(This isn’t a cry for help. The first person who sends me a text saying they’re there for me if I want to talk is getting a recording of me making fart sounds.)
I’ve always had a “resting thought.” A phrase that’s the first thing is to pop into my head when I’m not specifically focused on anything else. It’s a lot like an intrusive thought, something I can’t control, but it doesn’t always feel intrusive. A lot of the time it’s just there.
When I was younger and a relationship was going particularly well that phrase might be “I love [person].” When a big life stressor was coming up it would be “I’m so scared” and as those stressors became scarier (buying a house, moving out of state, etc) “I can’t do this” or “I’m too scared.”
Since my father’s suicide nearly a year ago it’s primarily been “I want to die.”
My terminally ill father shot himself on January 9th of 2016, the day after my 30th birthday. As soon as I found out I showered and washed my hair, knowing the numbness wouldn’t last for long and personal hygiene would be the first thing to suffer. My husband and I were on a long business trip, and while I dressed in the hotel I wondered if the small blue socks with cutesy feminine skulls on them were inappropriate to wear because that’s what my father was now – a corpse.
Before his death I was already struggling with depression and before the depression I already had an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder, I might add, that just became best friends with the depression when it came along. Thanks, brain. Good looking out.
Coping with anxiety and depression has meant a lot of self-reflection and auditing my own thoughts, so when my resting thought became “I want to die” it didn’t bother me that much. I’m stressed, grieving, and still having to make a great deal of tough decisions about both my personal life and my business. I wasn’t entirely surprised that my internal dialogue became something like this:
I want to die.
I want to die.
I need to buy chicken for dinner.
I want to die I want to di- oh shut up what cut of chicken do I want.
Thighs! I’m going to get the huge package so we have lef-I WANT TO DIE-tovers.
I want to die.
I want to die.
Shut it, I still need to buy vegetables.
And this is how to goes all day every day. If I’m very focused on something the intrusive thought calms down for extended periods, so it isn’t nonstop. Just when my mind starts to quiet down, or things get overwhelming, my brain reminds me I want to die.
Because of the time I’ve spent in therapy for my depression I’m well aware that I’m not suicidal. I don’t want to kill myself, and I don’t engage in any riskier behavior than an average person. I just don’t want to be alive.
This can be a complicated thing to explain because I have plenty of great things in my life, including a loving husband, wonderful pets, a great relationship with my mother, and a longtime best friend who’s just moved into our spare room. Our business is successful, I’m financially stable, and we’ve recently bought a house in an area with much better weather. Which, for me, means cold and extremely rainy.
If life is so gosh darn great why do I (and other people like me) want to die?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for a lot of us it’s because we’re overwhelmed and don’t see a way to move through this feeling. It seems unending and unconquerable.
Also it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t a wish to experience death – not really. It’s a desire to stop existing. To, ideally, have never existed in the first place. We wish we’d never had to make our loved ones’ lives harder with our existence, and grimace deep inside when we know we’re about to cause even more unintentional stress.
It’s an impossible wish and we’re keenly aware that suicide would make things much worse for everyone involved. Which is why someone may have this resting thought of wanting to die and not be remotely suicidal.
My best friend struggles with these feeling as well, and it helps me a lot that I’m able to be honest with her. When she asks me how I’m doing and I say, “I want to die” she says “Me too – do you want to play video games and make pasta for dinner?”
Living with these intrusive thoughts about death and this nagging feeling of despair doesn’t stop me from getting on with my life. I keep working, I still participate in my hobbies, I enjoy time with my friends and family, I sign up for new experiences, and generally just keep on keeping on. I am, genuinely, fine. Please stop asking.
The intrusive thoughts impact me on a smaller scale, where some days I’ll take an afternoon sadness nap, or I might put off grocery shopping until the next day. I try not to mess up other people’s lives with my own ridiculous thoughts, so I like to avoid spending time in public when I can’t stop being a scowling grumpypants.
Which, I’m told, is the clinical diagnosis.