Live By Your Hand

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I have always been an advocate of choice. I fully support women taking charge of their bodies, of using contraceptives, of abortion being a personal decision, of observing whatever religious, cultural or social path one wants regardless of what custom dictates. I support freedom of speech, however offensive it can be. I have always believed that it doesn’t matter where your life began, what ultimately matters is where we choose to take it. I have always believed that we create our own directions.

In this vein, I also believe that ending one’s life is a choice.

In the past, I’ve experienced depression so terrible that I didn’t want to get out of bed for weeks. I would drown this feeling in alcohol and substances, and immerse myself in the party scene every night. I had alcohol for breakfast and drank consistently throughout the day. I dreamt in black and lived in grey. Periods like this would last for months sometimes. I never sought help, though; I wanted to, but I didn’t know how. I also had this sneaking feeling that once I got my hands on prescription meds, I’d be fast on my way to a new addiction.

When I was 17, I started to cut. One day, during a particularly deep crash, I went out and bought a razor blade. The moment I sat down in my room and began cutting the skin on my palm, I felt an immediate release. I stopped feeling numb. I could breathe again. I learned how to hide my cuts so I could do my form of therapy in peace.

But cutting myself was utter escapism on my part. Instead of dealing with my problems, I sought the easy way out. I was so desperate to feel better, to feel okay even for a few minutes, that I was willing to draw my own blood and mutilate my hand. There came a time when I ran out of skin on my palm and I started slashing the skin near my ribs because it was easy to hide under a shirt. I hated it but I couldn’t stop. Inevitably, like any addiction, it stopped working.

The depression stayed, though. It came in waves. Sometimes it went away for a while but it always came back. One day it found me in a dark room, alone, staring at nothing, feeling nothing. At that moment I knew that I should call one of my friends or family to tell them what I was thinking. I knew that I should have asked for help. But I didn’t. What I did was to gather all the pills in my apartment which came to almost three multi-colored handfuls. What I did was to sit on my bed and get a glass and a pitcher of water. What I did was to swallow all of those pills, six, seven, ten at a time until not one was left. What I did was to lie down on my bed and sleep, never expecting to ever wake up again.

But I did. And I had some of the worst hours I’ve ever experienced. I was throwing up all over the place and it felt like it wouldn’t stop. My stomach was cramping so hard, and I could feel the blood pounding in my head. I could barely stand. In spite of the physical pain, though, I had never been more glad to fail. I was still here. I was still alive.

That was the first time but it wasn’t the last. I had made several more attempts throughout the years. I also still cut sometimes, but I have been clean for some time now. It’s a fight that never ends, and it can be a confusing situation because most times, it feels like the fight is against yourself.

Feeling your back against a wall for so long is very tiring. Sometimes it feels like you’ve reached the end of your cliff and the only choice is to jump. Sometimes, the sadness and emptiness and pain and the guilt that comes with not being able to stop those feelings no matter how hard you try can be overwhelming.

Taking one’s own life is a choice, but this only means that continuing to live is a conscious decision too. For everyone who has ever had suicidal thoughts or attempted to do it, every single breath you continue to take is already a triumph. You have already won. You have stood face to face with your demons and you showed them that it will take more than that for you to back down.

There are easy days and there are hard days. There are days when you’ll feel all the sides of your life are pressing in on you, and you’ll see no other way out. You’ll feel alone. You’ll feel like a burden. You’ll feel like there is a massive dead weight inside you. You’ll run out of reasons to not end it all. This is alright. What you choose to do despite these things is what matters.

When you deal with suicidal thoughts, the act of living is already an act of courage and faith. It is you choosing to hope, to give yourself a chance for peace and quiet, and maybe even real happiness someday. It is choosing to see the light even as you sit in total darkness. It is accepting your pain and knowing that there is still much room for the good things in you. Despite the chaos and shadows that surround us, I have learned that ultimately, the universe is kind. What we need to do is to give it and ourselves a chance no matter how many it takes, because we deserve every single one. TC Mark

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