They say suicidal ideation is more common than attempting for women. I can attest to that, but only from the standpoint of my personal experience.
The number of times I’ve had compulsory thoughts of dying over the years would buckle my mother’s knees. Would horrify my friends. Should horrify me. And now, at this stage in my life, it does—but only a little. I never felt driven past the thought. Past weighing a knife in my hand for longer than I normally would have. Past wondering if it would be worth it to keep going. I don’t think I ever wanted to die though. I just didn’t want to exist.
There still exists the part of me that’s fed up with the world the way it is. That feels like I don’t belong here in a weirdly metaphysical sense. I feel like I see more—that maybe I think more, too—and it’s a strangely painful thing to be so aware in a world that is so majorly on auto-pilot. That exists in pseudo-fulfillment with apps and shallow, trivial concerns and relationships that validate what you are (maybe), but don’t serve to grow you or fulfill you at all. The ruts are worn and no one takes responsibility for what we’re doing to this world, to each other, to ourselves every day.
The fact is that I’ve been aware of this for—apparently—what is longer than normal. It seems like so many people (maybe just the people I come into contact with) go full lives without becoming self-aware. To say it’s disconcerting isn’t accurate. In fact, it really just makes me sad. And while being so aware in an otherwise ambivalent world made me feel alone and misunderstood, that wasn’t my reason for all the times I glanced into opposing traffic and saw the steering wheel jerk. It just added to it until I came to terms with everything else you already know about me.
I don’t remember when I started writing. More than that, I don’t remember when I started storytelling. The first time I ever identified as a writer, however, I do remember. I was in sixth grade. There was a school-wide poetry slam and I decided that I wanted to enter. I couldn’t tell you why. I just remember that all the advanced class kids I used to have classes with in elementary school were in it, too, and were as condescending as their parents.
So, as you can imagine, it felt splendid to hand their asses to them on stage.
The point is that I started thinking of myself as a writer when I was eleven. Before that, I had written fun songs or poems or whatever with my friends, but I had never thought of that as writing. I wasn’t aware of creative writing and its magnitude until around that time in middle school. Books were a love of course—I was certainly raised a reader. Yet it didn’t occur to me that someone actually made a living writing the books that I inhaled. It didn’t occur to me that this could be someone’s job. That was just too much.
The more I think back, the more I realize that I’ve had anxiety my entire life. It runs in my family and smart kids often experience at least bouts of this. I really didn’t stand a chance. I only started to realize that this wasn’t the “normal” way to feel maybe a few years ago. It was so natural for me that it took a damn long time to notice. I had my first tango with depression when I was fourteen and it lasted for eight months. Then it leveled off. And then it came back.
I spent three years in an abusive relationship—my first relationship—and was gaslighted and verbally abused on the daily. If this isn’t the first time you’re reading my blog, you know the rest. That’s not why I’m here. My friends up to that point were not my friends and the few people who should have been my close friends didn’t become my friends until much later—but I’m very glad they did. I was twelve when I realized that I could be like the authors who wrote the books I loved and it would also take my mind off what was happening away from that desk.
I wrote my first book that fall on an older than old version of Microsoft Word Processor. It was called Rivers of the Heart and it was based on a roleplay I’d started and never finished with someone on a forum. That may have been why I started it in the first place—being frustrated first that it wasn’t as good as I thought it should be and also being frustrated that it ended. I did something similar the following with my second attempt at a novel-length project. Even though I titled it pretty lamely, this one had potential and I fully intend to pick it back up someday.
How does this tie together? Because after I was able to identify as something—specifically after I was able to identify as a writer—things became easier to digest. Some people find their meaning in their relationships, their religion, in charity, or in some variant of “this is larger than me.” I’ve long been aware that this universe doesn’t work according to me. However, I hadn’t yet found that “thing” that allowed me to cope with the ways that I was wronged.
It was a separate thing for me to understand that I didn’t deserve the things that happened to me. In some of the smaller disasters, I made mistakes leading up to said small disasters, but I didn’t necessarily deserve the result. After I discovered my identity as a writer, it infiltrated every aspect of my life. I couldn’t expel it now if I tried. Regardless of what happened—the tiny evils or the big bads—I could bring my anxiety back down, my anger back down, and rationalize it into a packaged, digestible form that I could work with.
This is when “Everything is material” basically became my anthem.
Through writing and the mentality that goes with it, the everyday and the catastrophic aren’t just passing events. There’s something about writing that produces more for every person I meet, every mistake I make, every experience I have.
I can’t say for sure that the way my mind works and the fact that I inevitably took writing as one of my crafts kept me going or made things easier than they could have been were I someone else. I have never been without these parts of myself—there was never an epiphany, a turning point, an eclipse of who I was into who I became, that part has always been developing from the same base.
More often than not, thinking of things in metaphors or with symbolism lets me separate from the immediacy of whatever is happening. Call it dissociation or creativity, I can’t define it for anyone but myself. I think that’s the mark of people like me. People like us, possibly, if you’ve read this far and you’re on the same page. There’s no sameness in our breed, but there’s some universal truth. Reasons for being and for making that are all different, but align in a unifying way.
And I think that, in and of itself, is something spectacular to live for.