Reasons to Live

content warning: explicit writing about passive suicidal ideation

I thought about killing myself* for the first time in a while earlier this June. I did not have any active plan or means to do so. At the same time, I felt a lot of pain related to my attraction to men and wanted that pain to stop.

When I noticed these emotions, I googled a DBT worksheet about the pros and cons of engaging in self-destructive behavior and filled it out on a piece of paper I found lying around in my apartment. I first filled out the pro of dying by suicide: I would no longer have to feel attracted to men. I then filled out the con of not dying by suicide: I would still have to withstand my attraction to men. After that, I wrote down all the cons of dying by suicide, and I focused on what in my life I would miss. The list looked something like this:

– laughing with my best friends
– roasting men with my other friends and my best friends
– jogging to “Feel Special” by Twice
– jogging to “Lovesick Girls” by BlackPink
– writing on my blog
– feeling the high of reading a really good book like When We Were Infinite by Kelly Loy Gilbert
– making a difference in the lives of my students
– making a difference in the lives of my clients
– catching up with my little cousin
– processing with my friends
– scheming to destroy the white supremacist patriarchy with my friends
– eating really good Asian food, especially with my friends

I read over the list and thought to myself, okay Thomas, you have a fair number of reasons to live. So I did my best to journal about my emotions, engage in work and hobbies that felt aligned with my values, and eat and get at least seven hours of sleep. I still felt shitty, and at the same time, I kept myself alive.

Another picture of Asian takeout I got with one of my best friends Bri when I visited her in Seattle last month! I would miss this for sure.

“I’m hearing some hopelessness,” my therapist said to me over Zoom at our next session. We had been having in-person sessions outdoors, but because of the local cicada swarm I did not want to risk sitting anywhere near a tree. From the safety of my apartment, I told her about my passive suicidal thinking, how even though I love my life without a man, I hate how trapped I feel in wanting a male romantic partner at all, and my despair at feeling powerless to change this desire. When she said the word “hopelessness,” I nodded along in agreement, because I did feel hopeless: after having met so many harmful and/or mediocre men and seeing so many people in my life settle for mediocre men, what did I have to feel hopeful about?

“Thomas, when I think of you, I think of someone who’s worked so, so hard to live a healthy emotional life,” my therapist said. “Even though you’ve had people let you down all throughout your life.”

When she said that, I started crying. I cried real tears, like I felt the burning sensation at the edges of my eyelids and salty fluid run down my cheeks. In that moment, I felt so seen: like, wait, you’re right, I really have put in so much fucking work to heal from my fucked-up childhood, fuck! Also, you’re also right that so many people have let me down, like my father, my brother, even though it’s complicated with him because my parents also traumatized him, several miscellaneous men who don’t deserve to be mentioned on this blog by name, and more. As someone who presents in daily life as pretty competent and confident, it felt both painful and cathartic to have someone else name my trauma and the unfair amount of effort I’ve had to put in to recover from it. I told her that I appreciated her saying that while mostly looking away from my laptop because it hurt a little to cry, wear contact lenses, and look at a computer screen at the same time.

“But ever since I’ve known you, you’re always someone who bounces back,” she said. “And even though nothing about this situation may change, I have faith that how you feel about it will, if you give it time.”

When my therapist said that, I flashed back to a time in my childhood around the age of ten or so. I sat at a desk in the basement of my home with one of my first laptops open in front of me. I was crying because my mother just yelled at me. My whole chest compressed with each of my heaving sobs. Even though I felt utter despair then, I managed to click on the word document icon through my tears. In it, I wrote that I would do everything in my power, throughout my whole life, to help fight the damage people like my mother put into the world and to help others who have suffered as much as I did. I felt a sheer determination to get out of my house and into the real world to make a difference for others.

At some point in that session, my therapist commented about how far I have come in my healing process. Though my attraction to men does at times remind me of how trapped I felt in my childhood home, I cope with that triggering trapped emotion better now: instead of self-harming or starving, I completed my DBT worksheet and managed to keep eating. I’m giving myself space to honor that growth, by processing it in my journal, talking with friends about it, and writing about it here.

I still feel frustrated about my attraction to men and I’m not sure how or if that frustration will resolve. I have some coping strategies: living a values-aligned life, telling myself that even if my generation of men is mostly hopeless, I can still positively influence the next generation, and recognizing that who knows, maybe a worthy man will emerge when I’m not even this angsty about it. Regardless, I’m reminding myself that despite the pain I feel, I still have many reasons to live. In this moment, those reasons feel like enough.

*if you are experiencing thoughts of suicidal ideation and want immediate support please call the number on this website!

Okay so if any of you follow me on Twitter you most likely know I went on a date with this super cute Asian guy and enjoyed it. On the second date I realized a little quickly that his cuteness definitely shielded me from some of the ways we were not a great fit. I’m not super sad about him as much as I am about my global attraction to men. However he chose a restaurant near this really nice nature trail-looking place so I walked around while listening to “Feel Special” afterward and it was great.
Ugh @ this body of water. So much more consistent and satisfying than 95% of the men in my life.

I went back and forth about whether to share this post, however I landed on publishing it to help destigmatize PTSD and suicidality especially from a queer Asian American’s perspective so here it is! Would love to hear any general reactions or feelings to the post or how you have coped or approached similar struggles in your own life. Until next post.

14 Comments

Filed under Personal

14 responses to “Reasons to Live

  1. Kartavya Ratate

    I cried after reading this post, it feels unimaginable to me to think of a world without you in it, you who have guided me through so much. I don’t know you personally and can’t control your decisions. But just want you to know how much you mean to me.

