On Death and Priming

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Mary Stathos

Content warning: This essay contains discussions about suicide.

On January 14, 2018 at 5:17pm – the day before my 24th birthday and exactly one month after my cat died, I ordered two sets of sheets, a comforter, a knit blanket and two pillows from Amazon Prime Now. I paid the extra $4.99 for one-hour delivery. It had been probably three months since I had done laundry and my bed still smelled like pee from my dead cat. I don’t really know why I couldn’t do my laundry, I was just too wrapped up with wanting to die. I wasn’t exactly suicidal, I just wished I was dead. I had bedding that I could have washed for $4.25 — less than the expedited shipping fee — but instead, I carried it down to the dumpster and threw it out at 7:35 pm on my way down to get my order.

That winter, when I lived in a 200 square foot apartment with laundry in the basement, I spent more than $200 on sheets, bedding and underwear. That was also the winter that I used all of my sick days and vacation time to lay in my bed. My therapist didn’t know what to do. I thought I was dying. I didn’t know what to do, either.

It was more than just wanting to die, though. I had fully convinced myself that I absolutely was not going to be able to keep living. There was nothing I could do to convince myself that anything I was doing was worth doing for another sixty to eighty years. There was just no way this was worth staying alive for. My psychiatrist tried everything – antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medication. It wasn’t enough to give me even the slightest motivation to get out of bed, to do my laundry, to buy groceries that weren’t from the convenience store below my apartment.

I gained 10 pounds on my diet of takeout and microwave meals from Summer Street Fruit convenience store.

By February 17, 2018, I had used most of my paid time off at work. I decided I needed to get it together. At 4:31 pm, the Amazon Prime Now courier delivered 5 bottles of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar drinks ($11.45) and a 12-pack of Soylent meal replacement shake ($40.99) because I read they were good for weight loss. But, despite my efforts, I didn’t lose the weight or find the will to live.

Storage containers were $45.31, delivered on April 25th 2018 at 3:47 pm. I bought them while I was packing for my third move of the year. They were the wrong size and I didn’t even use them.

Every time I moved, I felt worse. Constantly thinking about wanting to die took up so much space that I could barely focus. As soon as I got settled somewhere, I was packing up and getting ready to leave again. It felt so unfair. Nobody else was living like this.

I couldn’t find an apartment where I felt safe or at home, let alone happy or alive. Even in the basement apartment with free laundry, I was getting underwear delivered to my door. At this point, I had left my psychiatrist and stopped all my meds. If I was going to feel like I was doing to die, I wanted to at least do it without the drowsiness, low sex drive and weight gain that was coming from the trial and error medications.

In March of 2019, one year and three months after I spent $87.49 plus tax on my expedited bedding, and three months after my boyfriend broke up with me, I started talking to other people about wanting to die. I mean everyone. I wanted to know what other people thought. Did other people think about dying all the time? Were other people able to enjoy a moment without thinking about what it would feel like if they died, or how this happiness would reflect later when they were alone in bed worrying about the future? Most people didn’t.

Bringing this up to anybody scared them more than when they would come to my apartment and see trash and takeout containers. It was okay to be depressed but it wasn’t okay to think about dying, even though I hadn’t been suicidal in over two years.

Realizing how concerning this was to other people, I suddenly needed to know how. How did they do anything without thinking about the consequences of even the smallest things?

I signed up for an online therapist ($180). She helped me sign up for Medicaid and find a psychiatrist who prescribed me different medication that actually helped me. Within three days of starting a mood stabilizer, my brain finally felt quiet. I could think and focus, and stopped feeling the need to spend so much money on goods that are not actually supposed to be disposable. (Although, I do think that somewhere there is a market for disposable underwear and bedsheets.)

When you spend six years wanting to die, what fills that space when you finally stop? Where does that part of you go? I stopped laughing at tweets about wanting to kill yourself because of minor inconveniences and I started thinking about the years of my life spent wishing I was dead. I can barely remember doing anything besides lying in bed. In 2017 and 2018 I used every single one of my sick days at my entry level, low-paying post-graduate job to lay in my bed and cry. I cried to my cat, I cried to my mom. I cried to two different boyfriends who eventually left me because I was not in an emotional space to be able to give myself to another person.

Now I’m 25 and I have four comforters, eight sets of sheets and literally 130 pairs of underwear. I’m getting ready to move into a new apartment, and I’m planning to pick up boxes from a wholesale market and give as much of my extra stuff to Goodwill as I can. I ordered 5 Tupperware containers (in the right size) for $27.95 with my grocery order (that I still get from Amazon) because I have started meal prepping.

I’m cooperating with my brain. I’m recognizing what thoughts are real and what thoughts are intrusive and don’t belong. Sometimes I’m in the shower and I start thinking about the weeks I spent without taking a single step outside. I think about my favorite shirt that I threw away by accident when I was moving. It’s exhausting to not run to my bed and go to sleep at 6 pm just to avoid being present with my thoughts.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop thinking about dying altogether, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe some people just need to think about dying even when they don’t want to die. I do know that I’ve stopped wanting to die, which is important. But now I can’t stop thinking about the two years of my life that were on pause because I needed better therapy and different meds. I probably won’t ever stop blaming my first psychiatrist for not doing more to try different medications, who was always telling me to exercise more. I probably won’t ever cancel my Amazon Prime membership, either. 

Mary Stathos takes a lot of photos of her cats and calls her mom every day. She grew up in Malden, MA and currently lives in her ex-boyfriend’s dad’s basement.

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