I’ll be scrolling through my phone’s contacts, bouncing from one friend to another, unable to choose somebody. Finally I’ll settle on a friend. “I think I’m in a bad place,” I’ll type, with the intention of reaching out in a moment of darkness. But then I’ll stare at the screen, not press send, minimize it. Why can’t I press send?
I’m not afraid of embarrassment– I’m a comedian, that’s my bread and butter. I don’t feel like a burden. My feelings are valid, I know this, or else I wouldn’t recognize the dark place I may or may not legitimately be in.
Then the S word drops into my mind like a nugget of shame: suicide. Am I suicidal? Is it possible to be suicidal if you have to question how suicidal you possibly are? Everybody has considered suicide. At some point we all get to a low place and think, Things would be better off if I were dead. Hello, that’s the entire premise of It’s a Wonderful Life. You snap out of it, but you’ve thought it.
It’s that moment when you can’t tell how close you are to following through on those S word thoughts that make up this “bad place.”
Like terrorist threats, there needs to be colored coded levels of suicidal tendencies.
I’m in the blue zone, the GUARDED level. Thanks to therapy and a balanced level of anti-depressants, I’m able to recognize those moments when I reach the yellow zone (ELEVATED), or orange, (HIGH), or God forbid red (SEVERE).
The blue level consists of thinking about what would happen if I did off myself, thinking of the people I’d hurt. That empathy for others is important, because it helps when I reach for my prescribed bottle of Ativan and ponder, What if I take too many? I don’t, because I’m in the blue zone, but the idea is there.
Being in the blue zone also means I’m able to recognize my problem. I’m depressed, suffer from anxiety, hopelessness, and tend to isolate myself from others. Because I recognize this, go to therapy, stick to my medication, I can stay in the blue zone.
The “bad place” is my concern over inching into the yellow, orange, or red zones. No amount of therapy or medication is going to stop me from avoiding feeling every bad thing that comes along. It’s when those elevated terrorist levels of suicide creep through to my brain that I contemplate sending that distress text.
The dialogue around suicide is always about the dead and mostly misguided.. It’s in past tense, “If only he knew how much he had to live for…” or “She was so happy, we had no idea.” Humanity is given to an act that was inspired by a disease: depression. Like other diseases–cancer, heart disease, etc. –suicide is the disease killing the person, not the other way around. You would never say, “Those tumors, if only they knew how special he was,” or, “That burger looked so good, how could it possibly clog her arteries?”
More people think about committing suicide than actually do, which means that more people suffer from a disease that, like cancer and heart disease, is treatable. If more people recognized that depression is a disease and removed the shame behind acknowledging your feelings and/or suicidal thoughts, then less people would be at red and orange levels.
I’m pretty sure that I’m going to have to deal with this for life. There will be a time that I’ll get frustrated, sad, lonely, and yeah, maybe suicidal. I hope that if it does come to that, I’ll be able to press send on that distress call. But right now I’m perfectly happy (mostly) in the blue zone.