Living for Tomorrow
I’m assuming all of you know I used to be suicidal. If not, check out some of the posts in the depression category, found here.
I haven’t been suicidal in years. But when I was, I had to find reasons to stay alive. At one point, a friend and I came up with a bunch of things I wanted to do or see and needed to stay alive for.
Some of them were big: getting a book published, graduating college, buying a house, and having kids. Those are the reasons everyone goes for first. Those are reasons to live. However, they are not reasons not to die. There’s a difference and hopefully it’s clear by the end of this.
We added smaller things like hearing my favorite song on the radio, eating ice cream, and having pancakes for dinner. We talked about the plans we’d made for the weekend and the movie we were going to watch and how I wanted to hear the birds chirp tomorrow morning, didn’t I?
Here’s where we get to that difference.
I didn’t choose to live so I could hear birds in the morning. I didn’t choose to live so I could eat pancakes and ice cream. I didn’t choose to live so I could hear my favorite song. I chose to live so I could get to the big things on the list. I chose to live for the published book, the college degree, and the house with kids.
But those aren’t the reasons I didn’t kill myself.
They may sound like the same thing, but they aren’t. Because at the time I wrote that list, I wasn’t choosing to live. I was choosing not to die that night. I was choosing to get through the next day. I was choosing to find a reason to make tomorrow something I wanted to see.
Because where I was in mentally, none of those big things were valid reasons not to kill myself. I couldn’t see myself graduating high school in a couple months, let alone college. I was sure I’d never finish the book I was writing, so I was never going to publish it. And what was the point of buying a house or having kids? I didn’t see one at the time.
They were great goals, but they were big goals. Too big. I couldn’t choose them because I couldn’t make them happen right away. They weren’t a reason to make it through the night, or the week, or the month. They were a reason to choose life for years to come, and I couldn’t handle that at the time.
I had to start small. I had to remind myself that there was ice cream in the freezer, but I couldn’t eat it for breakfast if I was dead. I had to remind myself that my dog was in my room, but I couldn’t pet her if I was dead. I had to remind myself that the sun was going to come up in the morning, but I couldn’t see the sunrise if I was dead.
Those are the reasons I didn’t kill myself. They’re not the things I ultimately chose to stay alive for. That was a conscious decision that came months later when I was doing better. But on the nights I was sure I didn’t want to live, there were always little things I could see and touch that reminded me I didn’t want to die.
The future didn’t seem possible, so I didn’t look at it. I looked at tomorrow. What part of tomorrow did I want to see? I did that every day.
And eventually, those little reasons not to die became bigger and bigger and I realized how many things I wanted to see and do. And that feeling of wanting to die began to fade because I didn’t want to just see tomorrow. I wanted to see next week. Next month. Next year.
I had to start small to get there, and it took time, but eventually, I was able to look at the big things on the list. I was able to look for reasons to live instead of reasons not to die. And now I don’t have to remind myself that the sun, birds and ice cream are there, because I already know. I can look forward to the published book, the college degree, and the house with kids.
For more examples of little things that fit this mindset, see this post from a few months ago.