When I “Chose” Suicide

Trigger warning: discussion of suicide, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal ideation.

“It’s like falling into a hole, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger, and you can’t get out. And then all of a sudden, it’s inside, and you’re the hole, and you’re trapped and it’s all over.”

~ Conrad, “Ordinary People”

I remember the first time I watched the film “Ordinary People.” I was a teenager, and I hadn’t the words to express the icy-hot liquid that coursed every day through my veins. All I knew was what I felt:

I want to kill myself. I want to kill myself. I want to kill myself.

When I heard Timothy Hutton’s character speak of falling into an expanding hole that eats away at everything that makes you want to live until there’s nothing left and then You. Are. The. Nothing. Left. … then I realized what I was.

I am suicidal. I want to kill myself.

This was a revelation. Because I didn’t find Suicide. Suicide found me.

I didn’t wake up one day and open the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book of Life, thumb through all the options, and then declare with a smile, “That one! The Battle With A Major Depressive Disorder adventure! I want that one! God that sounds like fun!”

One can theorize about why Suicide chose me. Maybe I inherited the blood of sadness from an ancestor, like a child might catch a plague from a grandparent. Maybe a childhood marked by a speech impediment became an impediment to social integration. Maybe the speech therapist who ripped my innocence from me cast demons into my soul. Maybe it was religion — or the emotional cruelty of other homeschool parents in my life — or this or that girlfriend — or this or that life choice — or the antibiotics I took to get rid of my acne.

Maybe it was everything and yet nothing. Maybe it’s just the chemicals in my head. Maybe I’ll never know.

But I know there’s a cloud that hangs over my head every day — and it’s been there for as long as I can remember. It’s like waking up with cotton balls inside your brain — cotton balls that sprout the sort of monstrous scaly legs that send shivers down your spine as they burrow their way into your mouth and your heart and your blood stream.

I didn’t find Suicide. Suicide found me.

Some people like Matt Walsh say Suicide is a choice. And for some people perhaps it is. For the suicide bomber or the samurai enacting seppuku, or someone avoiding some dreaded fate, it might be a choice to seize Death by the throat for one’s self, rather than to have someone else seize it for you. I don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself and I believe that Depression and Suicide are uniquely personal matters. No Depression looks like; no Suicide is the same. The blood spilt is blood we all share, but the reasons multiply and the answers evade.

But for me, Suicide is not a choice. Suicide is Everyday. It is what I wake to, a thin gaseous taste and sound that echoes throughout my head in the morning…

kill yourself kill yourself kill yourself

It is never not there. Sometimes it’s just a morose soundtrack to everyday activities. It’s hard to describe. It’s like a veil one can see through: you can see through it, but you know it’s there. It’s always there.

Sometimes it is louder:

kill yourself kill yourself kill yourself

I don’t choose for it to be louder. There is no volume setting to Suicide. If there was, I’d put it on mute so I could — just for one day, even just for one hour — know once again what it’s like to experience that thing everyone else calls Happiness.

Sometimes, it just is louder. If you “can’t comprehend it,” you have no right to judge and you have no right to talk about it. Sometimes it is louder and there is nothing I can do about it. I can repeat platitudes and I can read a book and I can chant mantras and I can pray and I can pray harder and I can ask Jesus into my heart over and over and nothing works. I try to ignore it and I try to squeeze my head as hard as I can with my hands and I try to beat it out of my body with my hands but it remains — mocking me, louder and louder, becoming a chorus of voices ringing inside my brain…

kill yourself kill yourself kill yourself

Sometimes I lose the fight.

It’s happened more than once. With that jug of vodka. With the ocean. With those bottles of pills.

Some might say my suicide attempts were choices. But if you knew what it’s like to live every second of every hour of every day saying, “NO, I WILL live, I will NOT give in” — screaming it as loudly as you can to yourself so that you find it somewhat believable — you would know that sometimes it’s not a choice. It’s the farthest thing from a choice. It is the swimmer who has tread water for 48 hours straight, hoping for someone to rescue him, but no one has showed up and finally his legs and arms just can’t work any longer. He would choose to keep going if he could. But he can’t.

want to kill myself.

