I had wanted to get this post finished and published on Monday, as it was World Suicide Prevention Day… but in a way I’m glad I failed to meet that deadline, as why should there be just one day to ‘prevent suicide’ or to talk about suicide? Awareness days are all well and good, but I’d prefer it if we were more open all the time, about our struggles. We can help each other feel less alone, and perhaps give each other hope. We don’t need one day to do that. People weren’t just considering suicide or acting on those thoughts on Monday… every day people are contemplating ending it all. Right now people are paying serious thought to their place in existence… they need us to keep the conversation going today, tomorrow and every tomorrow after it. If people only care for one day, and can’t keep going day after day, how can we expect people to keep living day after day, when they’re in such turmoil and distress? We cannot expect people to keep going if the support and understanding doesn’t also keep going. So here’s what I wanted to say about suicide…. it’s rather long, as I don’t speak about it often… goes without saying, be careful reading it, due to the subject matter……
I don’t have all the facts and figures on suicide, like many others put out there on World Suicide Prevention Day. All I have is an insight into the thoughts and feelings that would lead someone to feel that desperate as to choose to end their life. Until now I have never attempted to take my own life. I have considered it – sometimes just in passing as I walk past something that could be ‘a means’… sometimes more thought out… actually putting myself in the situation where I could make that decision. 6th December last year was the first time I really couldn’t see me being able to carry on, and it was the first time I phoned the Samaritans. I didn’t know what to expect but there was a gentle, caring sounding woman on the other end of the phone, who helped me through that desperate night. And the next day I shared with my family how bad things were. That was a low point in my life and I really couldn’t bear living anymore. There have been these moments I’ve seriously considered suicide. But until now at least, I have chosen the endless painful torment that is life.
But in more recent times my mind has become so much darker and more desperate, that it has sought comfort in the notion of death. Suicide plagues my thoughts. Every day lately I consider the way I could do it. I think what would be the quickest way… the most certain way… the least distressing or inconvenient for other people. You see, I’m still at that point where I can think of the people who would find me. When you reach that point where you choose death, there really is no room left for anything else. The mind and soul have been swamped by darkness and decayed hope. I’ve never been there, but I have heard from people who have, and I know enough to know that if I don’t get help soon, I will be faced with that reality myself. I’m close enough to it, to know that it takes over the mind to the point that not much else can fit in.
I know, because although I am thinking about the people who would have to witness it or find me, and I wouldn’t want to traumatise them, I also know that the pain I’m enduring is too strong and too much to bear, and in the end that will trump everything else. There will come a time when I put myself first and everything else will go out the window.
People think of suicide as a selfish act. I want to say a couple of things on this – yes…. I can understand the argument that it is selfish, and if that is the case then I can also understand why people still make that choice. I myself have been staying alive for my family now for the last few years. They are the only thing keeping me going right now. I am putting their feelings ahead of my own need to be free of this pain. I have had selfish people destroy my life and then claim I was selfish for being upset about it. All my life my needs and my wishes have come second (not to family though). So much so that I think of myself as ‘selfish’ whenever I take some time for myself and focus on self-care, or when I’m not there for my friends or family. When your self-worth is that low because you’ve had to stuff your needs down all your life, and then when it all becomes too much to bear inside, and you choose to put your needs first and end your suffering, people call you ‘selfish’… that is wrong. You have no idea what that person has gone through, and how very much the opposite to selfish they have been, to have held on so long, for you. I understand that people will always view suicide as ‘selfish’. In some ways I could even agree that it is. That is not to say people are bad for opting for it. It is not to say they shouldn’t be allowed to make that choice for themselves. And it’s not to say it is EVER done with a selfish intent. Which brings me to my second point…
Suicide, whilst perceived by others as ‘selfish’ is often viewed by the person themselves as a selfless act. Many people who reach such a crisis point as to want to end their own lives, very often feel like a burden to those around them. They feel like a terrible person… a nuisance. Some feel invisible and don’t think anyone would notice or care if they died. But some actively think that others will be better off without them. It might not make sense to a calm, positive and rational mind – you might say ‘there is ALWAYS someone who cares about you’… but you don’t know other people’s circumstances. You may think that someone has a loving family, a network of friends, a happy relationship… and those people themselves may think that they communicate their love, care, appreciation and support – but it doesn’t mean it is being received by the person in crisis.
