Suicide. The word itself is stigmatized with weakness, and shame. We judge people who kill themselves as being selfish, people who just gave up. I mean really, what could be so wrong in ones life to drive you to actually end it? Suicide leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the survivors…the loved ones who are left wondering why, or if they could have helped. Well I hope this perspective can help you, the non-suicidal person to take a journey in the thought process of a suicidal person, so perhaps you can better understand and either be able to help or at least cope.
I am not going to speak on behalf of all suicidal people, but this is my story. First of all, you need to be made aware that most if not all people who attempt or succeed at suicide are dealing with some sort of mental illness, sometimes diagnosed, often not. Most of us have experienced moderate to severe trauma in the early stages of our lives. Most of us were in some way victimized as children or teens or young adults. The mind is an amazing tool with its own protection method by compartmentalizing things we cannot deal with at the time. It is locked somewhere in the back of our minds, and often we think that because it is locked away, it is dealt with. Sadly, that is far from the truth. These traumatized emotions sneak back out in multiple forms, some we recognize, some we do not.
I was severely traumatized multiple times until age 14. My first suicide attempt was at age 8. Yes, I know you are thinking…how can an 8 year old know what suicide is, after all at that age children hardly comprehend death…which may be true. Perhaps I didn’t understand the long term consequences of what I was doing but I knew that if you were dead you weren’t here. I remember my mom always warning me when we went to my Grandma’s house to stay away from all her pill bottles. “Pills will make you very sick and you could die”…..a statement that immediately made sense in my small mind. So I grabbed as many pills as I could and hid them in my pockets until we got home. I don’t recall the time of day or many other details, except for knowing that these pills would make me sick or die and somehow end my pain. So, I took them all. The rest is a blur really, recollections mostly through what I was told. Turns out they were high blood pressure pills and my mom had found me as I was throwing them back up. It turned into a hospital stay and numerous outpatient therapy sessions. I felt embarrassed, ashamed and was made to feel like I was selfish and mean for doing this to my parents. Keep in mind this is the late 1970’s and therapy and medications were nowhere near the standards they are today.
I had 2 other attempts in the following 15 years, obviously both failed or I would not be telling my story. Suicidal ideation is deeply inset in your mind. It can become a part of your every thought and action. We usually are self-destructive in most of our habits and relationships because we do not know any better. Our self esteem has been crushed to the point that we self-hate, we believe we are worthless and serve no purpose. We have a sense of emptiness and loneliness that we think can never be filled. We feel vulnerable, and that no one will understand why we feel this way. We feel so insignificant and lost in this big world. We have lost the ability to hope…which is essential for survival. Imagine yourself in a dark cavern with no exit, not a ray of light shining through. How long could you stay there? That is how our minds see the world…in a form of black and white instead of color. We are too ashamed to seek help or even mention the word because we are made to feel that way. We are made to feel insignificant. Our thoughts are so easily dismissed in many areas of the medical field. We often have to wait up to a year or more just to see a therapist, and I am telling you that from a suicidal mind, a day can seem like a year, so a year seems like eternity, an insurmountable wall. The overwhelming amount of pain that is involved to become suicidal drives us to the idealizations. The negative thoughts that have been burnt into our brain, emotionally and physically for years are now habitual in how we perceive ourselves, telling us that it there simply is no purpose for us.
We often have been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness, be it, depression, PTSD, Bi-Polar…the list is long on diagnoses and medications and short on preventative resources. Suicidal ideations can be common amongst these types of illnesses, but the problem lies when the door between idealization and action presents itself. Sometimes that door is opened when we relive a trauma, or have a memory from a trauma. Sometimes it is opened because our minds create it as a way to get out of the darkness. The bottom line is you can’t see it, or understand it, yet we live it daily. It becomes our sense of hope, as most of us are simply looking for some way to make the pain stop. We have tried medications, or not. We have self-medicated, or not. We have seen therapists, or not. Sometimes none of that is enough to close the door that is beckoning us out of our darkness, and that is when our thoughts may turn into actions. It could only be a 5 minute period where our brain is so irrational that we act. We could have been planning it for days, months, or even years, and something finally cuts that last piece of rope you were holding on to. That is when you choose to let go.
That being said, after 3 attempts and thousands of idealizations, I am still here fighting. Most people who end their lives are not looking to hurt other people with their actions, they are simply seeking emotional peace and see no other way to achieve it. Everyone deals with pain differently. Everyone’s coping mechanisms are different. Every person has a different length of rope. Do not judge us for not knowing where to turn, or for asking for help. Instead, perhaps take a look in the mirror and try some to put yourself in that persons shoes. Try to think how awful they must have felt to have ended their lives, and question not what you could have done differently, but what you can do now. Encourage people to end the stigma of suicide. Tell them it’s ok speak and ask for help. Be a voice for the ones who lost theirs, and if you can’t do that, at the very least stop judging something you are ignorant about.
Ignorance is not stupidity, it is the refusal to learn.