When I first moved to Taiwan I thought about suicide every day. I thought about it every morning when I woke up, and on my walks to work. I thought about it while I was teaching, and during my breaks between lessons. I thought about it on my walks home and every night lying in my bed, searching for sleep through my tears.
Even though my thoughts never moved from passive to active, they were still so heavy. No one can ever truly understand the sheer weight of thoughts like those, unless they have carried them every day for months on end.
I’m sure many times people I worked with must have thought me rude, or stuck up, or lazy – because I didn’t socialize much. Being at work and around people exhausted me, and being social became an utter nightmare. Not only did my constant anxiety make interaction painful, but my thoughts were often so loud that I couldn’t hear anything else. Lazy. Rude. Failure. Not good enough. Stupid. Boring. Awkward. Broken. Ugly.
I am thankful to say that, while my anxiety still exists, my suicidal thoughts have subsided. I have been able to function better socially, and it makes me happy to be around people and able to enjoy myself, without the constant pain and self-criticism in my head.
Suicide is still such a taboo topic. It is one that is often avoided at all costs. Sure, it’s definitely spoken about more than before, but in my opinion it still isn’t addressed enough. When someone is feeling suicidal they feel isolated. Alone. Many feel like they simply cannot reach out. I am lucky. I have a great support system that helped me through my lowest points, but even then I never spoke my darkest thoughts out loud. I’ve seen how people respond to the dreaded S word. The discomfort, the avoidance, the dismissal, the pain, the fear.
The saddest thing for me is that people, on both sides of the feeling, often don’t realize the relief a conversation can bring. Of course it’s not a substitute for professional help, but the value of a non-judgmental ear cannot be overstated. I’ve had people I’m close with come to me with their own suicidal feelings, and having experienced them myself throughout my life I was able to hold space for them. Sure, it scared the shit out of me – of course it did – but I knew that allowing them room to explore their thoughts out loud actually helped to give those feelings a little bit less power, even if just for a moment.
Suicide and suicidal thoughts are painful and uncomfortable things to confront, but speaking about them needs to be normalized. As someone who used to work at a suicide hotline, I know that it is not an exaggeration to say that talking can save lives. We are all human beings. We need to face our fear and discomfort and open ourselves up to having that conversation if necessary. Not only for the sake of all those struggling, but for the sake of those lost to suicide, who felt that they had no other way out, and for those left behind.