Suicidality as Identity
When I say that I’m suicidal, people usually assume that I’m “in crisis.” That I’m having an emergency they need to address. My suicidality is grounds for panic, for immediate action. I need to be kept “safe.”
Underlying this response to my expression of wanting to die is the assumption that suicidality is a distinct and separate entity from myself. The assumption is that my suicidality is a series of thoughts or feelings that I struggle with. Like antibodies, they attack my brain. And those around me believe I need to “fend them off” or “cope with them” in some way. It is almost like demonic possession - some foreign body has taken over my brain and made me think dying is appealing, and I need to writhe myself free from their grip.
But the reality is that suicidality isn’t really separate from me. Being suicidal is part of who I am. It’s part of how I emotionally and physically exist in the world. Suicidality for me is a constant. It’s not a series of thoughts or feelings but a pervasive, ever-present desire to not exist.
Suicidality is not a foreign body attacking my brain. It is merely the way I feel in response to the world. In response to the conditional love I (and everyone) am subjected to - the knowledge that it is primarily conventionally attractive, able-bodied, able-minded, neurotypical, thin, wealthy, white, heterosexual, cisgender people who are valued in society, and failing to meet any of these standards can result in being systemically and systematically devalued on a massive scale. These standards feel like a box to me - a tight, constricted, suffocating box I can’t escape from. Every day, I experience varying degrees of disappointment in myself, and at times even self-loathing - directed toward my mind and my body - for failing to meet those standards.
And I am even more disappointed in myself for perpetuating those standards against myself and others. I hate that our culture ingrains ableism, sanism, lookism, classism, racism, and queer antagonism into us, so that not only do we suffer from its effects but we are almost forced to be complicit in it. I have been so brainwashed by the media, by my family system, and by almost everyone around me to hold people to the same standards that I myself find so oppressive. I hate how much I notice myself taking conventionally attractive, able-bodied, neurotypical, thin, wealthy, white, heterosexual, cisgender people more seriously, putting in more time and effort to hear what they have to say, than I do for people who fail to meet those standards. And I feel like I can’t stop myself. As hard as I try, as much work as I do to center the voices of disabled, neurodivergent, Mad, fat, and queer people, my biases feel inescapable, and the work I do never feels like enough. And if I can’t escape my own biases, then how can I expect anyone else to? How can I blame anyone, besides myself, for the oppressive society we live in?
My (firsthand, deeply personal and experiential) knowledge of both the impacts of our society’s oppressive standards of normality and the ways I perpetuate those standards creates a paradox that leads to a hell of a lot of suffering. So much suffering that I wish I didn’t exist. It’s really as simple as that.
It’s always fascinating to me how people express deep concerns, fears, and panic around my desire to die, but the aforementioned oppressions and injustices of the world are often accompanied by an attitude of resignation or acceptance. “Life just isn’t fair,” people will say with a shrug. I find it bitter and ironic that the same people who fatalistically accept their own fatphobia and lookism as an inevitable part of human nature find my right to suicide views shocking, abhorrent, and panic-inducing.
For me personally, the attitudes are reversed. The injustice of our society and the utter powerlessness and devaluation of so many minds and bodies are what cause me fear, existential anxiety, panic, terror, and absolute misery. The fact that all of this makes me want to stop existing is an afterthought, a postscript. It is something I accept with glum resignation. The crisis, the emergency, is the societal oppression and systemic devaluation of people to fail to meet certain standards - not my internal response to that.
The idea of “treating” my “suicidality,” of “getting me help” for “the thoughts I struggle with” as if they are foreign bodies attacking my brain, sounds about as ridiculous to me as “treating” a person’s thirst or hunger.
You probably still have one last question after reading all of this. If I’m constantly suicidal - if that’s part of who I am, a part of how I respond to the world around me, and not a disease that needs to be treated - why am I still here? Why do I still choose to exist?
If you were hoping for some inspirational takeaway, some positive ending to all of this...sorry.
I mainly exist because I’m terrified of death. Like nearly all other human beings, the unknown scares me. The idea of not existing is almost definitionally impossible to wrap my head around. Even though I intellectually and philosophically believe that it probably doesn’t feel too different than before I was born (which doesn’t seem so bad!), emotionally, I’m still frightened. So I’ll procrastinate that inevitable fate for as long as possible, thank you very much!
Also, there are quite a few people that I’d be really, really sad if I never got to see them again. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t believe in afterlife, so it’s not like I believe I’ll continue missing those people after death. But even the mere idea of not getting to see my partner or my friends and family again is enough to keep me in existence for now.
For now, I will continue to exist in a state of wishing that I didn’t exist, but also acknowledging that existence is to some extent the terrible price I am choosing to pay for procrastinating death and hanging out with my loved ones. And, though it’s not enough, I will also try to make existence a little bit better by being brutally honest about all of the above in the hopes that it will provide some other person validation and feelings of less aloneness.