For instance, in the last few months I’ve had to cope basically on my own. None of my friends would know that the other friends weren’t there for me either, and that I’ve had to cope alone. I sometimes get messages saying ‘You know I’m here for you’… as if it’s a given. But sometimes when in crisis, everything goes out the window. If people think ‘Well they know how I feel about them… they know I care… it goes without saying’ and therefore don’t communicate it to us, we feel as though we’re totally alone and uncared for. Just telling each other what we mean to one another may be the thing that saves someone from suicide. You can’t expect people to just know how you feel about them.
Even if people DO feel loved and appreciated, sometimes it’s still not enough to save someone from the demons in their mind. Sometimes love isn’t enough. To live with a constant enemy inside you, ripping your soul apart from the inside, every single day, it’s exhausting, and eventually everyone reaches their limit. If they don’t have the right support, which is quite common nowadays in this country, and there’s nowhere to turn, some will choose to take matters into their own hands. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you. I think that’s what many people feel when a loved one ‘chooses death over’ them. Unless you know the endless torment of mental illness, you’ll never know how someone could choose to end it. It is not personal. It’s not about you. It’s something deeper and more complex than you could imagine…. an inner demon that’s taken control of the wheel. Someone could have every good reason to live and still want to die, because they are haunted by this sickness of the mind that robs them of all light and hope.
And one last point on the idea of ‘selfishness’ and suicide. I cannot count how many times I have seen comments on local news stories, where roads have been closed due to ‘an incident’, as in someone contemplating suicide… and these comments are always the same…. of ‘inconvenience’ … it’s the same with trains, when someone has ended their life on the tracks, and people are blurting it straight out about how selfish it was, and how they’re going to be late for XYZ, or they’ll miss the football, or whatever… my message to those sorts of people is this… I understand your frustration. Perhaps XYZ was important to you. Perhaps you frequently encounter this problem and you’ve had enough of it. But no matter what your annoyance is, be thankful that you get to go home to your loved ones. Be thankful that you have just had enough of being held up by people on the tracks. Those people on the tracks had enough of life, and ended it. They won’t be returning home to their loved ones… those loved ones will be grieving tonight, and for the rest of their lives. Be grateful that you don’t understand the desperation and torment that leads someone to end their life.
It shocks me when I see those sorts of comments or hear them from people. You always hear the ‘Why don’t they just go off somewhere private and do it quietly?’ thing, which shows the utter heartlessness of people, and makes me question the goodness of humanity. But I understand these are people never touched by suicide or mental illness. They would be horrified to learn it was a friend or family member who ‘inconvenienced’ them by ending their life. But because it’s a stranger they think it’s okay to be callous about their life. Some people will go off and die quietly, as you wish them to, others will see an opportunity and take any means possible to be gone. I know you won’t like this, but some people actually want to be saved. They want to be stopped. They feel suicidal but they really don’t want to die, and they’re scared that it will happen.
I have had times when I’d fantasise about a particular way of doing it, and a great part of that fantasy was people trying to stop me and help me. I wanted to know my life was worth saving. I wanted to get the help I need. It’s not about getting attention. It’s reaching a crisis point and not knowing where to turn or what to do. It’s needing more help than is available to you. It’s needing to feel you’re worth saving. Being protected and rescued. To have someone hear and see your pain, and take it seriously and save you from yourself.
Suicide is a tragedy. And people sit at home on their computer, or on their phone, writing about the inconvenience of ‘jumpers’. How it disrupts their lives. No humanity. No compassion. Just pure selfishness. That is the true face of ‘selfish’. Not the person in such distress they cannot live anymore, but the people who do not know that pain and suffering and whinge about being late. Selfishness is people making someone feel so bad about themselves or so alone, that they no longer want to live in this world and see suicide as their only option. And people calling it the ‘easy way out’ … ‘the coward’s way out’… when they don’t know what they’re talking about. There is nothing ‘easy’ about choosing to take your own life. It takes a lot of ‘resilience’ and being worn down by life to reach that point. It takes a heck of a lot of inner conflict, backwards and forwards between just wanting peace, but not wanting to hurt anyone else. Nobody makes that choice easily. And even people who don’t want to live life anymore will feel scared of dying.
