…it won’t work.
In case you need proof, here it is.
…it won’t work.
In case you need proof, here it is.
Read the title again. This could potentially be upsetting. [Slightly, you may or may not want to read this. You know me offline, and you might not want to know this about me.]
A classmate of mine attempted suicide in Spring 2013. A friend of a friend committed suicide a week and a half before Christmas.
One would think that after seeing the shock, the confusion, the guilt and the pain experienced by the people I would be completely put off the idea of suicide, and yet, in my darkest moments, I’ve come closer to actually doing it than I feel comfortable with.
A lot of the bookmarks on my web browser have to do with suicide. I’ve made two detailed suicide plans (one as a backup in case the first one fails), right down to where I’d get the materials I need. I have in my phone text history, a series of text messages sent between me and a friend written at a time when I thought that the pain of dying of asphyxiation over the course of a week was preferable to the pain of living my life. Might I note that at this point in time, the reason why I felt life was not worth living was basically that I had written something rather stupid and someone I respected had seen it, and a dog I liked had died (and I couldn’t find a photograph of the dog that I was looking for). Each of the factors on their own would have been manageable, but given who I am, that pretty much set me up for failure right then and there.
I look back at that now and think of how ridiculous it was to want to die so badly over something so small, and yet even now, I have moments where I find myself going over my suicide plans again and again, wanting to be released from the pain of living in this world. People often like to tell suicidal/depressed people that things will get better. I always find that difficult to believe. I already have everything I could have ever hoped for, and yet it’s still not enough for me to want to live. I don’t know why. I wish I did, so that I could stop this. Deep down, I don’t want to kill myself. I don’t want to feel like death is the best option for me. But I do, sometimes. It scares me.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about suicide a lot. For the past week, nearly every day, I’ve hit a point where I have seriously entertained the notion of harming myself (although I know that I’m most likely not going to make an attempt on my life). When I was hospitalised, the first thing that I thought of was that after I was released, I might be able to use the pain meds to commit suicide (a subsequent check of the chemicals showed that they’re not actually suitable for suicide). Thinking of the pain that I might cause to others if I committed suicide used to be enough to persuade me that it wasn’t a good idea, but it’s getting increasingly hard to believe that anyone would actually be upset. I honestly believe that most of the people I care deeply about dislike me and I even think that my parents would be ambivalent about my death and move on quickly (even though logic tells me that this is most likely not true) because I’m slowly losing touch with reality. Now the only thing that can reliably make me consciously choose to live is the knowledge that there’s a pretty good chance I won’t make it and I’ll wake up knowing that as much as I fail at life, I also fail at death, and I don’t know if I could deal with surviving a suicide attempt.
I don’t have a point I’m trying to make, I’m just trying to vent my emotions, really. This is about as bad as things get for me, and I’m not always this insane. [Slightly, if you’ve read this far, I’m sorry. It’s extremely unlikely that I’ll do anything, so you don’t need to be worried about me.]
I had a rather nice, honest discussion with a classmate about my depression the other day. Most of the time, when I talk to people about my depression, I’m told that I’m just being a special snowflake and I don’t really have it (my father, most notably, although he has subsequently apologised for this, and admitted he primarily does it because he finds it difficult to accept that I’m struggling with something that he himself struggles with and finds incredibly difficult to live with…after all, nobody wants to see their children suffer) or I’m told to just do [thing] (my brother told me that he had depression but recovered by changing his lifestyle…and told me that I should just do the same…except it doesn’t work that way). What made my discussion with the classmate so special was that this classmate just accepted that what I told him was true, and believed my version of my own experiences instead of trying to tell me that his interpretation of my life was more accurate. At some point in the discussion, he mentioned that I don’t look depressed (without invalidating my experiences at all!) and that it must be hard for me because people don’t really realise, but I still struggle.
I’ve been told many, many times that I don’t look depressed. After a rather difficult incident at school at the end of last year, I had to take some time off school because I couldn’t cope with my classmates’ reactions. When I returned, a lot of people indicated that they were surprised because I’d always seemed so okay. Even my therapist doesn’t fully understand my life, because I’ve always been told not to show emotion, and after years of having my emotions invalidated, I act okay even when I’m not, even without thinking about it, sometimes. So yes, I don’t look depressed. That doesn’t mean I’m not depressed, though. I have struggled with depression for the past 3 years and very few people know (although I’m trying to be more open about it now). So what lies beneath the surface? What aren’t people seeing?
