Projection: Helplessness and Suicide

This evening, I am feeling raw, open and vulnerable. This is likely the side effect of giving a wonderful NAMI IOOV presentation today at Simmons College. It went very well. I’m still looking towards finding and using that skill of ‘flow’ for my presentation and story, although I do get compliments as is for how I present, which is something dandy. 🙂

I would like to talk right now about something else that happened today and my issues involving projection.

If you don’t know, projection is when:

thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else

I’ve been aware of my issues with projection for the better part of a year, now. And, today, it was the main source of some pain.

I don’t want to rehash the story too many more times, as I already have countless times today, but I’ll give you guys the scene. I’ll be changing some details, however. Think of this as, in part, an open letter.

To the Stranger wearing the plaid shirt and the knee high socks today:

I observed you on the central platform for the red line this early afternoon. To me, having just given a talk about my lived experiences with OCD, I saw the way you were stepping forwards and backwards, muttering to yourself and repeating and repeating these gestures. Maybe you were innocent enough, but I took this as the possibility of finding another person, out in the wild of Boston, who lives with this wretched condition we call OCD.

I wanted to reach out to you, and inform you that you are not alone.

I wanted to reach out to you, and be a helpful resource to you, because I know I can be and I have the potential to be.

I wanted to reach out to you, so that I could help you. Because I believe I have the power to help people.

I wanted to reach out to you, and tell you that it wouldn’t always be this bad. That life gets better. And it’s not worth killing yourself over. That Recovery is Possible. That the condition will fade.

To the person I thought had OCD today, I just wanted to connect with you. On a vulnerable, honest level.

But you didn’t take kindly to my offer.

Maybe you don’t have OCD, maybe you have anxiety, maybe you have paranoid delusions.

It hurt how you gawked at my question, “Do you have OCD?” as if that was something shameful to live with. And you pranced off, stranger, before I could explain myself. To tell you I had just come from an open discussion on mental health issues. To tell you, I too, have struggled, and that I’m better now. I came to offer you hope and help.

But, maybe, stranger, you neither needed or wanted that help.

You asked me if I were a professional, what I could possibly do about it, but I could do a lot, if you would have let me.

You got on the train I did, and yes, I chose the cart towards you, because I was anxious and confused, why on earth would I get that kind of response?

So I tried to approach you again, and you leaped up in the opposite direction.

I felt at a loss. I watched you from afar. Trying to make sense of it, of your actions, of your not wanting anything to do with a basic question. Of you turning away from potential help.

Why wouldn’t you want help? Why wouldn’t someone want help? To me, I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand.

We got off at the same stop. It might have appeared like I was following you, but really, stranger, you were going in the same direction I was.

You ran up the steps.

I tried explaining myself again, that I could help, that it’s not so big of a deal, at the top of the station, but you uttered that you just couldn’t and you ran off again.

I felt more perplexed. What was I doing wrong? I just hadn’t explained myself correctly. If only I could get you to see that, then you would come around. I could help you, I could, I knew it.

So I went on the bus.

And, unfortunately, you were on the same bus. I sat down two seats away, and you leaped up again and headed all the way to the back. I couldn’t quite blame you but I hadn’t all but sat down before you ran away.

What were you so afraid of?

I thought about my projections on the bus, then.

I just wanted to help.

I didn’t want you feel helpless and hopeless, like I had all those months ago. I didn’t want you to get to the point where you’d kill yourself, or try to, because I had been there, too. I just wanted to help, but why wouldn’t you let me?

You don’t have to go it alone. I felt so helpless then. I was only trying to help. What was I doing wrong? Why couldn’t I get through to you? Why couldn’t I do anything right?

I cared, stranger, I cared. And I don’t even know you, from your black plaid shirt to your brown, knee high socks. From your dark blue hat and the shade of sunglasses hiding your eyes.

We got off the bus, at our destination of campus.

One last time. That’s all. I was going to give it just one last try, one last boost of confidence as the anxiety flooded my system and I tried to make sense of your puzzle.

Stranger, you ran away.

I mean, it was actually pretty amusing. You ran for the freakin’ HILLS. It’s not my fault we were heading to the same place.

You ran and you ran and you ran away.

And I called out to you, “Excuse me! Why are you running? I can help you!”

And away and away you went. Your knee high socks bobbing in the air. You disappeared around the corner. I think you even ran all the way back to the train station.

I didn’t understand, and I still don’t. It was the strangest experience of my day. It was still pretty amusing though, and I laughed to keep from crying.

If everyone would react that way to my trying to help, I’d have to consider myself not in a place equipped to help people.

But that’s not where my projection ends. In fact, it doesn’t end.

Why did I ask the passenger on the train if they were all right when they were sniffling, wiping their eyes, looking stressed and tired?

Why do I ask if someone is okay when they look like they’re possibly down in the dumps or just tired, sitting by their lonesome?

Why do I ask if someone is all right when they’re sitting on a ledge on campus?


Because I don’t see them there.

I see me.

And I ask, because no one–not many–asked me.

When all I wanted was to be seen, to be acknowledged, for my pain to be realized.

But in the dark I stayed. In the open train I weeped. On the ledge I sobbed. And still, still no one came.

Because not everybody notices. And not everybody cares.


But I do. I care. I want to be there for you, other strangers in the world, when you are feeling low, when you are considering ending your life, and I want to be there to remind you how truly shitty your pain is, and be there with you as you push through it. Or be there with you as you get the help you need. Whichever the situation calls for.

Because I don’t want to lose you.

You hear that?

I don’t want to lose YOU.

And, half of that means, because I see me in your shoes, that I don’t want to lose ME.

Basically, I project onto others my own suicidality. And I’m not sure how to effectively manage and cope through that.

So for now, I guess I’ll keep asking people if they’re okay. And I guess I’ll take that chance to ask someone if they’re struggling with a mental health issue, or if they’re feeling suicidal.

Because it’s too important not to talk about.

And I want to be there for you, strangers.

Because I couldn’t have been there for myself.