By Douglas Schultz
WARNING: This post contains a vivid description of suicidal thinking and depression. If you are thinking about suicide, please seek help immediately.
I think about it. I think about where to do it, how to do it… It always happens out of nowhere. I’ll be going along throughout my day and a minor stumble will send me hurtling down a dark pit of loneliness. When I get into that head space, my entire world changes around me. For example: Right now, I am laying in my bed. To my left, the window blinds are all the way up so I can see the light flooding into my room. Those windows, while an entrance for light, are also an escape for the darkness that is “me.” I could jump out of them, but I’m only on the second story… not much use for that. I don’t want to do it, if I can’t do it properly and completely. Even when contemplating such dreadful things… I’m still a perfectionist. Other things that change: Every lanyard, every cord, every stretch of fabric gets a look over and a rough prediction of its strength and ability to hold me to the ceiling fan above my bed. But then I take a glance at my body… and the beer bottles and fast food bags… and decide that’s not going to do anything but rip the ceiling fan out. And let me tell you, you don’t want to be in Florida without a fan while summer is around the corner.
I think about it all: Jumping, hanging, electrocution, poison/pills. The scariest one is when I’m driving. Everyone going 80 mph while we are on an elevated interstate, one simple twitch of my wrist and I can send myself, my car, and all my cares plowing to the bottom. In fact, it was driving when I got so scared of this head space that I called a hotline in tears. I’d call again, but in Florida we have The Baker Act: this is where someone feels you are enough of a threat to yourself and others that you become involuntarily institutionalized and examined. So, for someone like me - someone who just thinks about it and has no plan to do it and is too scared to do it and does not have any intent - The Baker Act is hell. It prevents me from talking about my true feelings. Unfortunately, I happen to be the type of person where talking about my feelings helps immensely. In fear of being Baker Act-ed, I bottle it all up. It festers. It grows stronger. It becomes a heavy weight. I’ve never been waterboarded, but I’ve seen it in movies and this feels like the mental/emotional equivalent of that. It’s torture.
This is usually the part where, if I am lucky enough to speak to someone about it, I am advised that I should seek a mental health professional. Believe me, I would love to. However, like most of my generation in the US., I can barely afford to live basically let alone live with amenities like mental health support. I save up, trying to treat myself to an appointment… but, as usual, something happens: the car needs repair, I get sick and have to spend the mental health money as physical health money, I don’t get scheduled enough shifts to pay my rent, utilities, insurance, debt… I get so close to digging out of the hole, but then the dirt crumbles in my hands and sends my flying down to the bottom of the pit once more. Now sure, once I’ve hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. However, falling back down to rock bottom time and time again…it really does a number on the body.
Since I am unable to see a mental health professional, I turn to the Internet to become my own mental health “professional.” Lots of blogs and articles suggest that I should try to figure out why I think this way. Perhaps something in my life has caused a significant stress which makes me have these terrible, terrible thoughts. So, I dig into it and do a little self-exploration (good thing I’m a hyper-rational perfectionist who will leave no stone unturned).
Let’s start with location: I live in Central Florida. Ah, Florida… the state that’s been declared to have the fourth worst medical care system in the country. The state where alligators roam around freely. The state that has Marco Rubio. Already I feel stressed. I moved down here on a whim because a college friend of mine was moving down for grad school. I asked if he was going to need a roommate. He said yes, and I said sold. That was in February of 2016. On July 29th of 2016, I left my home in Northern Wisconsin and drove across the country to Central Florida alone with only one car full of possessions and $1700 to my name. I left many things behind. But most importantly, I left my friends and family. For the first time in my life, I was not going to be within a short drive of them. On the morning of August 1st, I received the keys and stepped into the very apartment I am currently laying in (remember? I said I was laying in my bed earlier. I’m all about continuity). Florida was going to be a new chapter for me. I was a 23 year old with a BFA in Musical Theatre in the land of theme parks. So, naturally, my first job was at… ahem… a gentleman’s club.
