Please be advised that this post discusses suicidal thoughts.
I’m jumping ahead in my story to talk about my recent birthday. So far, my posts have been about the past summer, but this one is about this May. I turned 28 a couple weeks ago. Leading up to my birthday, I didn’t think it was a particularly special one; I was already in my late twenties at 27, 29 will be the last year of my twenties, but 28 is just in the middle of that, pretty plain.
However, when I told my mom a couple days before my birthday that I hadn’t thought I would make it to my 28th birthday, that I hadn’t thought I would be alive this long, she said maybe this was my most special birthday of all.
On the day of my birthday, I felt a strange combination of emotions that were hard to make sense of that day. I was cheerful, especially when I received happy birthday wishes, yet I also had a sense of heaviness and a bit of a twisty knot in my stomach from reflecting on how I hadn’t expected to still be alive at this point.
In the evening, my mom and I went for a walk and talked again about the significance of this birthday. She said it was a victory and something to celebrate.
I suppose the twisty knot I felt that day and other times later in the week does make sense since thinking about how suicidal I had been is a heavy topic. I think the part that felt strange and confusing to me was that this wasn’t paired with a sense of joyful celebration. I guess I thought that a victory and celebration ought to be accompanied with exuberant emotions.
By the night-time, the knot turned into tears. My heavy emotions were still with me, and I realized I needed to mark this day and share the significance of it with some more people. I texted a few friends to tell them it was my birthday and that I hadn’t expected to make it this long and to thank them for helping me stay alive.
Thanking them for that was confusing too. I was very thankful for the help from my friends, but “thank for you helping me stay alive” made me sound more grateful to be alive than I was. I was okay with being alive, but I wasn’t at a point where I was thinking “Oh wow, I can’t believe I was ever suicidal! That’s crazy! I’m sooo happy I’m alive!” but I did want to thank them.
I had to work that one out with my counsellor. She helped me realize that I was genuinely thankful for my friends’ help, but my desire over the last several months hasn’t been to stay alive; it’s been to feel loved, known, understood, and cared for. That’s what I was thankful for- the love they’ve shown me.
I wasn’t exuberant and euphoric in my celebration of being alive until my 28th birthday, but that’s okay. I marked this day in other ways- with meaningful reflection on my own and with my mom, by allowing myself to feel and process my emotions, and by sharing my thankfulness with my friends. I made it until 28. It was a special birthday, a victory, a celebration.
Suicide is terrible and tragic. It can be hard to talk about. It can be frightening to hear about. I am not encouraging suicidal ideation as a solution or trying to shock and harm with my words. I am sharing a part of my story, showing what depression can be like. This is one very real and serious part of my story that should not be left out. Talking about suicide can be difficult, but talking about these thoughts instead of hiding them can save lives. I am not the only person struggling with a mental illness who has been in this place. Thankfully, I also have other parts of my story that include difficult and ongoing healing. These parts of my story will come later.
Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line (24/7): 1-877-435-7170
Klinic Crisis Line (24/7): 1-888-322-3019
You do not have to be in immediate crisis to call these lines.
Thank you for being so courageously, beautifully and refreshingly vulnerable and authentic! Your birthday was a special day to acknowledge and celebrate YOU, but every day you choose life, and to heal is a victory worth celebrating!! Maybe we should have cake every day?!