Can't Stay, Won't Go
I had my first bout with suicidal thoughts when I was in high school. Again when i was in college. And again right before I started my master’s program (which I graduated from this past spring).
All of those moments are etched into my mind and probably those around me as well. I wish I could say that the three years since my last suicidal ideation has been full of no more low points; however, that is not the case.
It is odd because on my toughest days, I do not feel like dying but I do not feel like existing either. That is the conundrum of being clinically depressed. Your brain really won’t let you be great. It won’t let you just feel sadness at a tolerable rate—instead it makes you process things only in extremes. More negative extremes than positive ones.
I do not want to die. No, I don’t and I don’t not want to live; however, what I do want seems to be rather impossible for me to get. That is peace. A peace that my feet will somehow stay planted firmly in the good things happening in my life. Peace that maybe today my brain will hopefully find the right chemical balance and allow me the pleasure of enjoying my day. It seems to me that literally peace of mind is a foreign concept that no amount of pills or glasses of water or green vegetables could make me understand or experience it.
From the outside looking in, you may think I am happy. And overarchingly, I am. But someone said to me not too long ago that “it must be a burdened to be named Joy.” And I honestly never felt more seen in my life. Do you know how many times people tell me that I should be happy because of my name. That I shouldn’t be depressed because of my story. Is it possible that one of my sources of depression is my name?
I get it, you cannot grasp it. Again, I don’t want to die. I enjoy many aspects of my life but not all of them (and who does). I do wish I could change my name some days. Something less symbolic less meaningful less important. The days where I am my lowest, I feel even lower because someone reminds that my name is Joy and “I have no right to feel down.”
I understand though. I understand that the meaning behind my name is significant. I understand why my father chose to name me such a beautiful name—Joy Melody. But what I don’t understand is the weight that I have been stuck with for the rest of my life. Trust me, I have tried reclaiming my name. I even go by Joy Melody in my doctoral program, yet no amount of reclaiming can create a space big enough for the grief and the burden associated with my existence.
I do not want to stay a lot of times but I also do not want to go. I don’t want to leave this planet, my family, my dog, my husband. I just want to be able to exist without the fatigue of depression. Without the ache of carrying myself through every day. I am sure most days I am only existing out of pure muscle memory. Bra on. Shirt on. Pants on. Drink coffee. Catch the bus. Repeat.
I want to take care of myself but not participate in the commodification of “self-care” (although I do love a good bubble bath). I want to scream my anguish from all the tops of buildings but never jump off. But stand there long enough so people understand that depression is a constant battle between staying and going. Just one foot off the ledge with the other foot planted happily in the present. I cannot leave and in the same second the other half of my brain thinks I cannot stay.
Here I am. I am proud to be here. I am proud to say that every day I have chosen to get up and at least put pants on and maybe a bra (bras are terrible creation by the patriarchy I am sure). I also am aware that there are some people who didn’t have the strength to keep fighting this internal battle. I remember you. You are not a coward. I know there are a lot of us who need help fighting this battle and you are seen and not weak. I am also speaking to myself. I am not weak for not being able to get up some days.
I want to stay and I want to go. I can’t stay but I won’t go. This is my battle every day that I hope never to concede in. This is the battle I know I am willing to fight for the rest of my life and I will never wave my white flag in surrender even on the days I want to. I will call in reinforcements. I will sit on as many therapist couches and doctors’ exam tables as needed to continue.
I will stay without the pressure of others asking me to be the voice for all those who are marginalized and depressed. I am only my voice. I hope to be loud until my voice is lost. I hope to be seen like I try to see everyone where they are.
I hope you understand that just because you think you cannot stay doesn’t mean you should go.