This year has been physically and emotionally overwhelming to everyone. The grieving that has occurred due to loss of loved ones and just our life as what we knew before has been a significant weight for the world to carry. This weight is an immensely traumatic experience for all.
Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started, I have struggled with a sea of emotions. I have been afraid of what has happened and what is lost. I am afraid of the unknown. I have felt miserable and sad, wishing for my past life back. I have been angry at life, wondering how innocent lives have been lost. Most significantly, though: I have felt guilty for being alive.
I struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation for almost seven years before the virus. I am passively suicidal on a regular basis. I would like to preface though that I am safe. I am seen by a physician, a therapist and I am connected to those who support me.
I was texting a dear friend of mine the other day, where I expressed my uncontrollable sadness and grief for all of those lost by COVID-19 in the last seven months. Similarly to many people, I am carrying a weight like no other. I also shared with her that I feel guilty for living. “Why am I alive when I wished to die for years, but all of these innocent people never did and they are gone?” As the conversation continued, I was incredibly lucky to have this friend remind me of all those who love and care for me.
I realized, though, that it is very unlikely that I am the only person who struggles with suicidal ideation and has also felt this guilt in the last few months. So, these are important messages to those who have felt similarly.
1. Understand that this is an element of survivor’s guilt.
Survivor’s guilt is when an individual feels pain and guilt in reaction to surviving a traumatic experience when others did not. This guilt can be shown in many ways, but in this case it is struggling to cope with being alive when thousands of people who lost their lives. COVID-19 has been a majorly traumatic experience, so it is important that we recognize that survivor’s guilt is real and it matters.
2. Recognize that there would be a loss if you were also gone.
When I spoke to my friend, she told me that it was important for me to remember that if I was gone, it would also create more pain and loss for everyone involved. Death of one does not make death of others less painful. It would still be a life lost — a light that has gone out. We talked about the people in my life who would feel tremendous pain and sorrow, if it was me. If you are feeling similarly to me, I suggest making a list of all of the people that it would hurt if you were gone. All of these people love and care about you.
3. Realize that you are not alone.
I am writing this post because I want to remind as many people as possible that the way you are feeling is real and that you are not alone. I have felt this guilt. I continue to feel this anxiety, grief and guilt. I know it is difficult to find ways to go on, but we can do it together. We will do it together. I believe in you.
4. Call your loved ones. Connect to others.
One of my biggest recommendations during this experience is to call someone you love and trust. As someone who struggles with suicidal ideation, I use my loved ones as major roles in my safety and my happiness. When you feel unsafe, call them. FaceTime someone so you can see their face. Ask your family to come over. Sometimes, I don’t even say directly that I am suicidal. I just let them know I need extra support. When you are feeling overwhelmed about the weight of COVID-19 or other experiences going on in the world, talk to your best friend, mom, partner, teacher, etc. Continue to make those connections because isolation can feed suicidal ideation. Connection begins to diminish them.
5. Remember that you are worthy of living and being loved.
No matter the struggles and difficulties you have experienced, no matter how many times you have thought or attempted to hurt yourself, no matter how many times you have questioned your life, you are still worthy of living. Sometimes I thought that if I’ve wanted to die at one point in my life, I would never be worthy of living. This is not true. You are still worthy of love, belonging and happiness. You can struggle and still be worthy of living at the same time. Just read that one more time. You can struggle and still be worthy of living at the same time.
To all of those struggling, I am with you. Don’t forget how strong and loved you are. Stay safe and we will keep moving forward together.
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