Losing the Benefit of the Doubt

The last two days have not been kind to me.

Yesterday, my head felt three sizes too big. Today, I made it to work but couldn’t stomach looking at my computer screen for another second after twelve. Allergies are the only complaint I have since moving back to Georgia, and they kicking my rear.

An outsider’s perspective might understandably view my behavior these last two days like so:

  • Gordon didn’t leave his bedroom yesterday.

  • He had a hard time getting up today.

  • Gordon came home early and has stayed in bed since.

  • He said his allergies are really bad, but is he telling the truth?

This article is less for me and more for my loved ones. You see, I have lost the benefit of the doubt. Do my actions look like someone battling inner-demons or fighting off pollen? Only one of those could lead to a permanent end, so it is better to err on the side that I am spiraling into a depression.

I was anxious and depressed yesterday. I have spent more than enough time in my own bed, and when I am stuck there for physical reasons it is a short hop onto the stressed and sad bandwagon. Today, though, I’m good. Just wondering how the South was settled before antihistamines.

But am I telling the truth? Ah, therein lies the problem with mental illness, and especially with any person with a history of suicide attempts.

In the past I lied. Not because I wanted to, but because I felt I had to. The suicidal mind is wildly distorted, and the last thing I would do was let on to what I was truly thinking.

But that must mean your parents don’t trust you! That is so far from the truth to be laughable.

As the Russian proverb goes: “doveryai no proveryai”. Trust but verify. This is simply good strategy. My parents trust me; they do not trust the dark corner of my mind. So they check up on me.

Mom got me up this morning. Dad came downstairs after I got home later this afternoon. They both called and texted me a few times. As a courtesy to them, I keep my phone on loud.

But that is such a huge invasion of your privacy! I suppose, but I am sleeping three feet from where I tried to hang myself and five feet from where I tried to shoot myself. If I walk like a depressed duck, talk like a depressed duck, and look like a depressed duck - should my parents ignore what they see? No!

I am not granted the benefit of the doubt in this part of my life. I could be upset by this, but my family and friends are in my corner. They can see things I might not be able to see, and they would be terrible cornermen and women if they did not tell me. Otherwise I’m fighting this on my own.

I tried that before. I will not try that again.

Instead, I push back against my initial reaction of: “how dare they! It’s just allergies!” I must recognize how my behavior looks to those that care about me, and put that up against the screen of my past actions.

As the National Center for Biotechnology Information stated in a 2018 study:

“Preexisting suicidal ideation […] appears to be [an] important clinical risk factor for subsequent [suicide attempts] that are open to preventative intervention.” - NCBI

Previous suicide attempts are one of the strongest indicators of a future attempt. I have six. I would like to not get to seven. Losing a little bit of privacy, and the benefit of the doubt are costs I pay gladly to beat the odds.