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On a good day, it feels like you are on an endless hunt for something that you know does not exist. As you pointlessly search, though, you can’t stay focused because your brain keeps short circuiting. Thoughts dart in and out of your mind long enough to sense things, but not long enough to know anything. You feel paralyzed by the not-knowing and frozen in your disappointment, and everything else feels far away and unstable.

On a so-so day, it’s more like you are mourning the loss of something you never had. The grief aches and scratches at your insides, but you can’t release it. Instead, it pulls you inward and you lose all connection to the you who was once capable of enjoying small silly things like the velvety softness of your dog’s ears or the warmth of toasty sand curling between your toes. Even love begins to fall away. You can’t make yourself smile back at your smiling son or force yourself to hold on while your husband tries to squeeze you tight. And soon you feel yourself shrinking into nothingness with no idea how to make it stop.

But on a bad day, when you’re lying in your bed with a quivering lip and you can barely drag the blankets up over your head to block out all the light, tears stream down your cheeks without sound. You try to crawl into yourself—into a place that will feel safe. But you cannot make your body small enough, and there is no place to go.

You are certain that you have always been a horrible, useless burden to all those people who you love; and you are even more certain that you will never be anything else. Then you calmly recognize that you cannot escape alive because you are no longer you. And you start to tell yourself that if you commit suicide, maybe people will excuse some of your failures and judge you less harshly.

You think of it like a surgical excision—momentarily painful, but quick, efficient, and ultimately curative. You imagine those people you love being free—free from the you who has failed them and dragged them down into this darkness. You see yourself no longer feeling ashamed of who you are, and you see them no longer needing to tolerate and make excuses for you.

That thought (that image of freedom) lifts you just enough so that you can begin to contemplate how to do what needs to be done.