I don’t promote suicide. I simply say that I understand it and I am against people attacking this highly taboo subject, forcing more people into silent suffering. I want people to know that I understand the agony that leads to those thoughts and those places, because I’ve been at least three quarters of the way there, and that’s enough to know the hell you’d be in, to make that final decision. It’s a decision I wish people didn’t make. I wish they didn’t have to make it. I wish that life could be kinder to those people and they could defeat their demons, in life. I want people to hold on and fight against this illness that’s telling them to leave this life. Too many good souls are lost because of suicide… because of the conditions that lead to suicide…
Suicide is very often the final symptom of a mental illness. Just as death is the final symptom of a terminal cancer. I know you might argue that point, saying that cancer robs a person of their life, whereas suicide is a person throwing their life away. But the reality is that those who reach that point of suicide most likely feel their illness has robbed them of their life. Suicidal thoughts and self-harm can be symptoms of many mental illnesses. I know matters of the mind are harder to understand than physical illnesses, but they’re no different. Mental illnesses have symptoms, which are not the fault of the one suffering them. We would trade lives with someone in a heartbeat, if it meant having hope and a life worth living. I would give anything to not be experiencing sickening paranoia, isolation, abandonment, self-destructive urges, self-harm, splitting on people and the world, daily suicidal thoughts, hopelessness and flashbacks to every painful thing that’s ever happened. I would love to trust people. I would love my mind to be quiet for once. It is so jam-packed with the noises of memories, worries, made-up scenarios, paranoid thoughts, negative self-narrative, and the silent scream for me to just end it all. I have no room in my head for anything else. It’s already overcrowded. I want a bit of peace and quiet. Nobody chooses their symptoms, or their illness.
I take medication. I am still waiting to hear from the mental health services, just for the initial assessment! My world has shut down around me. I am isolated. Nobody knows the depth of my suffering. Suicidal feelings are hard for me to share with others – it’s pretty much the only symptom I don’t talk about in real life with people, for fear of their reactions. I don’t want to upset anyone, or alarm them. But I know I’m going to have to find the courage to discuss it at some point soon, and I just hope I have a calm, validating reaction when I do finally speak up. Silence around suicide is a big risk factor. A lot of the time people have no idea someone feels like ending their life, until they’re gone. They don’t see the warning signs. The signs are there. The world is just too busy and people are caught up in their own lives to notice them…
Signs of suicidality include:
- Talking about / being preoccupied with death and suicide.
- Increased self-harming behaviour.
- Withdrawing / isolating.
- Feeling trapped or hopeless.
- Giving away possessions.
- Being unable to concentrate / feeling restless.
- Agitation / irritation.
- Changes in personality / mood.
- A calm / positive burst after continuous deep depression – this is often as the person is resolved to ending things… it brings them peace to know an end is near.
- Engaging more in risky behaviours.
- Changes in sleeping / eating habits.
- Talk of feeling like a burden.
- Negative view of self / life / the world.
- Saying goodbye to people / making confessions.
I think the biggest signs for people ought to be that the person talks and writes about death and suicide more. I think there’s this myth that if it’s being talked about it’s not going to happen. This is wrong. I have talked about ending it for the last eight months or so. Admittedly I haven’t done anything yet. But what concerns me is the silence on the other end. People could see me talking about wanting to die, and had nothing to say to me. My take on that is that they don’t honestly believe I will do something. But me talking about it was me reaching out for help, so that I wouldn’t do it. The trouble is eventually you stop talking about it. You go silent. And then if you were to follow it through, those same people who heard you talk about it for months would bleat out the same line – ‘Why didn’t she say anything?’ … ‘I had no idea she felt that bad’. The warning signs are there. And talking about suicidal feelings has to be one of the most blindingly obvious signs that someone is considering ending their life. Yet it’s often ignored as a ‘threat’ or ‘attention-seeking’. People talking about suicide is your chance to save them from it. So please don’t ignore someone as ‘crying wolf’ if they say they don’t want to live anymore. One day you’ll regret ignoring this sign.
Personally, my self-harm has got worse. I have withdrawn from everyone and I’m isolating myself. I feel trapped and worthless… completely hopeless. I don’t see a future for me. My concentration isn’t that great right now. It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I wanted it posted yesterday as well, but I had awful anxiety yesterday which only felt worse when writing this. I always feel like a burden. There’s not much good left that I see in me, life or the world and the people in it. And I am in the process of writing / saying things for people to know when I’m not here anymore. I’ve set it as my goal to stay alive long enough to document certain things, and to tell people the truth about my feelings and events. In the last few months I actually wrote ‘a note’. It didn’t become anything. I don’t know where it’s gone or what I said in it. But I’ve definitely gone to some extremely dark places this year. Right now I’m advised to take it minute by minute, so that’s what I intend to do. Everything feels broken and ruined beyond repair. But I have to just limp on and not worry about the big picture at the moment. I have to focus on me and getting through each minute. But I do so, with very heavy and intrusive thoughts of suicide.
