Dear Meg | Trusting yourself to live, even one more day

April 7, 2022

You speak of not being able to trust yourself. It is a terrible thing, but it need not spell the end. Knowing where you are is a great place to start. Deciding that it’s temporary is even better.

Trigger warning: Suicide, death

Custom artwork by Kenikenken


Dear Meg,

How do I deal with my own suicidal ideation as someone who’s a multiple-time suicide attempt survivor? What advice can we offer to our comrades trying to help us when we have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD)?

I am resolute in everything the revolution provides in our guide and often find solutions in everything immediately. But I guess, I cannot completely trust in myself, others, or the revolution if I struggle with suicide ideation. The revolution requires sacrifice but not unnecessary ones. It is better to continue living for the struggle than to defeat ourselves.

Having psychological trauma from my family and previous school, sexual harassment from men, and police brutality/etc. has made it difficult for me to cope since the pandemic started. The lack of access to proletariat guidance/psychotherapy on my mental illnesses, expense of medications, and lack of support system dealt a huge blow that made it more difficult for me to recover.

Then, I was able to cope easily by integrating with the masses and working tirelessly though still struggling with suicidal ideation. Now, it’s always a struggle for me to continue living and attempting suicide. I just choose to remind myself of all the people we’ve helped and that I have a (now) loving family and friends, supportive of my activism. That, if I’ve done it before, we can do it again. After all, the struggle tasks us with what it trusts us with, according to our abilities and potential.

Of course, the personality and coping and defense mechanism we all have are different so oftentimes the answers to how can a comrade help suicide survivors with CPTSD varies (case-to-case basis). Still, it would be nice to hear your general advice on this.

L


Dear L,

Thank you for writing to me, and I’m sorry for taking so long. It is a sensitive topic, and I wished to handle it with care. I hope that you’ve been well and that someone’s looking after you, especially on your most difficult days.

You know, when people tell me their reasons for wanting to go, I find myself nodding. Yes, sometimes life can feel utterly cruel and meaningless, all of us forced on a wild ride invariably doomed to an end. There’s too much pain, too much suffering, almost always undeserved. I can’t blame you for wanting no more of this misery.

Yet you’re still here, fighting. I’d like you to know that makes us proud and grateful, as comrades and human beings. Weeks ago someone told me that every death is a collective loss, and I agree: When someone dies in our midst, the living, too, all die a little. This especially resonates in the context of our struggle, this tough undertaking of bringing down an unjust system. Every life counts. Bawat buhay ay mahalaga.

I know you already know this, and most of what I’m going to say. But in the thick of your anguish you might forget, so I’ll carry on.

You are loved, so much more than you know. Perhaps you’ve felt like a burden – as many in your state tend to – but I can promise that your family and friends will gladly bear ten, twenty, even a hundred times this imagined weight, if that’s what it takes to keep you here. Their grief at your passing would be the kind you would not wish on anyone if you can help it, and I’m saying you can.

I think it starts with a different response to the question at the heart of most suicidal ideations: “Is this all there is to it?” One loses the will to live when one presupposes the finality of situations: that there’s nothing left to see or do. But as activism teaches us, things are final only when we decide that they are. Otherwise, there is always room to negotiate, to bargain, to struggle. However bleak the circumstances are, there’s always something that can be done.

You speak of not being able to trust yourself. It is a terrible thing, but it need not spell the end. Knowing where you are is a great place to start. Deciding that it’s temporary is even better.

One factor that might feel intimidating is the thought of your condition being severe and complicated. It’s true that CPTSD is a serious condition, but even serious conditions can be managed. Key to handling this, or any challenge in life, for that matter, would be setting realistic goals for yourself and your loved ones. If a will to live is too much to ask right now, maybe the strength to get through one more day isn’t.

We extend the same compassion, the same patience to the people around us. Most of our comrades are not health professionals, but they mean well. And because of that alone, they are capable of helping. Yet just as we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves, we ask others to give only what they can – small things to make our day a little bit better, a little more bearable. A home-cooked meal. A letter. An hour of peace in a noisy, crowded room. You can also refer them to this piece I wrote on the subject.*

Like you’ve probably been learning, this is going to be a journey of knowing yourself, and learning how to lean on others for help. When you know yourself, you’ll be able to figure out what brings you joy and what brings you pain, and what is life but treading the line between these two? The more you get to know and befriend yourself – your body, mind, and heart – the less appealing it will be to inflict harm on it.

You’d wish to see the many other ways she laughs, this woman who’s gone through so much. You’d wonder how she’d look like grey-haired, with curls, or a buzz cut. What kind of quips would she be making at 60, when she can get away with anything? What other strengths would she discover? I can guarantee there’d be a lot of moments she’d surprise you, if you give her a chance.

The same goes for the world and humanity.

This planet is ugly on some days, but on many others, it is beautiful, and astoundingly so. As I write this I remember pausing from a hike somewhere in the North five years ago, to look back on lush mountains while crossing a river. It was a Saturday morning, and everything was quiet and still, save for the sound our feet made against the crystal-clear water. I don’t know what it was that made me look back – perhaps it was life itself, asking to be seen – but I am eternally grateful. I wish you the same moments when the world, if briefly, would seem worth waking up to. Better still, I wish that you’d keep creating conditions for these moments. This way, for every reason to leave, you would find even more compelling reasons to stay.

Thank you again, L, and here’s to brighter days ahead.

Meg


See this Facebook post “Dear Meg, how do you support a comrade?”

If you need help, please call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotlines:

Smart: 0908-639-2672
Globe: 0917-899-USAP

Dear Meg

Dear Meg

Meg holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Psychology from the University of the Philippines. She loves music, visual arts, literature, and psychology, and is passionate about endeavors where these are used to improve the plight of the marginalized.