There’s an article floating around Facebook right now about suicide. “10 Things You Should Know Before You Kill Yourself”. Read it here. In fact, I read it twice and both times, it made me angry. I see lots of people floating the article around and talking about how it’s such a good article because it talks about what happens to those who are left behind. And although some of the points in the article are totally true, the article itself makes me angry because of how it made me feel as someone who attempted suicide years ago.
Yes, I just said that. December 15th, 2002, I sat at my desk in my bedroom and did what many others have done before me. It was a desperate and somewhat pathetic attempt to end my life. In my 42 years of existence, that was the lowest I have ever been. Having gone through it myself, reading that article infuriates me because of what it would likely do to someone who is actually suicidal.
Now, I can’t talk about what others have felt. I only know how I felt and why I chose to do what I did. So this story is all from my point of view, but I suspect there are many others out there who have been in a similar situation.
For me, the article made me angry because it was a long list of things made to make me feel guilty about doing what I felt was the only option I had. Every one of those items in that list would make a depressed person feel even more guilty and sad about what they are about to do. Is that really what you want to do to someone who’s ready to off themselves? Hey, I’m so depressed about my life that I want to die, why don’t I read a list about things that are going to make me even more depressed. That should put me over the edge.
When I read the article, it made me feel guilty, and my issue was 14 years ago. It made me feel angry because every one of those points tells the potential victim all about what they are doing to everyone else and that the person should be thinking of how their actions will affect everyone else in their lives. So again, a person who feels like their life is so bad that they have to end it shouldn’t focus on what’s bothering them, but should focus on how it will affect everyone else? Are you kidding me? The article makes it seem like when a person is at their absolute worst, they should be thinking about what everyone else will think, and not about how to help themselves. Great job guys! Let’s continue to reinforce the idea that everyone else around you is more important than you. Make sure you don’t ever do anything that others might be upset by despite how suicidal you’re feeling right now. WTF?!?!?!?!
Again, I can’t speak for others, but here’s a bit of insight into what was my reasoning, and why maybe it’s not what you think.
For me, and I suspect for many others as well, it’s not that you want to die. It wasn’t for me. I didn’t really want to die. What I wanted was to stop feeling so awful. I wanted my pain and despair to be over with. I was in a real dark place and in that moment, I felt alone. I felt like I had no one around who could truly understand how I felt or what I was going through. I just wanted all of that pain to go away and if I was dead, I couldn’t feel it anymore.
Why didn’t I try to talk to someone? Because I’ve seen the after-school specials and I knew exactly what people would say. “It will get better.” “Time heals your wounds so you just need to push through it.” “A year from now things will be better”.
All of those things are great to hear, except they don’t solve the immediate problem. A person sitting in a room ready to kill themselves doesn’t want to hear that a year from now, things will be peachy. To them, that means they have to be miserable for another year before they can feel better. They want to feel better NOW. I wanted to feel better in the moment. I didn’t want to continue to feel that despair any longer and I knew people would all tell me the same thing: it gets better. Telling me that things will be better eventually does not actually help a person in the moment from feeling better. They want that hate and anger and despair, and hurt all gone. We all know it doesn’t just magically go away, but if you’re at the point where you want to die, you are desperate for anything that will just make it go away.
That’s the way it was for me. I couldn’t stand being where I was and just wanted it to go all away. So I did what I did and then I had to face the consequences. For me, as it turns out it was a few nights in a hospital and the realization that I truly had hit the bottom.
Now, all cards on the table, I figured swallowing a bottle of pills wasn’t going to kill me but I didn’t know for sure. I laid in bed for awhile and thought about what was happening in my body. But then for whatever reason, I got up, grabbed my keys, and drove myself to the hospital. In retrospect, I think subconsciously I knew that if I went to the hospital, I would have to explain what happened, and I would have to deal with the consequences of my actions, which would in turn force me to really deal with my life and not take a quick exit. I did have friends and family come to the hospital and I did have to deal with the aftermath of that.
That’s the only part of the article I am in agreement with. There were people who couldn’t believe I would do such a thing and why I didn’t just turn to them for help. It’s a lot harder to do than anyone will ever know unless you have actually gone through it. After my stay there, I packed up my clothes, went back home, and started to rebuild my life.
Within a month, I had literally excised the poison from my life that was the biggest source of my depression. A few months later, long time friends of mine started up their old band and wanted my help. Then a few months later, I reconnected with Tamara. The rest is history.
This isn’t a story I tell often. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by it. It is part of who I am and is something that I had to experience to get where I am today. But it does provide me a very clear and unique view into what it is like to be at the bottom of that well, looking up and not thinking you’re ever going to get out. Don’t just outright assume that someone who is at the bottom is interested in thinking about what everyone else will think or feel. What they need is your support, your help, and for you to be there.
For anyone that might be descending into that well of despair and you don’t know how to get out, here’s my advice:
Take one deep breath and think of one thing you know that you enjoy. Whether it’s walking, reading, biking, watching a funny TV show, visiting a friend or family member, whatever. Go do one of those things. Do at least one thing that does bring you joy or a smile to your face. Do that any time you start to feel like you are going down that well. Once you’ve done this a few times, you’re going to feel a bit better about talking to someone. Talking is not easy, especially at the bottom of the well. But if you can experience a bit of joy first, it can help you to want to talk.
And you do need to talk. You do need to find ways to express how you feel. If you can’t talk, then write about it, blog about it, make a video and post it online for your friends to see and you’ll be surprised how many people will flock to you to help. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out when you are at your low. I did it. We all do it.
But for those who think that suicide is a “selfish” act because of how it affects everyone else. You need to stop thinking about yourself and everyone else, and think about that person. Think about how horrible that person must feel that they have sunk to that level. How much pain and anguish that person is experiencing and they can’t figure out how to get out of it except killing themselves. They are at the bottom of the bottom in their life and all you can do is call them selfish?
It’s not selfish. It’s their last resort.