Three years ago today, I decided to kill myself. It was the best choice I ever made. It may have saved my life.
I Hate Birthdays
Three years ago today, I was in the throes of a period where I contemplated suicide almost daily. The catalyst was my birthday. I was turning 40 and I was miserable.
I was still in the immediate months of recovery from a traumatic brain injury and the months of rest and reflection had illuminated a very real condition beneath the surface: I hated my life.
I summoned every tool in my toolbox to reframe my birthday: gratitude lists, reframing, looking at the positive. Nothing worked. My life was not where I wanted it to be, not where I expected I should be.
Single. Financially unstable. Tied to one city. At the mercy of clients and decisions I couldn’t control. I did not feel free.
I wanted to end my life.
The last thing I wanted to see was happy birthday greetings on Facebook. So I stayed away. From all social media. For 4 months.
Suicide is not an easy thing to talk about.
Most people, if you tell them you want to end your life, immediately want you to go into therapy. People try to show you all the reasons you have for living. All the support you have.
Others treat suicide like it’s some disease. Like you don’t have control over it.
I hate when people refer to people who “died by suicide” as though it was some outside force that did it, some uncontrollable mental “cancer” that took over and killed the person.
It robs the person who died of the thing they most wanted at the time: agency over their fate.
Suicide is a choice.
That period in my life wasn’t the first or the last when I fell into deep despair. It was just one of the most intense.
I made a choice. Many times.
Sometimes, We Must Kill Off a Part of Ourselves
The inner voice speaks to you for a reason; the key is to know what it’s saying.
It is never saying to take your life completely.
It was telling me to kill off the parts of myself that no longer fit my life. Get rid of what no longer works. Destroy what’s in the way. Pull up the weeds.
The willingness to admit to yourself that parts of you need to die is not a sign of mental disease or defect. It takes bravery and fortitude to look at your life and say I don’t like what I see here.Many people do that and stop there. They retreat into escape. Drugs. Alcohol. Food. Television. Social media. Work. Busy.
But the willingness to stay — to face what you see and say I don’t like what I see here and I am going to change it — that requires courage.
Courage. Strength of heart.
Destruction comes before creation.
Many people talk about how to reinvent yourself. They talk about it as though “reinvention” is an add-on to your current life and way of being. That’s just not how it works.
In the beginning there was chaos and disorder. And then God created light.
Destruction comes before creation. If you want to reinvent yourself, you must destroy the parts of yourself that are in the way.
Over the past three years, I have kills myself many times over.
I killed the part of me that cares too much what other people think.
I killed the part of me that tries to meet everyone’s expectations of who I should be.
I killed the part of me that gets more invested in others people happiness than in my own.
This was an act of self-defense and self-preservation. Those parts of me were killing me, killing my future.
On the path to reclaiming my life, I inflicted incredible chaos on my life. Because I know that the fundamental principle of life is that all creation begins with destruction.
Perhaps there might have been an easier way, but I’ve never been good at the easy stuff.
What I do well is what I have done for my entire life — literally from the moment I was pulled out of the womb by my legs, with an Apgar of 3:
Getting Back Into the Arena
Somewhere along the way I had forgotten that. I had created a life that looked like what others expected of me.
I conformed. I people-pleased. I subverted my needs to make others happy.
That day 3 years ago when I decided to kill those parts of my life that weren’t working was not a day of surrender. It was the day I got back into the arena.
I made the choice to fight for my life.
Unwaveringly pro-choice. My choices. Unflinchingly pro-life. My life.
Chaos and Destruction Breed Doubt
That doesn’t mean I have never had a moment of doubt. Of course I have, because I’m human. I have had many moments where I have fallen to the floor, swimming in a puddle of my own tears, wondering
What the fuck I have done to my life?
But through all the periods of darkness, I have never allowed myself to play the victim for long.
My Saving Grace
Through it all, the one thing that has always kept me going, even in my darkest moments of despair, has been my steadfast commitment to my rituals.
My rituals have literally saved my life. They have given me space to breathe, a clearing in which to see my life, as it was, and as I wanted it to be.
No major decisions before my workout. No big moves before creating space for meditation and reflection.
No hiding under the covers. I got up every morning, made the bed, and did my workout. I sat for meditation. I incorporated daily journaling, writing, publishing. I made myself walk 10,000 steps a day. I showed up at trapeze practice and trampoline practice, at family events and for my clients and friends.
Most of all, I showed up every day for myself. I stood in the value of myself — of my worth — to dig deep and kill the weeds that had grown within me. Every day, I say yes to myself first. Because I know if I don’t, then those weeds will grow back and choke me to death.
Creating a New Vision
In the space of solitude and reflection, in the dark corners where the shadows lurk, I created a vision for a life that would fulfill me and give me what I truly desired.
Not freedom. Freedom is too broad, too unconstrained, too amorphous.
Autonomy. Agency. Authority.
Some change comes in big waves. Other change comes in small shifts. But all change truly happens in an instant. In that moment when you decide:
That’s it. Enough. I’m no longer willing to tolerate this part of my life.
Piece by piece, bit by bit, I started putting that vision together.
Three years after starting this process of digging to the depths of my soul, the circumstances of my life don’t yet look drastically different on paper. I know this is only a matter of time. It is happening, slowly.
Beneath the surface, things feel very different. My heart is more open. I no longer feel the weight of expectations and obligations.
Destruction precedes creation. I killed off the parts of myself that were killing me.
Now, I feel the stirrings of new life within my soul. I feel open to possibility. It is spring, the time of rebirth and renewal.
I am ready. Just in time.
Today is my birthday.
And I am at peace.