Today is “World Suicide Prevention Day”. It’s a little ironic that it is one day before 9/11 when a group of men decided to commit suicide and take the lives of many innocent people while ending their own lives.
I have struggled to understand suicide until I myself was forced to face the overwhelming feelings of wanting to end the pain during some tough depressive episodes. I was surprised to learn that suicide isn’t isolated to just those who suffer from mental health disorders, which I had always believed, however, suicide affects many people for many different reasons. I feel blessed to have had a strong support system in my toughest and darkest moments.
What World Suicide Prevention Day Means to me: My Suicide Stories
Today is an important day for me because I have struggled with suicidal thoughts and ideations for many years. Trying to remind myself that I am not a burden to those I love is the hardest thing to do when I feel as low as I could be. Many times, I fought for my survival before I would reach a point of Suicide because of TJ.
When I was 15, TJ, the first man I ever loved, took his own life. I spent 17 years blaming myself, feeling enormous grief, and struggling with the agony of knowing he was gone. Until recently, when I spoke to his brother about what really led to his decision, I blamed myself for being the last one to speak to him before he made the choice that changed my life forever.
I didn’t know then what I know now. What I learned through my own depression is that suicide doesn’t discriminate about whether someone is beautiful, popular, easy to get along with, caring, and honest, suicide is an inescapable depressive state where your mind is at war with itself and has convinced you that if you live, the people who love you have to be burdened by your pain and hopelessness. That the people who love you will always have to work exceptionally hard to remind you that you are worthy and that you will be okay.
The simple truth is people who commit suicide do so to save the people they love from having to be burdened by their own deep sadness and pain. Suicidal thoughts don’t see another option when you are staring at the abyss of deep and endless depression. The depression becomes all consuming, sucking away your energy, all the positive thoughts, all the love you have, and all the reasons you are worthy. Depression doesn’t fight fair, in fact it fights you with your deepest fears, your worst memories, your hardest losses and all the self conscious parts of yourself. It reminds you constantly that you are worthless, ugly, unloved, unhappy, and a huge burden to the people whom you love.
Most people say to me when I’m low, “what about your children? What about your family? You have so much to live for and so many people who love you. You are so kind, beautiful, talented and you are better than this.” I have even heard people say, “snap out of it, stop being dramatic. Your life seems so perfect. You are going to hurt so many people. Don’t leave me because I love you and it will kill me to see you gone.”
The reality is this, when you are at the edge of a cliff, you have already made the choice that the ones you love are better off without you and the burdens you believe yourself to be (no matter how untrue it is). In your mind, you are staring into a great void. You have been fighting for days, weeks and years to convince yourself that you are worthy, but you have failed at doing that and the only way to escape is to end the pain, to stop the thoughts and be at peace. There is no, “get it together” switch inside the mind. Being attacked by the mind is a war far greater than most people realize.
Depression illuminates the brain and sets your mind into a free fall of all the sadness and negativity you have ever experienced. It’s traumatizing to experience painful memories all over again in vivid detail as the brain fires off one thing after another.
I used to have panic attacks when I would think about suicide, then I started to embrace that I wasn’t enough and never would be. Many of you have never, and hopefully will never, know what it feels like to stare into the darkness and how much strength it takes to come out of it with your life. I don’t have a desire to die, but many times I had a desire to end the torment so I can be at peace.
Today, for World Suicide Prevention Day, check on someone who you feel or know is struggling. Take it from me, if someone would have checked on me during my hopelessness, I may have had a reason “why not” to resort to suicide. Someone sharing that they care in my darkest hour may have given me a small glimmer of hope to get help before I found myself writing my final goodbyes. A phone call, not a text, or a visit can save a life. Be someone’s hero so you never have to attend their funeral and feel the blame of not having done something to show them you care.
Learn more about Suicide
A great resource is The Depression Project. They share incredible information about detecting whether or not someone you love is at risk for suicide. The Depression Project started the Semicolon Project
Suicide is a complex issue involving numerous factors and should not be attributed to any one single cause. Not all people who die by suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness and not all people with a mental illness attempt to end their lives by suicide.
Learn more at The Depression Project
Andrew Solomon delivers a deeply profound truth during his TED Talk entitled, “Depression, the Secret We Share.”
We know depression through metaphors. Emily Dickinson was able to convey it in language. Goya in an image. Half the purpose of art is to describe such iconic states. As for me, I had always thought myself tough, one of the people who could survive if I had been sent to a concentration camp.
He continues to say,
One of the things about depression is that you know it’s ridiculous. You know it’s ridiculous while your experiencing it. You know that most people manage to listen to their messages and eat lunch and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door and that it’s not a big deal, and yet you are none-the-less in its grip and you are unable to figure out any way around it.