But you wouldn’t think it to look at me. If you saw me I would be trying my hardest to wear a smile, even if that smile doesn’t touch my eyes I’ll be trying my hardest to force it to.
The whole thing with mental illness and suicide, is you never know when you’re standing next to someone or talking to someone, who wishes they were dead, or who has plans this evening to end their life. Suicide is a silent killer, often known about too late. We need to be able to speak out about how we’re feeling, and we need to have it taken seriously. If we’re speaking out about wanting to end our own lives, we’re scared, and we want to feel safe, loved and supported. It’s not easy to talk about suicide, so if we do it, please listen.
Whenever I used to be asked about suicidal thoughts by mental health professionals, I would say that I thought about it, but would never do anything about it. This was because I was afraid of their reaction. I was afraid of the doors it might open (or close). I was worried it would result in lectures, or even abandonment. The truth is I never felt completely safe from the possibility of actually doing something. And as time has gone on I have become less certain of what I’m capable of. After self-harming at therapy last year, which is something I never thought would’ve happened – I never thought I’d have been caught self-harming – I now don’t know what the limits are for me. I can’t honestly say that I wouldn’t do something. Would I admit this to a mental health professional? I don’t really know. Because I have a fear of the unknown. And I don’t know what lies beyond honesty about suicidal intent.
I feel certain at this point that it’s the direction my life is heading in. I see no future. I see no light or hope.
But let me clear something else up. I don’t want to die. I want to not want to die. I want a reason to live. I want a life. I want that life to bring me happiness, make me feel loved and important. I want people to treat me well. I want to matter. I want life to give me a break. I want to be able to cope with the world. I want more joy and love. I want to forget my past and dream of a future, that isn’t suicide. I don’t want to end my life. I want to end my pain.
This is the thing about suicide. Most people just want the pain to stop. They want the inner turmoil to mute. They want to heal. They want to kill the demon they carry with them everywhere they go. They want to be free of what weighs them down. This is how I feel. If life was different… better… I’d want to be a part of it. But at this point in time, the pull of ‘peace’ is greater than the pull of ‘life’. I don’t want to die. I want life to be better. I want to erase my memories. I want to not live in emotional pain every day. But when you are at this point, you feel there is nothing you can do to change the way your life is. You can’t make people treat you the way you wish they did. You can’t turn back time. You can’t forget everything you’ve been through. You can’t create your own breaks in life. You can’t create joy and love by yourself. You can’t make yourself matter to other people. You feel powerless. You can’t change your circumstances. But you can make a choice as to whether to live with those circumstances. And unfortunately that is why many people choose suicide. They see no other option.
People speak of the fear of being sectioned, for admitting suicidal ideation. I would fear this too, having never been sectioned. In some ways a part of me would welcome it. A great part of me right now wants to be kept safe from myself. But the fear of the unknown doesn’t give me that choice. So I have to keep pushing on, in the hope that my regard for my family’s feelings will overpower the overpowering wish to make everything stop. But nothing feels certain anymore. It’s no longer a given that I won’t do anything. And that scares me. This year has seen the worst decline in my mental health I’ve ever known. I’m no longer who I once was. The self-destructive part of me is running the show now, and I’m afraid of my own mind.
People don’t just wake up one morning and think ‘Hey, I’ll kill myself’ for no reason. It happens slowly… days, weeks, months, years of endless sadness, pain and depression… until one day it feels like the only option left.
Please don’t be so quick to judge suffering you couldn’t understand. There’s so much more going on underneath a person than you will ever know. Try to understand what someone has been through, before thinking of them as selfish or weak. Be there for them. Help them want to live again. Push for support for them. Don’t give up on them, as they’ve given up on themselves. And listen to them – allow them to talk to you about their suicidal feelings. Remain calm and caring. Validate how they feel and why they feel that way, but show your commitment to helping them continue with life. One suicide is one too many. It’s important we talk about our feelings. It’s more important that others listen.
If you’re feeling suicidal or struggling with your mental health then please try and seek help – I know it’s hard to come by now, but don’t suffer in silence. And give the Samaritans a call (or your national suicide helpline)… it might not fix everything, as the pain you feel cannot be cured overnight. But I hope they can give you the encouragement to see another day.
We’re in this together. You’re not alone in feeling the way you do. I understand how you feel. I’m going to keep trying, one minute at a time, and I hope that if I can do it, you can find the will to do it too. I know it’s hell and pure darkness, but all we can do is survive and pray the light will return in time. And I believe it will. I have to.
Take care of yourselves.