But I will say NO every second of every hour of every day to the best of my ability. I will to live because there is so much beauty in life, there are so many wonderful people who care, there is so much work to be done to make the world a more just and loving place. I will not give in.

But I get exhausted. And sometimes all the will I have is Just. Not. Enough.

If you, like Robin Williams did, fight this same battle against Suicide, against the daily soul-crushing force that is Depression, please know you are not alone. Please know there is help. Please know that I know that me saying those things might mean jackshit to you. Because I too have heard them a thousand times and people say those Hallmark card words like they are magic — like you can exclaim Accio Happiness! and then stare Suicide in the face like it’s a Dementor and flip it off.

No, I know better. But I also know that sometimes, when the voices are quieter, it helps to be reminded: You are not alone. There is help. You are worth it. Please don’t give up.

I also know that, if you — like me — have one of those days we fear the most, one of those days where you just can’t fight it any longer, I want to fight for you with every little fire I have left. But I don’t think you’re selfish. I don’t think you’re a coward. I don’t think you’re a sinner. I think that you are a fighter to have made it this far. People who aren’t like us don’t know just how unselfish the act of simply staying alive can be — and how much bravery it takes for us to do it.

So to everyone who’s fighting daily to stay alive: I celebrate you.  You are champions.

And I hope you keep fighting. I’ll keep fighting, too.

Published by R.L. Stollar

R.L. Stollar is a child liberation theologian and an advocate for children and abuse survivors. The author of an upcoming book on child liberation theology, The Kingdom of Children, Ryan has an M.H.S. in Child Protection from Nova Southeastern University and an M.A. in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College.

15 thoughts on “When I “Chose” Suicide

  1. I celebrate you, Ryan. I love you, I love your honesty, I love how you use your personal life to educate others so they can know they are not alone. Bravo!

  2. Thank you for sharing this thought with the world and me. It gave me insight to how my friend felt multiple times. I’m glad you fight everyday, if you didn’t I wouldn’t have been able to read this, so thank you.

  3. I’ve sometimes wondered how it’s going to end.

    But… I have little brothers.

    And I was told that THEIR chances of hurting themselves skyrocket, if *that* happens to me.

    So, I put a couple of pictures of them on my mirror. I look at them every day.

    Even when I hate the sight of my own face, I can still see them.

    Right here treading with you Ryan. We’re in this 80’s-inspired mess TOGETHER. : )

  4. Conrad Jared’s short monologue from “Ordinary People” spoke to me, too. I saw it in the theater when it first came out. I was just 16 and had been fighting depression for a number of years. It was the first time I had heard anyone articulate what Depression felt like. It was an “aha moment” for me. I was always melancholy. I remember as a tiny little kid, crying when sad songs would come on the radio. The tears would just flow without any provocation. My family thought I was nuts, so I tried to hide my tears. One of the songs that made me cry was Don MacLean’s song, “Vincent”. The lyrics say, “…this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.” This song speaks to me too. I think some of us are just too sensitive for this world and to stay in it is a daily fight. It’s gotten easier for me over the years. I hope to does for you too, Ryan. Your voice needs to be heard by people like me so we don’t feel quite so alone. Bless you.

  5. For anybody who’s reading here: there’s this one song that could always reach me even when things were really bad: Josh Groban’s “You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)”.

  6. Don’t give up
    It’s just the weight of the world
    When your heart’s heavy, I
    I will lift it for you
    Don’t give up
    Because you want to be heard
    If silence keeps you, I
    I will break it for you

    Don’t give up
    It’s just the hurt
    That you hide
    When you’re lost inside, I
    I’ll be there to find you

    Everybody wants to be understood
    Well I can hear you
    Everybody wants to be loved
    Don’t give up
    Because you are loved

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