I know that this next tip will wash over some of you just like water and you won’t be able to take it in. You’ll laugh or cry and think to yourself that I don’t understand or that you don’t have the strength that is needed. But, these are, afterall, tips and tricks for SURVIVING. So you know what is next. For many of us with mind-numbing depression and hopelessness it often seems like suicide is the only and best way to relieve the pain involved with living. So tip number six is:
6) First, last and every step on your list should be to cause yourself no harm. Preferably this would include to cause yourself no psychological or emotional harm, but let’s just stick with physical harm for the time being. Let me tell you about my own struggles with suicide. Unfortunately it is a short trip from happiness to suicidal ideation for me.I don’t even remember when it started, but somehow I got latched onto the idea that suicide would somehow stop the extreme emotional distress that I was feeling. I started having mental health issues when I was about 15, but the suicidal ideation didn’t begin then. I was mostly too psychotic and still too hopeful to think about suicide then.
However, I do remember being more in tune to the lecture that they gave at my junior high about suicide than any of my friends seemed to be. I could imagine the horror and a secret part of me could imagine being the one who had hung herself or overdosed. For me suicide was always a serious subject. I still remember something my fifth grade teacher said about suicide. For some reason she was talking about it. I think we were doing math and it was some statistical problem or something. And she told us that each of us would eventually know someone who would die by suicide. In my fifth grade mind I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that! Little did I know then how prevalent it is and how dangerously close to the edge I would come.
It turned out that a number of years later the first person I ever knew who was lost to suicide was the kid I used to sit next to in that fifth grade class. His name was Travis Koon and he was the smartest, funniest, nicest, most creative kid you could know. He was charming and handsome. He had a lot of friends and was popular at school and I have no idea why he shot himself one day and ended all of that.
To this day I have no idea. He is just gone. His parents got divorced because of the suicide fallout and they moved away. Personally, I don’t know how you ever recover from losing a child to suicide or a parent for that matter. If I had a time machine the only thing I would do over would be to go back in time and plant a little seed in Travis’ head that would remind him never to kill himself no matter what came up as he got older. I would use my time sitting next to him in fifth grade class to tell him to make a promise to someone or the universe that he would never kill himself…if I could.
And if I could, I would plant that seed or robot or whatever inside of you too. Maybe I don’t know you, but I do know that every suicide is a tragedy and every person who kills themselves is more loved than they will ever know.I once had this friend named John Hughes. We have grown apart, but as far as I know he is still alive. Anyway, I remember reading something that he wrote once. He is a fabulous writer by the way. Anyway, he was writing about AIDS victims in the early 1990’s and he wrote how all of his friends and lovers, the people he didn’t even know yet, but the people who should have been in his life were dying before he could even know them. They were dying tragically and too soon because of AIDS. I always remembered that thought and it reminds me of all the people we lose to suicide. People who should be our friends and lovers. They are gone and even if we can’t really know who was supposed to be there in our lives, maybe in some way we, the ones who are left behind, feel like there is a hole of empty space where a whole other part of our lives should be.
Death is a given, but suicide is altogether tragic.
But still knowing all of this never stopped me from thinking about suicide and it never stopped me from actually trying to kill myself, well, completely. I think some of what I know and thought about did save me from going full throttle into suicide. I was afraid of dying. I was afraid of someone finding my dead body 2 weeks later. I was afraid of what it would do to my parents, my brother. I wanted to make that leap of faith, but all I could manage were half-hearted attempts. Attempts serious enough to get my stomach pumped, but obviously I am still alive.
I don’t know how to describe the pain of living to someone who has never experienced it before, and I don’t know why it hurts so much. I don’t know why I would cry or be completely empty of tears. I don’t know why I was miserable. Trying to be happy didn’t work. Therapy didn’t work. Nothing worked. I just wanted it to stop.
And now? I feel completely different. Most days I feel great, even happy. I’m happy to be alive. I’m happy to be sane. I’m happy to have this time to spend with my parents and brother. Is my life perfect? Of course not. I still have schizophrenia. I still have to take medications, but it doesn’t bother me. You mean all I have to do is take a few pills and I can be relatively happy and sane? You are kidding me!
I am grateful for every day that I have to live on this planet. But, when I was really depressed I never thought I’d see a day like this. I thought the misery would last until I offed myself. I was wrong.
Something happens in our brains when we are depressed that makes us see only the bad and none of the good. When you feel bad the whole world looks horrible. It might seem like the best solution is to kill yourself, but it really isn’t. I know that living is sometimes the hardest thing to do, but it is worth it. I don’t have an answer for when you are feeling really low and depressed and suicidal other than to say that you need to hold on and don’t react with physical violence toward anyone, including yourself, no matter how bad you feel. Feelings may feel like death, but they won’t kill you. Eventually they will subside. But you can’t ever take back a bullet to the head or a bottle of painkillers or whatever. You must ignore your urges to kill yourself. Just take it off the table as an option. If you have to live for the people you love if you can’t live for yourself at the moment.
If you can’t be safe with yourself, go to the hospital emergency room. Just say: I’m here because I feel like killing myself and I can’t be safe alone. Maybe you’ll feel embarrassed or ashamed, but so what? You will be alive the next day.
And, if you know someone who is suicidal, be a friend. Get them some help.
So, do whatever you need to to keep yourself safe. Don’t act on your impulses. You can’t ever take back a deadly attempt on your life. But, you can feel better someday. I promise you that it is possible. Stay safe, please. Someday you will be happy to be alive, so fight with all the strength you have to stay alive. Please.