Note: The art that originally appeared alongside this article both online and in print did not accurately reflect the author’s intended message about suicide. It has since been removed from the online version.
Note: Feelings depicted here are deeply personal and are not to be taken as a representation of suicidal thoughts or experiences on a whole, or mental illness (i.e. this being how people other than myself feel about suicide). Stereotyping from one being’s story is counterintuitive to sharing for the sake of ending mental health stigma.
Suicide. It’s a word with immediate Leila triggers, then and now. Past me was triggered in a positive way, when this word was top 10 most used in my vocabulary. It became my happy place. To better understand my sensationalism, let me tell you that I was once so happy by the highs of suicide ideation that I wrote about it in a Nexus article last year. Although I quickly told them never to publish it because I would be hated and that’s just not moral according to my heart, the attraction to it was still there. The word “suicide” used to inspire me to defend it when people talked about suicide prevention and mental illness intervention because my whimsical imaginations about dying were correlated with valuing myself, as odd as that may sound.
These were suicidal fantasies, like images of me and some gentle tool glittering in the sun where darkness couldn’t penetrate us as long as I followed through. It was the feeling of self-control I associated with suicide that made me feel worthy of existing, ironically enough. So all I had to do to sustain this momentary high was keep whispering this word to myself over and over again. Say it. Climax. Vibrate. Feel nice. Repeat.
Daydreaming about self-harm brought me relief, but now when I repeat this word I don’t feel good at all. I’m disconnected from all the elevations I used to get from it. I can’t fall back into my usual routine. There’s no more warmth. There’s no satisfaction or reaffirmation that yes, I can exercise control and I actually have a handle on things. I don’t feel giddy anymore, and I don’t think it’s a pretty thing. The thought of taking my own life is not the type of self-love I want to exercise. I am scared of it now. It reminds me of hating myself. It’s not the solution for me, and it never will be. But following through with it is not selfish. It’s never cruel to the outside world. It may be impulsive, or it may not be. It should not be shamed, but it should be talked about, because this is prevention. Hearing public stories about suicide survivals brought me to this place where it’s not a part of my identity. I can’t do it because I realized this weekend while at the Active Minds National Conference that I DO want to live. I actually want to live and love myself the way I never thought I could. Suicide is not my fate.
I don’t love this word anymore — now it reminds me of confusing freedom with self-harm. I don’t write it anymore. It doesn’t rest on my lips as frequently as before. It’s not my hero. It’s not my hero because the idealization of suicide became second best to rescuing myself and claiming heroine to my storyline. After that it didn’t even make the list. Once I became that heroine, killing myself stopped seeming so beautiful, and there was nothing relevant about it. I met a lot of suicide survivors this weekend while at the conference I attended with a UCSB delegation. It was put on by Active Minds National, which aims to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, prevent suicide and intervene with mental illness to help the healing process breathe well.
I heard their stories, including the lows that lead to their suicide attempts and the highs that came after those attempts failed. They also spoke about the lows they still have and will probably always have. But they know that life is worth living because with practice, a loving community and self-care, it will get easier to get through the lows and enjoy the highs with more natural ecstasy. I was inspired. Like, really inspired — vibrating naturally and never wanting to die and can’t imagine dying on my own terms and wanting to write a book like them and hug them and love everyone and accept my sadness and know that it will be okay and live and live and LIVE.
Later in the day I got depressed. It was painful and uncomfortable as usual and I had people to talk to, as I usually do, but I was still too inspired to live to turn to my thoughts of suicide. I had been breaking the habit of idealization for the past few months, but now I knew it was actually working. I didn’t automatically go to that place because I assured myself that the lows would go away in a few hours or tomorrow or in five minutes and then I would smile and feel connected to someone. I would write, and that always makes me happy. So these speakers and the peers around me and everyone who has ever attempted suicide and survived or had thoughts and then moved past them or just has a loving nature inspire me to stay alive.
My desire to live started with never wanting to hurt my parents or my friends. And then it became about valuing my own life. I then had thoughts about wanting to live, to travel and meet new people or deepen friendships, to have more lovers and taste more food and exercise more freedom and just be in ways I hadn’t been. I want to live now for myself because myself includes everyone and everything, too. We are all one.
I want to live to see the ocean tomorrow. I want to live to have cool dreams tonight and maybe lucid dream one day. I want to live to write. I want to live to see a friend from San Diego this weekend. I want to live to kiss someone. I want to live to hold my mom’s hand. I want to live to enjoy a rainbow or a cup of tea. I want to live to see how long my Vegan eating will last. I want to live to see my sister fall in love again and have a family. I want to live to wipe away my tears and wipe away your tears. I want to live to have erotic sex. I want to live to go to graduate school. I want to live to see you happy. I want to live to develop new interests. I want to live to strengthen my passions. I want to live to smell stir fry and see snowflakes.
I want to live to eat snow and climb a huge mountain and cuddle in a cave. I want to live to meditate for more than ten minutes and recycle like I mean it. I want to live to see if aliens exist and if the world will be kinder. I want to live to see Iran for the first time and fall in love. I want to live to laugh at more things. I want to understand who I am. I want to meet Louis C.K. I want to watch “The Office” on Netflix. I really want to read all the books and write all the books and be a book. I want to live. I want to swim. I want to engage and feel. I want to accept. I want to heal. I want to get another tattoo. I want to make a new friend. I want to take care of my parents. I want to make it. I want to get my nipple pierced.
I want to live because I deserve to live. I want to respect myself and love myself. I want to understand that my internal power will keep me going through depression and disappointments. I want to feel every emotion in peace. I want to live because it’s worth it and life really is beautiful. I want you to live. I want you to live because you are worth all the life you doubt you deserve sometimes. I want you to be every color of vulnerabilities and to feel strong because of it. I want you to feel silliness and lightness and joy and pain and move with it all. I want you to live. I want you to live with me. I want us to live together.
Suicide is no longer glamorous in my mind. Idealization of anything is never healthy, and it should be kindly shut down, especially if it is harmful. It’s not something sexy or the only way I can feel nice about myself. It’s not an option because I don’t believe in not living anymore. We should never shame anyone for committing it or surviving it or thinking it because it’s a deeply personal choice and no one knows what leads another to it. It should never be judged. But what I’ve recently found is that we CAN find happiness in living. I didn’t really believe this before, so now I want us to do it together.
I have found happiness, but it doesn’t come without the pain. It just becomes more worth overcoming the blues to feel beauty. I love me. I love living. I love you, and I love your existence. I hope we can exist together or apart. Please believe in your existence and love yourself. I want to live and when you live, I feel more life. There really is another day. Thank you for reading and I am here for you as you have been here for me in your energies. Blessings to all. Your life brings me to life every time.
If anyone at UCSB is experiencing a “stigma”, the proper course is to file a civil rights complaint.
Treat it precisely as one would treat racism. It is a prejudice no one should tolerate.