What to do when you can’t ask for help

This is the last thing I wanted to write about.  I feel like the weird chick on social media who is oversharing about her mental health.  I am over-exposing myself, but until we can discuss mental health in more nuanced terms, my frustration is louder than my comfort.  I can’t separate my emotions from the objectivity I wish I could apply to my online persona.

I challenge my own rhetoric and the way try to prevent suicide.  So much of it orbits around hope, and yet, hope is the furthest thing from your reach in your darkest moments.  “Ask for help” is such a common phrase, but we shame the ask so much that help fades out of reach.  We frame everything under this “inspiring light”, and I don’t think its fair to those struggling.  So, this is how I weathered those moments.  I’m not a mental health professional.  I am not a motivational speaker.  I’m just someone who wants you in the world:

  • You don’t even have to stop the suicidal ideations.  You don’t have to end your plans of ending your life– just wait. I found myself closest to the edge at night, so I’d promise myself to wait until morning.  If it was a work week, I’d promise myself to wait until Friday.  Promise yourself one more second, one more breath.  And I know that breath is more concrete than oxygen.  I know how hard it is to welcome air when you longer want to loom in this atmosphere, but please, if you can at all, please try.  The length of time is not what’s important.  It’s that you’re holding on for a bit longer.  If you can, commit to calling someone the next day.  When you wake up, you’ve survived the night!! That’s incredible (truly, that night was tyrannical and ominous and you survived), go on a walk.  Talk to one person you love, one person you look up to.  Stave off what is eating you alive by doing just one more thing (preferably something you enjoy).  You don’t have to want to live.  It is enough just to put off dying for another moment.
  • In my teens, I babysat.  I adore all the children I was privileged enough to care for.  During my summers and evenings and weekends, I played with them only to return to the loneliness of my own life after.  But I’d think about their big, toothy smiles and innocence.  I’d think about how, if I were to take my own life, they might hear about it one day.  I didn’t want to sour any warm memories with me.  You can’t live for other people, but it helps to understand that we are all intertwined to others as constellations.  We are essential to each other’s survival.
  • Even when I haven’t valued my own life (which is more often than I’d like to admit), I aspire to be a reference point for other’s perseverance and belief in their own value.  I have two indomitable little sisters.  All of my conduct is intended to be a blueprint for their lives– that they too can be unapologetic and flawed and limitless.  Additionally, I’ve spoken openly about gender violence and sexual trauma I’ve weathered.  People know and have shared their stories with me.  I don’t want to be a cautionary tale or someone else’s tragedy.  I ache for anyone reassembling themselves in the wake of trauma to know the fractured yet brilliant light ahead.  I want to seize my own narrative, and the only way I am my own storyteller is if I’m alive to string the words together.  Right now, help is titanium on your tongue– a metal too heavy to lift.  But there are volumes churning inside of you, and I want to see those unleashed.  I don’t want to see you taking those to your grave.

I want you to know– if your toes begin to creep over the edge, if the pill bottle and your hand are making contact– You’re right about some things.  People can suck.  Life can suck.  And things will go on without you, but they’ll never be as good.  They will not be one iota as good without you here.  You’re one person, right?  The thing is that one person has changed my life on more than one occasion.   One person has saved my life.  You–one person– are the difference, the tipping point, the physics which escalate 211 degrees to the boiling point.   Maybe you are strange and don’t fit in.  Misfits and freaks are the greatest blessing on the planet.  They are the Sriracha to blandness. Unwanted folks become innovators because their view is from a different angle.  Your weird is your superpower.  Your weird is your bat signal to the other freaks and misfits (and trust me they are out there)– it takes one to know one!

You don’t have to believe this now. I’m not trying to make you feel better by saying this.  Hope is a prickly thing.  I’m not asking you to catch it.  I’m asking for these items to pique your interest.  I’m asking for you to give it one more breath.  Give it one more breath because anything is better than right now, and if anything is better than this very moment, that means the future holds promise.  I know that death feels like peace, but that too is in your future, and if you have the option for both promise and peace, isn’t it worth a shot to see it?

You decide to allow one more excruciating breath in, then another. They gradually hurt less.  I’ve spent months recycling the reflex of the painful breath. Not as a fifteen year old (as I’ve discussed in a previous post), but as  recently as last year. Now, my social media is plastered with pictures of me–enormous smile and head thrown back.  Those photos are the epilogue to my own obsidian.  The last time I attempted suicide, I was 15.  The last time I considered ending my life, I was 24.

I endured fifteen months of progressively consistent trauma.  I didn’t know how to leave, even after my days became punctuated my panic attacks.  Here I was, this “strong, independent woman” allowing such degrading treatment.  I felt like a fraud.  Incongruent to my values, I muted myself, shrinking into depression, anxiety, isolation.  Purging– a ritual I outran four years prior– resurfaced as my entire interiority warped into a wasteland.  My confidence eroded.  My selfhood was a casualty of this situation. Now, in November of 2017, I found myself paralyzed on the kitchen floor.  I wanted to die.

The privilege of my adulthood and the glorious existence I’ve curated for myself is my friends and mentors I alerted to my condition.  I had a doctor who was concerned enough about my surging panic attacks that he prescribed me anti-anxiety medication (which I still take and feel no shame about).  When I had the resources, I sought counseling.  Better is one hell of a road I have had to pave myself.  I broke ground when I refused to believe that other people’s deficits were mine to absorb. The path cleared as I remembered I was never broken.

You are not broken.  No matter how long you’ve felt like this, it does not have to last forever.  It will not last forever.  Even the most infitite of winters have fallen to the mercy of spring.  And you don’t hopeful all the time to get there. You don’t have to be grateful to this miserable experience or make poetry out of it. You don’t have to be inspired or perfect or do the “right things”. But you do have to be alive.  That’s a big ask, but you, reader, are bigger than the ask itself.

If you need anything, please don’t hesistate to reach out: marisamcgrathblog@gmail.com

I am here for you.

The essay is for Kate Spade, Anthony Bordain, and every other victim of suicide.  You aren’t the way you left.  You are your talents and contributions and spirits.  Your legacy is this luminous gift we will always gaze upon in wonderment.  I’m so glad I got to share this planet with you. I’m so sorry the world couldn’t hold you close, but I hope you know that you are loved, even from the other side.

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