My front door is open to the cool evening air. From inside I can hear the rain as if a faucet has been let uncontrollably loose. There is an occasional rumble of thunder. My self-comforting action was to light as many candles as I could throughout my home – about nine – most of them being tealight candles in holders. This is a part of my self-care. This is a part of me establishing myself in the world of what feels right around me. This is me indulging in the pleasurable activity of watching the candlelight flicker within the dark corners of these four walls. I am orchestrating my life.
In the previous two years, I had not indulged in candles. And let me tell you something, I absolutely love candles. I used to buy expensive PartyLite candles because they are the best: they burn all the way down leaving no wax in the container. They become completely liquid while burning. They last longer than standard candles. I have several fancy candle holders from those years of candle collecting. I enjoy candles this much, and yet, for almost two years I did not light a single one. I felt as if my life was temporary. I wasn’t planning on living for very long. There was no point in doing something that I enjoyed because I didn’t see the point in doing anything. I was recovering from having been suicidal for a number of years.
There used to be days when at every minute of every day, I thought about suicide. (Here I try not to say “commit” suicide, because it criminalizes the act in subtle verbal expression, as if it were something the person did wrong, rather than saying the “act of” or “suffered from” or “resorted to” or “died by” suicide, or looking at suicide as a mental illness that most people have no control over, and are therefore not at fault. There is no “fault” when it comes to suicide.) Then there would be hours during which I did not think about suicide. Then a day a week would pass without me being suicidal. Then a few days. This progression happened very slowly. Let me emphasize very slowly.
I recently started tracking my suicidal thoughts. It is the end of October and the last time I thought about seriously killing myself was at the beginning of July. That’s almost four months of suicide-free thinking! That’s really amazing. I haven’t had that kind of a break since 2011. (Let’s do the math: that’s five years). Before July I felt suicidal and was ready to take action on one day in June, exactly a week after talking to the deputy district attorney about my case. Before that it was twice at the end of May. It has slowly gotten better. Since January 2015 I have only been in the hospital once for suicidal ideation, and they let me go after just one night. I went to work that very same day. I was so embarrassed at my actions even though no one at work knew the real reason behind my visit to the Emergency Room. It had been a mental emergency because I was going to jump off a bridge, and instead of doing that, I called the suicide hotline.
Right now I am in my safe space. I am seeing my psychotherapist twice a week for more intensive therapy. I had been wanting to see him twice a week for many months until I finally couldn’t take it any longer and told him I needed more support. I am much happier going twice a week; my life seems more manageable. I have my home, where I feel truly at home. I have a lovely new roommate who has been living with me for a month. She is really an amazing person. I have my hot chamomile tea for the evening, cooling down in my huge Italian ceramic mug that I chose and bought for myself. I am sitting on the gorgeous L-shaped light green couch which I hand-picked a few years ago and by sheer luck, got to keep because there was a spare room in the awful house I was living in last year. Otherwise I would have had to have gotten rid of it. My prized possession. I have several prized possessions that I am proud to call mine. And I have my candles. I have my candles, that I bought, that I lit, that I arranged around my home. It’s mine and I get to enjoy it. I have my safe space, and I have established myself in this world. That is, I found a place for me to exist.