    • Awww sad to hear that you cried, I hope you were able to cope with that okay! I appreciate you respecting my autonomy and letting me know about how my blog has been helpful. I am well even if I was more stressed in June about the issues in this post, thank you.

  2. Florentine

    Deeply touched by your words Thomas. Wishing you all the peace, happiness and joy in the world

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read my words and letting me know that you resonate with them at least in some way! And I appreciate your wishes too, I definitely have and will continue to experience peace, happiness, and joy. (:

  3. Thomas, I echo the comments above.

    Your therapist is right about you. Let me add that you’ve led a heroic life being able to overcome so many pain and destructive forces around you. Yet you perservere and are helping others become their best selves. I applaud that you found a way to logically look at this. I worry that sometimes emotions and destructive thoughts will prevent others from doing this. You have a network of strong and supportive friends and I hope you can reach out to them too.

    I would be terribly sadden and crushed if you had gone that route. I remember losing a blogging friend that way. I had no idea how to deal with his sadness. One day, he text me that he was calm and happy. I was relieved. Then I didn’t hear from him for months. I had no idea who his friends were. But something prompted me to look for his name online and that’s when I found out. Another friend told me that sometimes people who have made the decision to end their lives are at peace and that’s probably why he felt calm and happy.

    Hey – I’m not a therapist but pls feel free to reach out to me if you need to chat. You should be able to find out my email through WP admin. If not, let me know.

    Sending you lots of love and hugs.

    Also for your readers in Canada: the number to call is 1 888 456-4566 https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/

    • also – I think you made the right call to share this. And I know it will benefit others.

      • Awwwww thanks so much Matt for this warm and supportive comment. So appreciate you naming my support system, how I have overcome some rough life shit, and affirming my choice in sharing this post despite the stigma surrounding suicide! I’m sad to hear about your friend who passed away, though I’m glad that it sounds like you’ve reflected on it and thought about it how you can. I feel like it’s so important we destigmatize mental health so people can feel comfortable seeking support. Hope your weekend has gone as well as possible!

  4. You are very brave to share your thoughts, Thomas. It is inspiring to hear you can recognise what you are feeling and have strategies to cope. Reading this post, your words and emotions came through raw and with a lot of honesty. Looking at the other comments, you certainly have had and will continue to have an impact on others out there.

    Your anecdotes reminded me of the difficult and trapped moments of my life, times when I felt I had few options to end emotional pain. I was always aware of coping mechanisms which I am thankful for. For some of us, getting to those coping mechanisms is hard, not easy at all. Pain and trauma can take very long to work through and some of us will never get closure and instead it’s always something to manage. I think as part of this process we have to accept these emotions as a part of us. Nothing wrong with or shame in these feeling and experiencing emotions; they stem from some point in our lives (perhaps not within our control) and perhaps we should take one step at a time towards coming out the other end.

    I really enjoy following your blog. I might not read every post, but each post I read I learn something from you. Thank you for that.

    • Yayyyy glad to hear that my words came across as raw and especially as honest, that’s always been the goal! Glad to hear that it’s nice to read both the difficult thoughts and the strategies to cope. I appreciate all of your comment especially the notion of how it’s important to accept painful emotions as part of us, without shame to the best of our ability. It’s been so wonderful to have you stop by my blog from time to time, I appreciate it and it’s nice to know that reading some posts has felt meaningful. Sending you warmth and strength from the blogosphere!

  5. A very brave post. I echo what your therapist said. I mean, you have a lot of value to me, your journey has made me feel so hopeful that people can do well after abusive childhoods and your work makes me feel helpful you can help others.

    Please please please if you feel like this again in future, consider reaching out for a chat with me. I’m in a funny time zone from you but that does mean I’m here at odd times when US folk might not be. I’m pretty resilent and definitely up for chatting about stuff and helping you not make that choice.

    I will share that I have felt very low this year – however there are reasons I’ve kept myself alive and I think I’m going to message you if that’s OK as it feels a bit much to put those down in semi-public as they don’t all pertain to just me. In general knowing the effect of losing or almost losing people to suicide is enough to make me pause long enough to come away from those feelings.

    You are loved and you are important. Please stay with us.

    • So touched that you’ve taken the time and continue to take the time to show up on this blog, it’s helpful to know that what I’ve shared of my journey feels helpful to folks! Yeah, I feel like child abuse should be destigmatized and I think it is nice to even remind myself how I emerged from that rough situation. Thank you also for offering your support; I feel fortunate that I am supported by myself, friends, therapist, etc. here and at the same time it means a lot that you’d offer your own time to someone who lives an ocean away! Though it may take me some time to reply I appreciate you sharing your own journey and strategies too. I am definitely staying with us and feel seen and supported by your kind words!

      • Good, and I mean it, of course. I’ve been reading your blog a long time and I’d be devastated if anything happened to you. And no rush reading what I wrote and responding, no need to respond either, just anything that will help, I hope it has helped x

  6. buriedinprint

    I’ve just discovered your blog via a comment that you left on a recent post of Liz’s (above) and was intrigued by your mention of Audre Lorde as a favourite writer (on your About page, I believe). It’s courageous of you to share thoughts and feelings that we are often taught should be concealed; I’m sure your words will reach and impact so many people (many of whom likely won’t comment here) and work towards a broader, deeper change to make a different kind of future possible. What a gift.

    • Awwwww omg what a compassionate comment! Thank you so much. While I definitely don’t think I’m all that, I appreciate your words and I do hope my writing can be helpful to others in some way, though I’m also content with them being helpful just for me. So kind of you to take the time to read and leave such an affirming response. I hope your day is going well!

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