I’ve been asked why I can’t just ‘get over’ my depression. Why can’t I just ‘forget it ever happened’. Well, it’s simply because any serious attempt of suicide is akin to losing a limb. I’m not demeaning the physically disabled here. But please, bare with me as I twist this analogy to work in my favour.
Most of us live with two arms for the whole of our lives. If we were to suddenly lose one of them, life will be forever changed. It will never be the same as it was before, no matter how much we try. While it’s possible to learn how to do push-ups with one hand, it is exponentially harder.
It’s similar with an experience of suicide. Before a serious attempt; Before a near successful try, a person lives their life asking a simple question. “Am I capable of killing myself?”
That question is part of the survival instinct. Because without testing, anyone can reasonably say, “I don’t know.” or “I can’t.”.
But the moment you step on that ledge or down those painkillers, or at any moment come across the thought that says, “You know what? I can do this. I can actually, really do this!” That basic survival question is removed from the equation. A part of your survival instinct is literally removed from your daily routine.
From that moment forth, no matter what you do, you know that it is possible to kill yourself. It’s no longer a question. A fundamental part of the fear of dying is removed from your psyche and you have to live with that mindset for the rest of your life.
For the past two years, I’ve been trying to come to terms with this, and trying to put the experience into word. I’ve been asked why it’s taking me so long to reenter the world. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the lack of access to mental health facilities and physicians. Or the fact that Singapore has one of the most stressful working hours in the world. It could even be the constantly rising wealth gap and global temperature that is increasingly making it harder for my generation to find any foothold in living in this day and age.
Or maybe I’m just a pussy. Who knows.
But my life hasn’t been the same since. I don’t get scared when I see oncoming cars and I’m standing at the edge of the pathway. My heart doesn’t skip a beat when I look over railings of bridges and parapets of buildings. And while I still feel the physical pain and react accordingly to it, I don’t mentally panic when I run out of oxygen under water. Yes, I’ve tested.
It’s odd, because I still react to life threatening events. I still swat away oncoming punches. I still swim for the surface when I’m drowning. I still dive aside from oncoming traffic. But I’m not doing it out of fear or anything. I’m just reacting with my physical survival instincts, not my mental one.
So it gets exponentially exhausting when I deal with what can be described as ‘little things’. I once got called out because the toilet got stuck. I unstuck it, but during the confrontation after, I did hold a man by the throat against the wall and threatened to beat his head into the brick. At that time, my mind could not handle how, with all the problems of the world, with all the pain I’m feeling, how could this man care so much for an accidental stuck toilet which was eventually unstuck anyway.
Recently, I had a bike accident where my toenail was ripped out. I continued to cycle to the next bus stop, away from the treatment area, fully aware of the damage that has been done to my leg. At the bus stop, I contemplated for a full 10 minutes on whether or not to go to school and deal with the injury later or to head back home and treat it. All the while, the insole of my sandal had been flooded entirely with blood. Yet, my brain is thinking, this isn’t really life threatening. At least it’s better than suicide. All the while, my physical body was in pain.
There’s also the case of lifestyle. To protect myself during my 1 and a half years suicidal crisis, I altered my lifestyle drastically to one which I have yet to break out from. After all, it’s much easier to change during a life changing event than it is during every mundane hour.
Back then, I was unable to get hungry. Not physically hungry, mind you. My stomach still grumbled and all that. But my mind did not register hunger as… hunger. It’s one of the odder experience about depression. Many people with depression can tell you that you lose your appetite. But it’s not like your body stops being hungry. You just don’t feel it. So, for one and a half years, I was hungry but not feeling it. To keep myself from losing unhealthy amounts of energy, I forced myself to eat a full meal at each meal time of the day. It’s a habit I’ve yet to break.
Even now, I still don’t feel the same kind of hunger I used to. I get peckish, or tired, and I know I need to put food in my body. But often, I don’t know how much so I just eat, sometimes more than I should. I know I am either full or hungry. I just don’t feel it. I say, “I’m hungry” out loud sometimes, just as a reminder.
Also, when I’m stressed – and living in Singapore, you always are – my body drops back into a sort of depression mode. I start getting aches and pain. I can’t fall asleep, and when I do, I oversleep. But while I sleep, it’s not a deep sleep. Time passes in sleep slowly, and I often have nightmares or traumatic dreams.
So, when people ask me why I can’t get over my suicide? It’s mostly because of how the experience has changed me. Both physically, and mentally, to an extent in which my daily life has been modified to a foreign point. I’m a far different person I am today than I was three years ago. A lot of the things that I used to do no longer affects me the same way. Most of my old daily routines has been turned on its head. I used to wake up dead in the morning, every morning, regardless of the day. Now, I drag myself out of bed feeling pain and panic all over my body, and on off days, I’d be lucky to get up before noon.