As I sit down to write this, there’s classical music playing throughout my house, it’s a beautiful sunny spring day outside, I just ate an amazing brunch with my husband and now have duck roasting in the oven for dinner, and the love of my life is sitting mere inches away from me on his own laptop catching up on some work. It is a perfect day, and there is nothing more I could ask for in life at this moment. So why am I writing about how, sometimes, I think about jumping in front of moving trains, or throwing myself off high balconies, in hopes of a swift and painless death?
From the outside, it might seem like I have such thoughts because I’m depressed, or somehow unhappy in life, but pretending things are all fine and dandy. While I have been depressed in the past and still go through bouts of it from time to time, I do not consider myself to be battling depression anymore. Who doesn’t feel sad every now and then? As for pretending to be happy and actually being miserable on the inside, I’m fairly certain I’m not fooling myself in that department, or trying to fool others either. My life really is wonderful, and therein lies the problem. I’m waiting for it to turn un-wonderful.
When I have dark thoughts where I consider ending my life, they normally arise in perfectly normal, even happy, everyday scenarios – on the balcony at my mother’s apartment while we drink chai; on the Toronto subway platform as I’m holding Sai’s hand; in front of moving traffic as I wait at the bus stop on a beautiful summer day looking fly as fuck. And the funny thing is, these thoughts aren’t accompanied by feelings of doom and gloom or sadness – I actually find myself smiling inwards at the realization that I am so happy in life, the thought of not being this happy makes me want to kill myself. It’s my brain’s way of telling me, “That’s it, you’ve reached peak happiness, it’s all downhill from here. Better end it now before all the sad shit starts happening.”
It would be unfair to say I haven’t experienced any sadness in life. My teenage years were pretty unhappy in many regards, and living in an unstable home with parents in an extremely volatile marriage made things pretty hard for a growing adolescent. I still suffer from anxiety attacks and uncertainty in life about what’s going to happen, as was the case in my youth – will my parents get divorced and I’ll have to choose which one I love more? Will my dad disown me as his daughter and say I only belong to my mother? Will I still be able to go to school? Will I see my brother and sister again? Will anyone love me without hurting me? Sometimes I think I might have mild PTSD from growing up in an environment where a developing mind had to contend with such questions. The legacy of childhood trauma strikes again!
I once had a discussion with a friend where we were talking about our hopes and fears for the future. I shared with her that I’m always braced for something bad to happen to me, as though bad luck is a shadow that disappears whenever I try to look at it. It’s not because lots of bad things have already happened to me, but because lots of bad things haven’t already happened to me, it’s naive of me to think they never will. And there’s that saying about the higher you go, the harder you fall. As happy as my life has become, the sadness that will follow will rival it. It’s physics – what goes up, must come down. If you have experienced good, you will experience bad. Newton’s Third Law – for each and every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction, therefore my happiness will have equal sadness. The thought of being too happy scares me; it means I’m going to have to go down to the depth of despair as well, and that’s just science. My friend, upon hearing my rationale for looking forward to bad things, said she expected good things to happen to her – that she was frustrated when good things didn’t happen, because she hadn’t considered the opposite for herself. This made me question whether it was all just a matter of perspective – choosing how you viewed your life and the events in it.
Let’s backtrack for a minute here and define what exactly I mean by “bad things happening to me.” Most of the bad things I fear are actually things happening to others that I care about and love. My mother getting diagnosed with cancer, or having a stroke and being paralyzed. My husband getting into a fatal road accident. One of my siblings getting diagnosed with an incurable disease. When it comes to me and something terrible happening to me, my mind quickly flashes “EUTHANASIA” and I feel better about knowing that I have at least some control over what I can do with myself if my health, mind or body go south. The real fear lies in seeing people I love suffer and having no way of helping them.
If I’m being honest, more than the suffering of others, it’s my own suffering I dread the most. It makes me feel weak and pathetic to say that, but I’m most scared of having to learn to deal with my own feelings and emotions of sadness and despair when, in a random uncaring world, something unfortunate happens to someone I love. This makes me a super selfish being. (Just had this realization as I wrote the last sentence).
There’s a line in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the start of the film when it’s revealed that Sean Connery’s character (Indie’s dad) had passed away, “We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.” Pair that line with the fact that on most people’s death beds, if you ask them what they regret most, one of the top answers, as reported by end-of-life care nurses has been “I wish I hadn’t worried so much about things that never happened.” People towards the end of their life often say that 90% of the things they feared when they were young never came to pass. And even though I know all this, and understand that if something terrible did happen to me or to others it wouldn’t be unique just to me, I still can’t shake the feeling of wanting to escape from having to potentially deal with unsavory events in my life. If there’s a downside to being happy, I’m a good case study for it.
I often think about the line in Doctor Strange, “Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered. Your time is short.” Maybe sadness is what allows us to experience happiness in the first place. They’re like two sides to the same coin. There’s also the concept from the same movie about your thoughts shaping reality – that what you think is what will manifest itself in reality. When I think this way, I quickly panic and feel that I’m inviting bad situations my way. That’s another loop of wanting to escape sadness that I get caught in when I try to think positive. It’s like a Matrix within the Matrix. My mind is sick and twisted and it won’t give me a way out of this nihilistic madness. Someone send help!
Oh that’s the duck. Dinner’s ready!