Why I'm Thankful to Be Alive

By Crystal Lindell, Columnist

There were lots of times over the last year where I was not at all thankful to be alive. Where just the idea of being alive made me want to die.

Like that time almost exactly a year ago now when I was sitting on the toilet, sweating, with my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands, barely about to endure the physical withdrawal of morphine that I was going through.

I would have given anything to die right in that moment.

And there was the time back in the spring when I had a really bad reaction to a medication called Buspar (buspirone) that led to a days-long anxiety attack and the most vivid suicidal thoughts I’ve ever experienced.

I really wanted to die then as well.

But despite my pleas, I did not get to die. I kept living. And now, this year on Thanksgiving, I have the perspective to see why that’s a good thing.

Because during the past 12 months I’ve also gotten to go to Ecuador and France for work. I’ve met my friend’s new baby and watched her toddler learn to walk. I saw my sister’s basketball team win a state championship, dyed my hair blue, and had the best escargot and creme brulee in a French town just 30 minutes from the German border.

I got a promotion at work, and saw the sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I saw the impossible become possible when the Cubs won the World Series, and I ate seafood while overlooking an infinity pool in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

There so many good things I would have missed. 

The episode with the Buspar was especially traumatizing. I had started taking it because of the intense, daily anxiety I was having after going off opioids. But I was one of the rare people who had an inverse reaction to it, leading to unbearable anxiety and suicidal ideation.

If you have never had a medication cause suicidal ideation, the best way to describe it is that your inner voice suddenly changes. And all you can think is, “Just do it. Just kill yourself. Nobody would miss you anyway. You don’t have to be in pain anymore. Your heart doesn’t have to break anymore. Just do it.”

I was wearing my favorite blue dress that day, and I can’t even look at it now without flashing back to the moment I had locked myself in the bathroom stall at work and decided to take all the pills in my purse.

Suicide isn’t very logical, so on some level it makes sense that I didn’t really come up with a logical reason to not do it. In the moment, I wasn’t able to convince myself that there were better days ahead or that anyone would miss me.

In the end, what stopped me was the very thing that has saved me so many times: My writing. I realized that if I killed myself in that moment I wouldn’t be leaving behind a suicide note. And I couldn’t very well die without a goodbye letter. So I stopped what I was doing, and found the strength in my wobbly legs to get myself out to my car and drive home.

Looking back and knowing how serious it was, I realize now that I should have gone the ER right then, but it would be days before I went in for a psych evaluation. In the meantime, I took lots of deep breaths and a hot bath and convinced myself to give this whole life thing a go again the next day.

That happened on May 17, and not a month goes by where I don’t mark that day. Where I don’t give myself permission to be a little more loving to my soul than I usually am. And where I don’t think back about all the things I could have so easily missed.

It’s been a long year, and most of what I’ve endured can be traced back to my physical pain and my attempts to break free from opioids. I did not see any of it coming, and was woefully unprepared to endure it.

But endure it I did. And it turns out, there were so many lights at the end of the tunnel. So many things I would have missed.

If you’re struggling, please don’t hesitate to get professional help. I promise, with my whole heart, there are so many lights at the end of your tunnel too.

For help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255.

Crystal Lindell is a journalist who lives in Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching "Burn Notice" episodes on Netflix and Snicker's Bites. She has had intercostal neuralgia since February 2013.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, “The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.”

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.