Because I am a master of segues, this seems like the perfect point to transition to the next possible cause of stress: Occupation. While working my… first job… I was lucky enough to attend an audition and be hired at a theme park for work in entertainment. For the past year and a half I have held multiple entertainment jobs within this theme park. While the minimum wage at this establishment is enough to make Bill Gates jealous, the hours have not been so kind. That’s always the kicker, right? It doesn’t matter how much you get paid if you don’t get scheduled the hours. But, I work enough that I can get by. Rent gets paid, lights and water are still on, and I have a vehicle I can drive to work. Now, naturally, I thought about getting a second or third job outside of the entertainment industry, which I did from April 2017 to October of 2017, and I should say caused more stress than if I had not had the additional job. The trouble with working in my particular entertainment role is that I could be called in at a moment’s notice, so it helps to have a relatively free schedule. It’s just simple math: why do 8 hours of work and make x amount of money, when I could get called in to do 3 hours of work and still make the same x amount of money? I had to turn down lots of entertainment work because I was working my non-entertainment job. I spent many nights crying on the phone to family about how I just wanted to quit... but I knew I couldn’t. It’s such a paradoxical life: You have to work multiple jobs because you don’t get enough hours at the job you love... but then you are too busy working your other jobs that you can’t accept the callings to do the job you love. Luckily, entertainment work kicked up as the winter holidays were rolling around, and I was able to quit and solely do that to support myself.
As far as stress factors, I’ve had an introspective look at Location and Occupation. The blogs and articles suggest that love life can be a significant source of stress that can cause depression and other mental issues; to which I laugh and laugh, because one must have a love life in order to be stressed by it! Hahaha! Haha… anyone laughing? Just me? Okay then. Well, even though I currently can’t say I have a love life… I had one before, and I can confidently say it carried great stress and emotional/mental instability with it. It was June 12, 2017 when we first met each other and went out for dinner. For two months we saw each other every day. I think in a 60 day period, there was only 3 days we did not see each other. We both worked, so it’s not like we spent the entirety of 57 days together. More often than not, I’d get done with my gigs, go to his place of employment, and just hang around with a drink until he was done; then we’d walk each other to our cars, say good night and text for the remainder of the evening. But the days and nights we did spend together were, dare I say, wonderful. I got to enjoy many firsts with him and also experience many lasts. Eventually, things got... complicated. He had his baggage, and I had mine. On August 16, I ended things. I still look back and think I made a huge mistake. I’ll never forget the crack in his voice as we hung up for the last time. I was at work (remember that entertainment job I talked about?) and proceeded to bawl my eyes out in front of my manager and coworkers. I had never felt more pathetic at a job in my life. I received a text from him about a week later. He said he hoped I was doing well. I wished him the same. We chatted briefly. It turns out that my ending things was the catalyst that he needed to move away from his situation. I started crying again. I was so happy for him; I wanted nothing more than to go back. But in my heart I knew that if I went back to him, any work he put toward bettering and working on himself would come crashing down. I told him how happy that made me to hear and left it at that. I haven’t heard from him since. I looked at the texts just now to make sure I got dates and whatnot correct. Rereading my responses, I regret not having an exclamation mark in two specific spots. Maybe things would be different now for my love life.
Between Location, Occupation, and Love Life, I’d say I have a fair amount of stress. But, of course, I’m acting as my own mental health “professional,” so what the hell do I know? I can examine and examine and examine myself all I want; I can pinpoint the exact causes of my stress. I can relive every single moment and rationalize how it has affected me… but there’s nothing out of the ordinary. Everyone has location problems. Everyone has occupational problems. Everyone has issues with their love life, or lack thereof. Other people don’t seem to have the same racing and scary thoughts that I do day after day, hour after hour. What makes them so special? What makes me so different? I can only find out by seeing a professional. I promise myself that I will try to make it happen. I have to make it happen. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t like being in that terrifying head space. I hate seeing an obituary and feeling jealousy of the person who no longer has to struggle with money, and love, and health, and life.
I am lucky that I do have some friends and a large family that I know loves me. Even though my longtime friends and my huge family are back up in the northern Midwest, I can still feel their love. The fear of shattering all that love protects me on the days and nights when my own thoughts scream louder than any jet engine. There is a French phrase that I have used to title this body of work. It helps me know I am not alone. It helps me know that other people have these dark thoughts even when they have no desire to actually act them out. It helps me know that I am not the only one who suffers from the call of the void.