I’m not a person who cries much, but things lately have been getting too much for me. Last night, I was crying alone in my room and my father happened to walk by and see me. He had to hold me for 20 minutes while I couldn’t stop crying. My mother saw, as well, and was so terrified that she offered to let me go horse-riding after the exams (this has been an ongoing battle… my parents didn’t want to let me ride). When she made that offer, despite the fact that I was finally getting offered a chance to do something I’ve always had to fight my parents for, I wasn’t ready to take them up on the offer because when I’m depressed, no matter what I do, I don’t enjoy it (fancy medical term is anhedonia), and I didn’t feel like I wanted to go horse riding. That’s my depression.
I think about suicide nearly every day. I don’t want to. The thoughts scare me, but I can’t make them go away. I’ve made several detailed plans for suicide. I’ve had thoughts that go something like “I want to commit suicide the day the IB exam results come out, even if I do well”. I chose to accept an offer from a university that doesn’t require a deposit so that if I commit suicide, my parents can save money. That is a truly awful way to pick a university to attend, but that was my reasoning. That’s my depression.
I don’t believe the love anyone else has for me. Even when someone stayed up talking to me past midnight when I was in the hospital until the nurse came with pain medication and I could finally sleep, I believed that person disliked me. When someone tells me that another person likes or respects me, I always believe that the person is lying. Even when someone tells me themselves that they like or respect me, unless I’m having a particularly good self-esteem day, I believe that person is lying. I’ve had days where I felt like the love and care shown to me by my best friends and family has been part of some massive joke that they’re all playing on me. That’s my depression.
On the surface, I look happy. Most people wouldn’t suspect that I struggle with mental illness, unwanted suicidal thoughts, self-injury or anything else. My life looks picture-perfect. Generally good grades (at least in the past…this year I’ve been too depressed to study or turn in homework a lot of the time and my grades have suffered), supportive parents and I always have a smile ready…but that’s not my depression. My depression is what lies beneath the surface.
With a month left until my IB exams, I find myself relating more and more to this post.
“I fear failure. Probably more than anything else in the world… Because, to me, failing a thing is being a failure. As a person. If I fail a thing, I am a failure, and therefore I am worth nothing.”
If you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet, it’s this: I have an important exam coming up in a month. I am extremely stressed out about this. So any spare minute that I’ve been calm enough to study, I’ve been studying, and when I haven’t been calm enough, I’ve been playing video games to try to calm down enough to study.
So I figured I’d post about procrastination. Because it’s relevant. And because something on Tumblr gave me an aha moment.
Procrastination is not and has never been a matter of laziness for me. I can and am willing to do the work. Usually, I like the work and find it fun. I have a strong work ethic. I have worked till 3 AM on experiments, then gotten up and arrived at work on time the next morning. Hard work is not alien to me.
It’s not a matter of…
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Trigger Warning for restrictive eating and/or weight-related-stuff.
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that people have been telling me that I seem to have lost weight. Not people who see me often. Just people who haven’t seen me in a month or two who come back and decide that after saying hello, the next most important thing they can say to me is to remark on my weight. My therapist, my Spanish teacher, family friends… I dismissed these observations as being flattery (since for whatever reason “you’ve lost weight” seems to be a flattering thing to say to women over a certain age; I’m not entirely sure why) or yet another of those strange social practices that humans seem to engage in that will forever elude me. One way or another, I didn’t really take any of these seriously.
But since I’ve been getting this quite a lot, I thought I’d go check, just out of curiosity. I went through a phase where I wrote down everything I ate and calculated my calorie intake for the day. I also weighed and measured myself every Sunday morning before breakfast (having it at the same time every week minimised fluctuations). Since I had these records, I thought I’d weigh and measure myself and compare that to my last recorded weight. It turns out that I have, in fact, lost several kilograms, and that my wrist circumference is nearly half a centimetre smaller than it was before. So my self perception that I’d gained weight was flawed. I wonder what other aspects of my self perception are equally invalid.
