Trigger warning for healing from suicidal thoughts and attempts. Trigger warning is also in effect for PTSD symptoms. If you are struggling with suicide or know someone that is struggling, here are some professionals to call to talk. Or you can just sit in silence with them. But this is about how I overcame those thoughts, I just do not want to trigger someone without offering them help. I apologize for only having US numbers. If you are in need, some of these websites offer a chat option. You can also contact me through the contact information page on my blog. I am not a therapist, but I will hear you out and listen to you.
Over the past week or so, I have been reading a book by Dr. Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life. He speaks of the yin and yang of life: the light and darkness, the good and the bad, the happiness and the sad. What he pointed out was that in the circle, the white (light) had a small dark spot and the dark had a small white dot. Neither were completely light or black. They both have a little of each. It is up to us to find the light in the dark.
I think the very first time I wanted to die, I was in 8th grade. I was struggling with how I was feeling, and feeling like no one cared about me. I felt that I didn’t have a purpose. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I sat on my bathroom floor alone writing out my will. I had printed a professional one off at school and I was writing mine in my own hand. I wrote that I was of sound mind and body and then went from there. I listed out my favorite possessions, like my trumpet. I listed who each thing was to go to and what I wanted buried with me. Then I started on the apology. All I could write was I am sorry for what I did. At that time, I didn’t know about mental health or mental illness. All I knew was that inside I was dying and no one cared. I went to school, scored high grades, played the trumpet in the marching band, laughed and smiled, and I had crushes. I was even planning for my future, but in my private time, I wrote out my will.
As I struggled with suicidal thoughts, I started abusing my own body. I started starving myself, because at least then I could feel something. If I did eat something, then I purged myself. I think my lowest weight was 105 pounds and I am pretty tall.
That was when I started writing poetry. I poured my heart on paper, but only read by those closest to me. I talked about all the storms and pain inside, but all was washed away by the tears I cried alone. I honestly think that the only thing that kept me breathing was poetry and literature. Not only what I read, but what I was writing. Nothing that I wrote was very good, but it was about what I held in my heart. To see the words I had put onto paper, the paper that was covered in my tear stains, gave me something to live for. Writing was my light in the darkness.
Once I entered college, my mental health started to slip. I did not know anything about PTSD, I had never met anyone that had it. I did not even know that I had it. I just knew I was having ‘heart problems’. I was having nightmares. I couldn’t go to class. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t live my life. I was consumed with the past, playing constantly in my mind.
The first time I had a panic attack, my college boyfriend had broken up with me. I had walked to my mailbox on campus and opened it to reveal he had sent me a letter. It wasn’t unusual for him to have sent me a love letter, even though we saw each other all the time. I was excited to get his letter thinking we were going to get back together. I ripped it open right there and froze at what was inside. My heart started to pound so hard my chest hurt. I couldn’t breathe. My body got very hot and I started sweating. I couldn’t swallow and I started shaking. I thought I was having a heart attack. The world tilted and I stumbled out into the sun. His friends were across the street laughing at me, but I thought I was dying. I ran to my dorm room and I do not think I slept that night. I was 18 years old and my heart was going out, on top of being threatened.
My experience with PTSD started getting worse. I was afraid to leave my room. My ex-boyfriend or his friends followed me around if I was out of my room. People were constantly telling him my location and what I was doing. I was scared to go to class, which made my grades lower. I was scared to go to the cafeteria, because he would be there. I was just scared of living my life. My panic attacks happened multiple times a day. I was so exhausted that when I took a shower I had to sit on the floor. When I got out of the shower, I had to sit to get dressed. My mental state was taking all of my energy. I was just trying to survive.
My friends noticed what was going on, but none of them knew anything about PTSD or panic attacks. They just knew that Morgan was not OK. She was not sleeping or taking care of herself. She would not leave her bed. So, I made an appointment with my doctor. I had all the usual tests performed, but everything was normal. Everything was perfect, but they prescribed me beta blockers. Which are medications to lower blood pressure. I was 18 years old and my doctor gave me beta blockers instead of referring me to a therapist.
