The winding roads of life — photo by Guilherme Rossi

Being suicidal vs. being tired of life

Isabelle 'Nocturnaliss' Apel


Let’s talk today about an obscure nuance that people tend to get wrong:

The difference between being suicidal, and being tired of living.

Though one may very well lead to the other, these two notions aren’t mutually exclusive. There’s even a difference between being suicidal and feeling suicidal; the former denotes attempts, while the latter rather expresses a profound crisis that occurs right after growing tired of living, and right before attempting to solve the issue by stepping away from it, permanently.

Today, I expressed that I am tired of living. This is a deep truth that, I had to face today, has troubled my heart more times in the last years than I’m willing/able to count. I’m 38. I have a lovely home, an amazing fiancé, two gorgeous kitties, a supportive family, fantastic friends, I’m unemployed going on a novel with ambitions to grow a career out of my only real talent. Aside from some financial insecurity and stress, all of those facts build up strong reasons to enjoy life. And I do. Usually.

But on the days that I don’t, like today, I’m reminded of everything that is and has been wrong with me:

  • I’m depression-inclined due to heavy bullying when I was 15 and its ensuing ten-year long depression and social phobia;
  • I’m weak and fragile and my health’s been awful since I was a kid;
  • I can’t handle getting up every workday at 6.40 am, even to work but for 45 minutes (or, perhaps more accurately, because of this short span);
  • I’ve had time anxieties since hitting 25 and realizing a quarter of my life was gone with nothing to show for it;
  • I’m trying to build a writing career as a nobody who has no idea how to market herself because writing is all I can do and, dear gods, I can’t write right now;

And when all of this hits, I wage a losing battle against myself. I struggle to reach the end of the day and to go to elusive sleep, hoping the next day will be better, and I won’t feel as tired as I always feel. But I do feel tired, because I have to get back up at a time that physically hurts me, which leads to mental distress, which leads to depression. At some point, something’s got to give. And as I am a person who has learned to understand herself and is now open to expressing her deepest feelings, I sent a message to official instances in charge of my sort-of job that I was depressed and tired of life. She took it to mean I was suicidal. No matter how much I explained my true meaning, she did not understand. And this frustration inspired this post.

So let me make this real clear.

A person who is tired of living is at danger’s door. My own experience with this feeling doesn’t change the fact that being tired of living expresses an underlying issue which the feeler is subconsciously aware of, and may be blind to for various reasons. As I’m very aware of my own issue, I stepped forward with my feelings and pinpointed what needs to change. That is the core of this cry for attention: something is wrong. Something needs to change. Maybe it’s just that the person needs a vacation, or needs to be heard, or needs to quit their job entirely. If you are tired of living, you need to stop what you’re doing, breathe, breathe again, and ask yourself why you’re feeling this way. Once the issue pinpointed, do all you can to change it.

Even if you can’t quite make it better, being aware of what ails you can help you find countermeasures to the feeling while you work on (re)building your foundations. For instance, my issue is with getting up every morning at that painfully early hour, so I requested Wednesdays taken off my schedule. I know that extra rest day will make things bearable, even if I don’t know for how long. At the same time, I’m working on this writing career, which gives me the will to live. Finding your will to live and striving to attain it is the step in the right direction.

But if a person can’t fix the issues that render them tired of living, then they will irrevocably walk the line towards feeling suicidal. We’re past danger’s door here, as the person has lost not only their will to live, but their hope that their life will ever improve. Without hope, without a reason to live, depression sets further in and claims all joy and willpower. They start to believe that the only solution they have left is to die.

Make no mistake: a suicidal person does not wish to die. What they truly yearn for is for their pain to end. Their pain didn’t end while they were growing tired of life, hence why the only viable way out that they can see is death itself. It’s the final escape. I’ve read before that you should not call a suicidal person selfish, but the verbally correct reality is that a suicidal person is self-centered — on their pain, on their problems, on the fact they view the world around them as not wanting them, as not hearing them, as not caring what becomes of them. It’s a selfless sort of self-centeredness that leads to,

Being suicidal. The final step being to commit suicide. By then, the depressed is so far gone into their pain that nothing may truly bring them back, and they decide to do what feels right for them — to stop the pain –, and for their loved ones — to stop them having to watch the depressed suffer. Paradoxically, attempting suicide, and failing, might just be what reminds a depressed person of the things they wish to live for, or perhaps it may cause change that affects the underlying issue and, even but partially, fixes it.

This said, a friend of mine committed suicide back in April. She was in literal pain, all the time, for years, and decided to step out about a week before a surgery that should have given her her life back. She decided to leave because the depression won, because she knew that her husband was suffering from watching her suffer — and this took a deeper, darker turn, that likely made her believe he’d be better off without her. We will never know if the surgery would have fixed her issue. We are left with the what-ifs and the sorrow. We are not better off without her. I still have a picture of this friend on my phone, and her last messages to me. I’m not better off.

Suicide fixes nothing. It’s an end, a permanent end that leaves grief in its wake. The deceased will never know what life may still have had in store for them. I speak as a girl who got depressed at 15 and once, just once, wondered how it would be to step out. You know what? Even at 15, I was apparently wise enough to realize I’d only bring pain to the people I love. But I’ll be honest: my life, back then, was suffering. It was nothing but suffering, made slightly less insufferable from having video games and this one friend who incorporated me in her life of fun. It took me ten years to grow out of my social phobia and get a job. From there, and armed with the characters I created through tons of nighttime roleplay chats, I began to build myself, more and more. It was an uphill battle for a long time. So I can understand not wanting to go through what is, essentially, even more suffering. But gods has it been worth it in the end. And, truly, my life still has to really begin.

If you grow tired of life, do yourself a service and try and figure out why before the depression devours your heart. Talk to people, to friends, to strangers, just go with a gut feeling and reach out, because talking will have a ripple effect. You may run into someone who understands you and offers support; you may run into someone who doesn’t understand you, and their lack of empathy may well spark such anger in you that you decide to burn down your world and build something better upon its ashes. Death is not a viable option. And even if you’ve stopped believing it, you can damn well trust there’s a reason out there for you not only to hang on to life, but to live.

Mine is writing stories and sharing my experiences in the hopes they may save someone else, as I believe everything happens for a good reason, and I have chosen the path of the Helper.

What’s yours?



Isabelle 'Nocturnaliss' Apel

Trilingual Dark Fantasy writer hailing from the Kingdom of Belgium. Chaotic good. Weaver of emotions and heartache.