“There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy.” –Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
Writing this will be difficult, so I ask you to wear your patience hat and breathe in and out a few times before you read ahead.
The word suicide doesn’t hold a whole lot of meaning for me – what holds an overwhelming amount of meaning is the word, and the act of feeling, suicidal. There is a certain distance between the two words, a distance which is bridged with the experience of the meaning of the latter word. For the longest time, I have been suicidal, which is to say I have contemplated ending my life burdened by the assumed futility of it. The futility of life lay in the repetitive living of life, and to what end? Living in itself seemed absurd and nothing seemed to hold any meaning. Even the most delightful experiences were marked with a certain kind of lack as if I was unable to reach the light and some sense of importance of being alive was evading me. This wasn’t some teenage angst. The feeling of uselessness and the absurdity of living was something that came with the first conscious experience of the self – when I realised that I was myself, a living, breathing girl, alive in an enormous world. And yet it wasn’t yet time to feel like life wasn’t worth living.
I don’t remember the point where I decided that it wasn’t worth being alive, but I do remember being incredibly lonely from the very beginning. The feeling of being entirely alone and existing as such was an experience that was to be lived all by myself ultimately, despite the numerous people that walk in and out of my life. This loneliness was difficult to bear. It required the kind of strength that I didn’t have and didn’t know how to build up. Even talking about it required effort and a voice that I couldn’t bring myself to speak in. But I did speak, eventually and it was terrible, confusing noise. I was unable to understand why I felt like “ending my life”. These were words and feelings that were unfamiliar – these were words that seemed like a coward’s who didn’t have the courage to tackle the problems that life was throwing at them.
But then, that is how I felt. In two instances, I tried to overdose on my emergency anxiety pills. On multiple occasions, I have tried to hurt myself by slashing my wrists or beating myself black and blue. I was on the brink of tipping myself into an ocean of self-harm and self-loathing and it took me nothing to drown myself in this ocean. I hated myself. I hated my body. I was blinded by illusions of my own worthlessness. Every movement, every breath I took seemed wasted and paralysing with the fear of being stuck in these feelings forever. I wanted this to end.
The end, however, was nowhere near. My parents held me close and let me scream and cry and thrash about every time I needed to. My mother bathed my wounded hands and taught me to tell her when I had suicidal urges. My father said that he would not let anything hurt me. They reminded me that there were people who loved me and who would mourn my loss. And with baby steps, they drew me closer to life and showed me how to live again. I learnt to taste good food, give up drinking, and smell the autumn air. I began to write of other things, happier things, and mundane things – not just my misery.
I realised that if I had to feel alive again, I had to stop holding my misery so close to me like I would be lost without it. The thing about feeling sad and miserable is that it made me feel comfortable. It was addictive and allowed me to feel like there was nothing beyond me – I was unable to look anywhere but within. I forgot that there existed a world outside of me. And therefore I had to let go of misery and stop thinking of it as some kind of betrayal towards myself. I started to teach myself how to be more content and happy. As my therapist says, happiness is a lot of hard work. Instead of cutting myself, I began writing pages and pages of poetry. I joined a writing group and made new friends who helped me laugh. I worked hard at therapy and took care of myself, for a change.
That being said, I must admit that I feign more exuberance about life than I actually feel. I have my lingering doubts about why I should live. My old thoughts come back to haunt me every now and then – but ghosts of the past are rarely ever exorcised so easily. I am learning to give less importance to these thoughts and trying more to live in the here and now. Life is what you make of it and if you have a chance, why not make the most of it? I was lucky to have my parents and other people who love me. It is important to have a support system and not everyone always has the ability to reach out and create a protective circle around them. But I cannot emphasise how crucial it is to tell someone that you feel suicidal. We live not only for ourselves but for those we love as well. Even at the worst moment of my life, when I had hit rock-bottom, I could see my mother’s crying face and my father’s dazed look. I am all they have, and they are a reason for me to live. We all need reasons to stay alive – I need you to look for yours. I need you to live. I want you to live.