I know I’ve posted about this before and honestly not that long ago, but since I’m a high school senior, this is something that I’m being forced to consider and something that I feel a great deal of anxiety about. I continue to find it absolutely ridiculous that in the eyes of the law, I am not considered mature enough to decide who I wish to marry, I’m not even considered mature enough to make my own healthcare decisions (I had to fight with my parents to get anti-anxiety medication to help me cope until the exams) and yet apparently everyone thinks I’m mature enough to decide on what I’d like to do for the rest of my life.
First things first, I’m really, really sheltered. My family is upper middle class, I’ve never had financial worries of any kind (until recently when we’re starting to look at universities and that’s kind of an issue…but that’s another matter) and I’ve not been exposed to the real world. How is it at all possible for me to make a reasoned decision considering important factors like employability, expected salary, standard of living etc when I have never been exposed to any of the problems that are associated with not being able to find a job, or having a job that barely pays the bills. I’ve never experienced hardship of any kind, and my decision-making really reflects that.
Secondly, I’m seventeen. I’ve experienced probably less than a third of my life (17*3=51…I think I can assume that if my depression doesn’t kill me, I’ll likely live to be more than 51) and despite the recent posting on identity, I still haven’t figured out mine. If I can’t even figure out my sexual orientation with any certainty, and I’m only just beginning to develop a strong values system, how can I be sure that what I think I want now is what I actually want?
Thirdly, I have mental illnesses that distort reality a bit. In the careers decision, I think my anxiety is really distorting how I see things. I could be hedging my bet, going for the option I think I’m most likely to succeed in, or I could genuinely desire that option. I don’t think I’ll ever know.
That’s a lot of negativity…and at least some of it is probably driven by my anxiety and worries that I’m going to make the wrong decision and either be subject to “I told you so” or soul-crushing regret.
In favour of my ability to make this decision, I may not be old enough or mature enough to be making the perfect decision, but I’m still already more mature than my ten-year-old self, and honestly, if I wait until I’m ready before I make every decision, time is going to go by far too quickly. If I let my anxiety rule my life like this, I’ll never find happiness, because I’m just going to be waiting for a day that will never come. I’m never going to be ready, and I’m probably about as ready as I need to be to make a decision that I won’t regret because even if it ends up being the ‘wrong choice’, I can still answer to myself because it’s the best decision I can make at this time.
As for whether at seventeen I can determine whether what I want now is what I actually want… my teacher was talking to me earlier today and I said “I’m seventeen, I doubt what I want now actually means anything”, to which he replied that he didn’t think I was the type of person to make decisions without carefully thinking about them or decisions without regard for the future (which is actually what a good friend of mine said about me a few months ago). He’s right that I should probably trust what I want now (as much as I don’t like to admit it, he normally is). Even if it isn’t what will make me happy for the rest of my life, it is, at the very least, going to make me happy now, and as my teacher pointed out in the same discussion, life is short.
Whether or not I’m ready to make this decision, I’m going to have to make it, so I might as well have more faith in myself. There’s no real point in doubting myself or my ability to make the right choice for me. I need to stop listening to the people who tell me that I’m not mature enough or rational enough to make the decision and start listening to people who believe I can do it. My mental illnesses introduce enough negativity into my life, I don’t need to listen to the negative people.
Today it’s one of my favourite holidays (for my absolute favourite, you’ll have to wait until September).
I’ve always loved numbers. In first grade, I read a book in the library about magic squares and was hooked. Fast forward eleven years, and I still love the beautiful intricacy of mathematics.
I had to write the BMAT for university applications, and this year’s paper included several questions involving the four-colour theorem. I really, really enjoyed working on those questions and researched the four-colour theorem on my own afterwards (and in the process came across a pretty awesome book called “Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities”, which I highly recommend to anyone who likes doing mathematics for fun). During my mock exams, I actually spent some of the leftover time doodling in the margins of my biology exam trying to use graph theory to figure out how many colours could colour a 3D map.
I also enjoy reading posts on a Tumblr blog called visualisingmath; here is a post I rather liked.
Anyways, mathematics is fun, and having nerdy holidays like pi day is even more fun, so Happy Pi Day!
Also, look out for Pi Approximation Day (22/7), Fibonacci Day (1 1/2 3), e day (2.7, February 7th), or if chemistry is more your flavour, try Mole Day (6:02 am to 6:02 pm on October 23rd…for 6.02*10^23).
