, even with the strange, sometimes scary occurrences. I’m not great at it, but I’ve come to see my mind as Night Vale and its radio host, Cecil.

So, when my brain tries to tell me that everything is hopeless and when it won’t leave me alone, I try to smile and laugh at yet another story being spun and remember what Cecil said at the end of one episode: “And while the future is fast coming for you, it always flinches first and settles in as the gentle present. This now, this us, we can cope with that.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text “BRAVE” to 741-741 to reach Crisis Text Line.