I have a pretty good life.
That's not bragging, really. I mean, my life has its problems—it's stressful, I'm tired a lot, I'm a woman in the age of the Internet (which is unfortunately code for "I get some really disturbing hate sent my way for the crime of being outspoken and visible while existing as a non-male"), my foot hurts almost all the time, I worry about my friends—but there's no measuring stick that doesn't put me at "pretty good." I am financially secure enough to do things like take off for Disneyland at a moment's notice, to hug a woman standing as avatar for my favorite cartoon character. I have amazing friends who love me despite myself, and I struggle every day to be worthy of them. I have incredible cats. I sleep in an orange bedroom packed with dolls and books and Disney memorabilia.
I get to write books. I get to tell stories, for a living, and have people read and enjoy them. It's everything I ever wanted my life to be...
...and I spent more than half of 2013 wanting my life to stop.
I have been suicidal, off and on, since I was nine years old. I made multiple suicide attempts when I was a pre-teen and teenager; some came closer to success than others. I have my scars. My last active attempt was made when I was in my mid-twenties, and the friend who drove me to the train station has never forgiven me for making him complicit, in any way, in the attempt to take my life. I do not blame him for this, even as I know that I didn't mean to involve him; I just needed to get to the beach, and thought "hey, I can get a ride," and never stopped to consider what that might mean when he'd found out what I'd done, or worse, if he'd found out that I had succeeded. I couldn't see that far ahead. All I could see was the need to stop, to be over, to not need to do this anymore. Any of it.
A very dear friend of mine described suicidal urges and ideations as a narrowing, and she's exactly right, at least for me. It's not selfishness, not at its heart, because when things get that bad, it's virtually impossible to see continuing as an option. It's like climbing a very high mountain, and then running out of trail. You can't fly. It's not selfish to refuse to sprout wings and try. It would be selfish to stay where you are, to block the trail, to prevent others from climbing on without you.
It seems so much easier to just jump, and get out of everybody's way. It seems like the only logical choice. Selfishness doesn't really enter into it. I sort of wish it did. It would be easier to argue with the little voices, or at least it seems like it would be easier; we're all trained from childhood not to be selfish, and that makes selfishness easier to refute than narrowness. "I won't be selfish" is an easier statement than "I will continue to exist, even though there are no options, even though it will never get better, even though I am a burden to all those around me, even though I am unworthy of love, even though I do not deserve this skin, this sky, this space that I inhabit." And easy is...easy is easy. We want easy. When everything is hard, easy becomes incredibly tempting.
Writing this down is hard.
I didn't tell most people how depressed I was, because I didn't think I deserved my own depression. I have a pretty good life! I have all the things I listed, and more, and saying "I want to die" when I have a pretty good life felt like bragging; it felt like trying to claim a sorrow I had no right to. But depression doesn't give a fuck how good your life is. Depression is a function of fucked-up brain chemistry, and brain chemistry doesn't say "Oh, hey, you made the New York Times, that's cool, I better straighten out and fly right from now on." You can be depressed no matter what is happening around you, rags or riches, perfection or putridity. That does not make you wrong. Depression is a sickness. You can catch the flu at Disney World, and you can be depressed on your wedding day. No matter how good your life is, no matter how much people say they wish they had your problems, you are allowed to be unhappy. You are allowed to seek help. You are allowed to express your needs.
I did not actively attempt suicide in 2013, but that was only because I have had a lifetime of learning how to trick myself. I begged my agent to get me new book contracts. See? Can't die! I have deadlines! I cajoled my best friend into going to Disneyland with me. See? Can't die! I have to make faces with pixies! I accepted anthology invitations and convention invitations and let a lot of television build up on my DVR. Anything to create obligations that I would feel compelled to meet, but which weren't the kind that can overwhelm me. I made a lot of lists. I check-marked and itemized myself through the worst of it, and it worked, but it...it wasn't easy. I don't think it's ever going to be easy.
I am telling you this because I want you all to understand, at least on some level, that depression is not a thing you have to earn: it is not justified by tragedy, it is not created by grief. It can happen to anyone, and everyone has a right to seek help. Everyone has a right to be cared for, and to find a way to widen their options back into something that they can live with. Everyone. Even me; even you.
I would be very sad if I were not here to share 2014 with all of you. I hope—I really, truly do—that all of you will be here to share this beautiful year with me. Even if I don't know you, even if I've never met you or never will, I hope. Selfishness is easier to refute than narrowness, and we need to be here for each other, or those walls will crush the life from us.
I hope none of you have to deal with what I dealt with this past year. If you do, please, remember that you can seek help. You deserve help.
We all do.