A Note About Suicide

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideations, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
US: 800-273-8255
UK Samaritans: 116 123
EU: here is a link with country’s lifelines sorted alphabetically
Australia: 13 11 14

Content Warning: suicide, depression, domestic abuse

September is Suicide Awareness month, so I thought now was as good of a time as any to discuss my own history with it. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have already seen my Story about it; here, I’ll go into more depth.

I’ve had Major Depressive Disorder since I was six years old. I won’t get into that too much here, but suffice to say that I didn’t know what true happiness was for a very long time. I thought I was always going to feel empty and unsatisfied, like I would rather be anywhere or anyone other than here, as myself, right now. That was life as I knew it from the time I was in second grade. Not much changed until I was a teenager, and it got worse. I didn’t see a point in trying to get good grades or applying for college, because the future was an abstract idea that happened to other people, not me. I thought I was going to cease existing by the time I was 22 — I don’t know why 22 was the “magic number”, but I just couldn’t see my life continuing beyond that point. So why put in the effort for a future if I already knew I wasn’t going to see it?

I attempted suicide twice when I was 20. By that point, I was in an abusive marriage, cut off from my family and friends, and helplessly lonely. When insomnia struck, as it often did, I would spend the night trying to imagine any scenario in which I could be happy. In all of them, either he or I ended up dead. Since I don’t have the stomach for homicide, that only left me one choice.

Did you know calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline counts as an attempt from a medical standpoint? I found that out later. It was a perfectly polite and completely unproductive conversation at two in the morning, but I’m still here, so I guess it worked for something.

The second time was pills. I had written a note and taken three when I got a text from a friend.

Hey, I’m checking in on you. You okay?

I had to put down the bottle to answer her.
I told her later that she saved my life that day, and she said, “Yeah, it seemed like something was up. I’m glad I checked on you.”

I definitely should have gone to the hospital and spent my time in the psych ward. I wanted to but couldn’t, because my ex-husband refused to admit there was anything wrong with me. He insisted I was being melodramatic, and I needed to pull myself together. When he finally did allow that something wasn’t right, he still wouldn’t let me leave under thin guises of needing me around and concern for my stress levels.

Even after the divorce, I still spent so many nights fighting the urge to do serious harm to myself. For years I would cry myself to sleep as the Depression Voice would insist that I was going nowhere, amounting to nothing, that I was going to spend my meaningless life running in circles and barely able to survive. I had a great support network of family and friends, I was in therapy, on and off medication, but still I couldn’t see the purpose in living.

The reason there are only two attempts and not many more is simple: dogs.

At the time, I was working as a dog walker. I was able to rationalize to myself that, if I didn’t come to work the next day, the dogs wouldn’t understand why they didn’t get their walks. I couldn’t let down the pups that I cared for, and that’s why I’m still here.
I don’t work with dogs anymore, but I have one of my own. When things get really dark, as they have and I know they will again, he’s the light glimmering in the distance. I can’t let him down.

I’ve heard many disparaging comments about suicide from disdainful family members and heartbroken friends.

Suicide is the coward’s way out.
I don’t understand why they couldn’t just tough it out. Life wasn’t that bad.
It’s so selfish, how could anyone do that to people they love?
How could they leave us behind like that?
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

If you’ve said those things, be grateful you have never reached points so low, but please stop saying them. Suicide is not a selfish act; it’s how the brain sees a way to end pain. Depression is an illness as real as cancer, and some people can overcome it, and some are claimed by it.
Chronic high blood pressure can lead to heart failure.
Kidney fatigue can lead to renal failure.
Severe pneumonia can collapse a lung.
Same concept, different organ.

Suicide should absolutely not be glorified. But it shouldn’t be vilified, either. It should be understood for what it is – the end result of a very serious illness.
Another excellent analogy I’ve heard is that suicide is like jumping out of a burning building: the fear of the fall is ever-present, but the fear of the flames is the driving force. Living with depression is like living in constant flames. When it looks like you’re going to die either way, the fall becomes the preferable option.

These days, I’m doing pretty well. There haven’t been any real attempts in over six years, and the ideations are less frequent, too. I’m in therapy (for PTSD) and on medication. Realistically, I’ll probably be on antidepressants for the rest of my life, because my brain doesn’t work the way it should. I’ve also heard disparaging things said about medications, to which I say: the medications make this the alive version of me, and that is enough. But that’s a different post.

This was a very heavy post, so I’ll end with this:
You are loved.
You are worthy of joy and good things.
You should eat something and drink some water. Yes, right now.
Your depression is lying to you, and isn’t the real you.
You are wonderful.
You are wanted.
You are loved.

Erica Jane

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