I promise this is the last one. Really. I just wanted to link to a blog post that made me cry because it was so relevant.
Yesterday, I talked about how mental illness and disability can contribute to someone’s identity. Here’s an awesome blog post I’ve had bookmarked for ages. It made me cry the first time I read it. It made me cry again reading it just now. That’s a pretty big deal since I rarely if ever cry.
Yesterday I wrote about values and how that’s important to identity. It’s the obvious thing people think about when they discuss the idea of identity. I’ve been thinking lately of another aspect of identity that is often overlooked because it doesn’t apply to everyone, but one that can be very, very important to the people that it does apply to.
Disability. Mental illness.
Those aren’t things that people often think about when they think about identity, but they’re important. Here’s why.
When I was younger, I struggled with many things (you can read about one of them here, but I also had other difficulties with social skills, motor coordination etc.). I’ve been called all kinds of things. ‘Lazy’, ‘stupid’, ‘stubborn’… But in the sixth grade (after a learning specialist at my school suggested it for the second time), my parents took me to an educational psychologist who gave me a provisional diagnosis of ADHD. Although I do not actually believe I have ADHD, the label was and is so important to me, because for the first time, I allowed myself to consider the possibility that I might actually not be broken or weird. That I might just be a different kind of normal. That there might be others out there who struggle the same way I do (which there are… I’ve found a few, although at the time I felt really alone).
It’s so easy to say “don’t let [diagnosis] define you/your child”. It’s so easy to think that nobody wants to have labels like ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia… That’s not really true, or at least it isn’t true for me. I’d rather have a word to describe my struggles, because it lends validation to the very real challenges I face in my life. Because ‘anxiety’ is always a better label than ‘overreacting’ and if I had ADHD, that would be a better label than ‘lazy’ or ‘stubborn’. [I read an excellent post about how labels are great as long as they’re the right label, but I can’t remember for the life of me which post it was or even where I saw it. This post was heavily influenced by that one and I’d love to credit the author. I will edit to include a link if I can remember.]
Having depression as an identity to validate the fact that certain things are harder for me than they are for people who don’t struggle with depression is really different from using my depression identity as an excuse to not make an effort to minimise the impact depression has on my life. I try not to do too much of the excuse-making. In fact, if someday I’m lucky enough to recover from depression, I’m (hopefully) not going to give up on recovery because I’m afraid of losing the identity. But for now, I do have depression, and having that identity is better than being called lazy on those days when I simply cannot do something because getting up out of bed in the morning is the hardest and bravest thing I can manage for that day.
Being a teenager is as scary as it is exciting. It’s a time of change, for better or for worse. It’s the time of our lives when we’ll make some incredibly great choices, and some incredibly stupid ones.
If I tried to summarise the entire teenage experience into a sentence, it would be this: adolescence is about finding our identity. It’s the hardest thing we’ll ever do, and probably the most important. Because adolescence marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, for most of us, it also is the time where we dump out the values that our parents have taught us and try to determine for ourselves the kind of people we want to be, the things we hold important and ultimately what we want our life to look like.
For me, personally, I’m finding that in searching for my identity, I am dumping a lot of what my parents have taught me. In my society, that isn’t really done. I’m supposed to respect my parents and honour them by accepting their teachings, but increasingly I’m finding that I do not want to be like them at all. I want to value honesty above all else, while they think that being practical is more important and that honesty isn’t so important as long as I don’t use dishonesty to hurt others. I want to believe in following one’s dreams and laying it all on the line for things that are important, rather than pursuing the most practical option. I want to be the kind of person others can turn to for support and validation; the kind of person who believes that mental illnesses are real and scary and that the people who struggle with them do not need to be told that they’re doing it for attention or that they’re just making up problems. But I also want to believe that not agreeing with my parents doesn’t mean that I don’t respect them. I know they see it that way, but I don’t. I try to understand why they feel the way they do, and I certainly respect their right to hold their own values, and respect that they have very strong reasons for holding the values they’ve chosen to hold. I very much respect them. I just don’t agree with them. And that’s another thing I value that they don’t. The ability to respect someone who is very, very different from me. To respect someone who’s made a conscious decision to be very different from the person I’ve chosen to be.