Friday, 30 January 2015

This Shadow Life - Living for Others

I wrote this for every person who knows what it is like to live for the sake of the people in our lives that we love too much to hurt. This is my tribute to the struggle that you and I face every day.
It is also for the people that we are living for. I hope that you might read this and appreciate the selfless agony that we endure so that we can stay a little longer and force a smile for you. 

One of the strangest things about my experience with depression and PTSD is that while I was completely suicidal for many years, and something I still am at times, I have always known that I would never do it.

When I became depressed I spent a huge portion of my time thinking about suicide. I used to drive at night without my headlights on just hoping for an accident, or hope for a murderer to walk through my front door and save me the trouble.
I even researched and planned what I would do if I ever did go through with it. But even with all of this, I kind of also knew that I would never let it happen. I would turn my headlights on before the really tight corners. I know that if that murderer ever did walk through my door I wouldn't go down without a fight, and to this day my suicide plan has remained nothing more than a list of steps in my head. I would never do it.

I have always kind of wondered how I can want to die so badly but still know I will never do it.
I think it's because of all the people that I would never want to hurt like that. I can't even begin to imagine what it would do to my parents and my brother and my extended family and my friends and even all the people who just know me from school or whatever.
I am living for everyone who's lives would be changed forever and for the worse if I went through with it.

This is something that I can sit and think rationally about now (hindsight is a wonderful thing) but at the time I resented it like you wouldn't believe.
At the time I felt pretty much nothing. My body had shut down and numbed itself to most emotions so that I wouldn't have to feel the agony of what I was going through. So I didn't really feel love for my family, but I knew that I loved them. The love was just buried deep inside me with all the other feelings that were too real to touch. If I felt the love I would also have to feel the loss, the pain, and the overwhelming agony that was constantly threatening to suffocate me.
So I never let myself feel it, but I acted on good faith that the love was still there. This meant that when my mum came into my room with tears in her eyes and pamphlets on mental health in her hand that she had printed out at work, I was so ashamed of what I had done to her. I was so sorry and I knew that I had to do better. Even just thinking about that moment makes me cry as I write this.

So I tried to be better. I tried to drag myself back out of the darkness. I tried to smile and laugh and spend time outside of my room. I tried to listen to top 40 instead of rock, metal and screamo, and most importantly I tried to always wear long sleeves to cover the cuts on my arms. I don't kid myself into thinking that it was always believable, but I think I did a pretty good job.
Unfortunately looking better on the outside never changed how I felt on the inside and I resented and hated everyone that I was living for. I hated how they were asking so much of me with every  look in their eyes, but how, somehow it was never enough.

I felt like they had taken everything from me. Even though it went against everything that I wanted to the core of my being, it was never enough for me to just keep breathing for them.
They took everything that I was using to cope with what I was going through. I know they just wanted what was best, but I often think it was what was best for them, not what was best for me.
I know that it hurt them to see me hurt myself, but in wanting me to be whole they took all the things that I use to survive. They would see me cut and start to cry. I would see them cry and want it to stop, but the cutting released the pressure. I would tremble and sweat and shiver. My mind would stumble and fall and spiral and explode and fly. Then the blood would flow and that perfect calm would flood back into my bones.
It would give me the strength and the focus to force one more smile, to make a convincing laugh, to survive another day.
After they made me stop all I had was the heavy music that my parents hated, played quietly through my headphones (so they wouldn't hear), and sung by people who screamed so that I didn't have to.
It drove me mad having to live like that. Having to hide how I felt so that I wouldn't keep hurting everyone. It was far too much pressure for anyone to have to take, let alone someone going through the hell I was living in.

My parents always told me that I could be whoever and whatever I wanted, but I don't think they meant it. I know they would never say it, but it made them sad to see me who I became. It made them sad that I wasn't the bright, happy little girl I used to be.
At first I was too lost in my sadness to care, but after that day with my mum I started learning to adjust to the pain that had become a part of me. I became strong enough to remember who I used to be, the person my parents need me to be, the person they wish I still was. Even though my world had changed, it's centre shifted to an unmarked grave where my broken heart lies, I learned how to live each day for the people I love. I learned how to breathe for them. How to leave my skin unmarked for them.
It killed me, but I learned how to keep on living for them.
I knew that they should never have to feel the way that I did, and I learned to live so that they would never have to.

My problems were my own, but somehow my parents problems became mine too. I was stretched to the limit being who they needed me to be. Every second I was dreaming of that moment when I would finally be allowed to break. To shatter into a million trembling razor pieces.
It was selfish of me to want to die. I know that. But it was also selfish of them to want me to stay, and I wonder if they knew that.
They asked me every day to deny myself the one thing that I wanted in life. They asked me to bear the pain of existence with a smile and a laugh, to blend in with everyone else, when I was nothing like everyone else.
With every breath that I took the pain was real. I know they needed me and so I shall stay. I just need them to know the price that they were asking me to pay.

I have always been someone who will put everyone else's needs before my own, so it's been really hard, but I want you all to know that I have now started learning to be the person that I want to be, not just the person that everyone needs me to be. I have started to embrace who I am, scars and all.

This story is my own and yours is probably somewhat different.
The people you are living for might not be your parents. It might be your partner, your children, or your friends. However, our pain is similar.
Unfortunately those of us who bear the emotional burden of depression and suicidal thoughts, often have to bear the burden of living for the sake of others as well.
We have to be strong for the people around us so that they don't ever have to experience the same pain that we do every day.
We have to live for them, even if it kills us.
I think that it is the last and greatest gift that we can ever give and very few will ever understand what it cost us or appreciate the gesture.

Many of you might even think that you can't relate to my story at all. But I promise you that you can. 
Everyone walking this world is fighting a battle with something, and they are doing it for someone they care about. My burden of living for the sake of my family is the same as a person going to a job they hate to support the children that they love, or a kid battling through homework to make a good life for their future self. 
Our struggle is the same, we are just fighting different things for different reasons.


  1. True.

    I'm glad you found a way to care for yourself, because without that you won't truly love another, in my experience.

    I had a similar suicide thought experience on a cruise, years ago now, where I was drunk and thinking about jumping overboard... then caught myself thinking about how I couldn't swim.

    We are all connected, in my opinion, and not just in fluffylovey type ways, because there must be dark for us to appreciate light. It's just harder sometimes to appreciate the dark in loved ones, when we want the "best" for them, and believe that can only be found in the light.

    Good luck with your continuing fight - I'm delighted to see you are, but don't/won't judge your darker moments.

    1. Hi dave,
      Thanks for commenting and thanks for your support.
      I totally agree. The problem is that I have embraced the darker parts of myself. It's something that I decided to do quite a long time ago and it has played a huge part in allowing me to be happier, but the fact that I am okay with it has sometimes made it harder for the people in my life to accept. Like you say, they want me to be in the light and stuff.

      Thanks again.