Written by Megan Saunders, Blogger & Advocate
On the day before I decided to take my life, you may have been the person sitting next to me in my favorite coffee shop, or the person smiling at me as I passed you on the sidewalk with my spirited terrier. You may have seen the backpack of burden weighing on my shoulders. You may have asked, “How are you?” You may have wondered if I was really okay like I said I was.
The next day came; the day I decided to take my life. I had a plan and had made arrangements.
AND… the moment came.
Something happened. I looked at my shaking hands, and I remembered…
In 2015, I was in a treatment facility for an eating disorder. Having battled self-harm since I was 15, it was triggering for me when struggling with difficult emotions and thoughts to be around sharp objects.
During cooking group I was asked to chop an onion. I picked up the knife and froze for a moment. As collectedly as I could, I put the knife down and power-walked out of the kitchen onto the porch. Perching myself in a wooden rocking chair, I stared off into space, caught up in the battle raging within my mind; a battle between acting on my thoughts of self-harm, or sitting with the discomfort. The thoughts scared me. They made me feel like a defective person. I felt tears gathering behind my eyes.
A staff member walked out onto the porch with a green bandana in her hair (it was required to have your hair covered in some way when going into the kitchen). She squatted in front of my chair and asked me to look at her. Truth is, I did not want to talk. I wanted to sit and ruminate and contrive a plan to get the hell out of this place that was making me face my fears, in turn making me feel significant discomfort.
I reluctantly shared with her what I was thinking about- self-harm, and how distressed I was feeling. She opened up her hands, aligning her pinky fingers side by side. She told me to look at her pinkies. They were obviously crooked. As an aside, they were pretty weird. She continued by saying that they were a part of her, but did not define all of her. In other words, people do not think of her in respect to her pinkies. They likely think of her on the basis of her humor, artistic abilities, and wisdom. I imagine I had an incredulous look on my face; a look that radiated with, “What?! Why are you telling me this?!”
It took a moment, and then her point become clear. My thoughts are a part of me, not all of me. In the same way that her crooked pinkies do not define her, my thoughts do not have the power to define and control me.
Returning to the day I decided to end my life, I looked at my shaking hands and remembered her words. The suicidal thoughts and impulses did not have the power to control me. I had a choice. The dams of my eyes broke. I realized in that moment that I did not really want to die. I realized that my depression was speaking louder than my wise-minded self that knew ending my life was a permanent solution to temporary distress. My depression is only a part of me. It does not define me. I took my power back that day. I decided to live.
Much like recovery from the eating disorder, it has not been a one-time decision. It has been a decision I have had to make every day, multiple times. It has been a decision characterized by reminding myself that the suicidal thoughts will pass. I can survive them. They are only a part of me like that staff member’s pinkies.
My name is Megan and this is Where I Stand.