Well, overwhelmed with the experiences with undiagnosed PTSD and what I was facing at school and home, I decided to end it all. I was alone for the weekend in my dorm, so I made my plans. This time I didn’t leave a letter. As I was drifting into oblivion, I asked the Universe that if there was one person out there that cared about me, that wanted me to live, that I would feel like someone was holding me in my bed. I do not know if it was the drugs I took or my imagination, but I felt arms holding me. My room was filled with this presence of peace and light, and I didn’t die, despite being determined to drift into sleep. Thinking back to that day, I have chills. That day is the light in the darkness of that time in my life.
Another light in the darkness of suicide and PTSD was when I met a man training to be a Buddhist monk. I had just been taken to the hospital for trying to hurt myself and he was one of my nurses. We would sit for hours and talk about things. He was better than my therapist, to be honest. He just sat with me sometimes in silence. I didn’t need to talk, but it was nice just having someone to sit with me. So that I wasn’t alone. He taught me the basics of meditation and he was very encouraging through my whole learning process. At first, I could only meditate for a few minutes, I found it hard to sit still. By the end of the month of my stay, I was able to walk and meditate at the same time. It was also with his help that I was able to gain weight, when I was first hospitalized, I was 23 and you could see all of my ribs. Through mindfulness meditation, I learned to check in with my body and learn what it needed.
That was four years ago, and no I have not followed what he taught me then. But, I try everyday. In fact, I have even tweaked it to fit my own lifestyle. I learned that everyone has their own meditation style, and that is fine. Meditation is personal, make it your own. Just do not stop trying things until you find what you need. My only advice is to learn to check into your body. How are you feeling? What hurts? What is cramped? What feels good? Are you tired, did you sleep well? Are you hungry? How is your body feeling?
Then settle into the silence and relax. Mediation is not about being completely silent, that is impossible. But in those moments, you can learn to accept your thoughts as thoughts, your feelings are feelings, and you do not have to hide or suppress them. They just are and you can let them go. Not everyone finds meditation helpful, but it helped me learn to turn the record of my past off and focus on the present. By focusing on my body, it got me thinking about my own personal wellness. In fact, for so long I didn’t feel like I was even in this body, like I was watching from outside, meditation got me back into my body. It helped me reclaim my form. Because I am a soul with a body, not a body with a soul. But this is the body I have right now, so I need to be in it, not outside of it.
Another tool that has helped me get over self-harm was tattoos. I love art. So, on my right wrist I have a raven. I got it not only to cover scars, but in memory of The Raven written by Edgar Allen Poe. In the poem, the character struggles with the loss of his true love and become horribly depressed. He languishes over the loss and a raven comes into the room and speaks the word, “Nevermore”, in response to each of the depressed man’s questions. In my mind, he was struggling with letting go of his love and moving on. The Raven represented the fact that she was never coming back. I think that getting that tattoo helped me let go of the old Morgan that I was so devastated that was dead, and it was the beginning of me becoming the Morgan that I am going to be. Every time I look at that tattoo, I do not see the end of who I was, but the beginning of who I am meant to become. So, I suggest you find a symbol of rebirth for yourself and get a tattoo if you want.
Over the years, I had struggled with wanting to die and feeling like no one wanted me. I have had to be locked away to keep myself from harming myself, but I was able to get diagnosed with CPTSD and learn how to deal with it in healthy ways. It has not been easy, and it is not easy to this day. Some days, I am sunshine and light other days, I have a little cloud that follows me, but I acknowledge that cloud. I even say to it that it is ok that it is there, but it isn’t going to keep me from accomplishing what I need to accomplish. It isn’t going to block the sun from my mammoth sunflower forever. Because I have learned to accept those feelings and function despite them. But there are days that all I do is breathe and that is OK. I am still healing, I am still growing, and I am still breathing. I do not have to apologize for existing anymore, because I accept that this will be a life long journey. So, for today, I will just breathe.