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.
“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!
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.