My Life and Suicide
Suicide Prevention Week 2018
I’ve been chewing on this post for a few weeks. Trying to figure out what I want to say and how I want to say it. So far everything I’ve written hasn’t been able to capture my relationship with suicide. It’s not that I don’t have something to say, but for a lot of reasons it’s hard to say it. Trying to understand suicide — why someone would take their own life — is frightening and perplexing. Imagine how hard it must be to ask for help.
Suicide makes me think about my middle school boyfriend. Years ago a mutual friend posted on Facebook that he had taken his own life. They linked to his obituary, which was vague, sorrowful, and optimistic. I remember him waiting by my locker before school. I remember sitting together at lunch and holding hands. I remember how we were both struggling with mental illness but didn’t know how to talk about it. I hadn’t thought about him for well over a decade but today he sits with me.
A few years ago I went home to visit my parents and we were chatting about the youth group I attended as a teenager. I mentioned a guy who had been involved with the group and mused out loud wondering what he was up too. My parents’ faces suddenly clouded and they confessed to me that he had died by suicide about eight years ago. I asked them why they didn’t tell me and they said they didn’t want to upset me. Today he’s on my mind.
I have friends who’ve attempted suicide and thankfully they are still here today. Some of them talk about their experiences to educate friends and family, others use their story as a way to advocate for change, and others don’t share at all but live every single day the best they can. And all of these actions are valued. More importantly, all of these friends are cherished. I think about what life would be like if suicide took over and ended their lives and it’s so hard to imagine a world without them. But, in my own way, I understand. Today in particular I carry them in my heart.
When Robin Williams died it felt like losing a father figure. I grew up under the wisdom, warmth, and humor of such characters as Mrs. Doubtfire, the Genie from “Aladdin,” and Batty Koda from one of my favorite films, “Fern Gully.” My parents got me two goldfish when I was a kid and I named one Robin and the other one Williams. Robin ended up eating Williams, which normally would’ve been a pretty big blow for a fourth grader, but I knew the real Robin Williams would probably find this funny. Humor gives me hope and today Robin Williams is in my smile.
Three attempts. It’s hard to remember the details; honestly most of it is rather hazy. I do remember the aftermath and I remember the pain on my parents’ and husband’s faces much more vividly. To this day they look at me with love and worry in their eyes and I understand why. But the thing that I wish I could remember the most? Exactly what I was thinking and how it must’ve felt to be so lost that suicide felt like the only answer. I remember things in snippets. Pouring all of my medication into a cup. The tortured face looking back at me in the mirror. The red on my wrists. The anxiety that I wasn’t doing this right and I wouldn’t die, failing yet again. The cold night that I walked to the bridge near my house in thin pajamas. When I’m sick suicide feels like my only answer. It’s easy to forget that I’m a fighter. It’s easy to forget that I’m a survivor. That the healthy me — the real me — knows how completely loved and worthwhile she is. One of the reasons I am still here is because I am so incredibly blessed to have people in my life who care about me. Who share their hope. Donate perspective. Keep me safe when I’m struggling. It was hard asking for help, there were so many occasions that I just couldn’t do it, but my family and friends have always been there for me no questions asked. With every breath I take — today and everyday — I thank my husband and my parents for never giving up on me.
I don’t know what else to say, really. I still haven’t found the right words. I sit down with my laptop and not much pours out. But lately I’ve been significantly more reflective. This past week I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about myself, my life, and how happy I am that I’m still here. Sitting with my thoughts, exploring my ideas, digging up the meaning behind my feelings. I’m usually the loudest person in the room, I always have something to say and know how to say it with gusto, but right now I’m realizing that looking within and trying to understand my illness better — actually, understand myself better — is important for my own recovery. I might never fully understand why I’ve turned to suicide in the past, but I’ve come to accept the fact that suicide has always been a part of my life and it may always be, but I am more than my disorder. I deserve a happier ending. Actually, I deserve a life that doesn’t focus on endings at all but rather staying present and pushing forward. But there are so many people out there who struggle like I do and the tragedy is how some of them don’t survive. My privilege gave me first, second, and third chances, which when it comes to mental illness, is a luxury I no longer take for granted. We can’t forget the people who’ve lost their lives to suicide. We have to remember them and tell their stories. We have to challenge the stigma and prejudice that rob people of their existence. We have to challenge ourselves to look within and find our own answers.
For someone who says she doesn’t know what to say I realize I’ve said quite a bit, but this past week I’ve truly been a better listener — to myself and others — than a better writer. So while I may not be saying anything right, I’m so fucking grateful that I’m here to at least try and say it.
Thank you so much mom, dad, and Spencer
We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
You are not alone.