I want to speak candidly about something society tells us we aren’t allowed to talk about because it’s dark and scary: suicide. What if, every morning when you woke up, you had to choose to keep living? You had to choose to make your lungs keep drawing in air. You had to choose not to swallow that bottle of pills, not to take that scalpel and split yourself open. What if? For so, so many people this isn’t a what if, it’s a reality. Every day is a test, a challenge in strength and courage. Can you imagine? Can you actually fathom how much fortitude, how much resilience, how much tenacity that takes? Those who make the decision, every day, to live instead of end their pain, they are warriors! They are rockstars. They deserve respect and admiration.
I say, “they” but lately, as in the past few weeks… or maybe even months, I’m not sure, I’ve been dealing with suicidal thoughts. See, this is where people generally freak out and worry and wonder if they need to intervene. But this is why I’m talking about it because there isn’t any need to freak out or worry. I have suicidal thoughts but despite thinking about dying, I am actively choosing to live. This is, I think, a part of suicidal ideation that people don’t get. And it needs to be talked about in order to alleviate some of that stigma. One can be suicidal and not act on those thoughts. One can even have a plan and not act it out. Yet, when people find out someone is suicidal, they make every effort to lock them away, for the suicidal person’s safety, they say. But I think it’s really just to assuage the other person’s fear or possible guilt should anything happen. Now tell me that isn’t selfish? Taking away someone else’s autonomy in order to make yourself feel better.
Selfish is how people often refer to those who’ve become too weary in the battle. But, I promise you, those who die by suicide aren’t acting out of self interest. Just because someone has suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean they’re not fighting like hell for a future. This is precisely why suicide is not a selfish decision. Yes, they want the pain to end. But, no, it isn’t all about that. Generally, I think people struggling with suicidal ideations have tried everything to stay here for the people they love. And choosing to not live anymore likely wasn’t an easy decision. Just as choosing to live isn’t an easy decision. Suicidal ideation tells the person, “everyone is better off without you.” It tells them, “you’ll be doing them a favor.” It says, “no one will even miss you. Their lives will be so much more peaceful.” Suicidal ideation is a liar but a damn convincing one. A liar that makes it feel like there isn’t any choice. That it is just time. But, that liar doesn’t get to have all the say.
When I was a teenager, I made regular attempts on my life. I didn’t give a crap about life because I felt like it didn’t give a crap about me. The one time I came close enough to succeeding that I had to be hospitalized (only for the day because my mother talked them out of a psych hold), I got the silent treatment for weeks. I got a letter about how selfish I was, that I could even try to do that to myself. Didn’t I know how much that would hurt everyone else? At the time, and still sometimes now, I thought/think but what about me? What about my pain? Isn’t it selfish to make me continue living in turmoil, so that you can feel good? Who in this equation is selfish? I don’t know. Maybe no one. But, I do know, people often care way more than suicidal ideation leads us to believe. That’s why it is so important to just keep choosing life. If not for other people, then for yourself. Because life really does have so much potential. And you’re way more important than you realize.
When I make the choice to live, I counteract the thoughts of hopelessness and the futility of life by making future based decisions. This works for me but I know it won’t work for everyone. Each person has to find their own thing. And, of course, I remain aware while making these decisions that if I really decided I was going to die having started grad school or having bought a new car or house or having started therapy won’t be enough to keep me here. But, for now, it’s enough.
I’m not sure why I’ve decided to talk about this now. I hope that by writing this, by sharing some of my own experience, it helps in some way. I know it doesn’t change anything. But, I guess I hope that maybe it will make talking about suicide a little less taboo or scary. Or, maybe it will give someone the courage to seek help. There are so many resources: the hope line, the Samaritans, toll free suicide hotlines, text lines, therapists, psychiatrists, etc. If you’re feeling suicidal and don’t think you can keep choosing to live and you don’t have the energy to find the resources available in your country, please reach out to someone. Or, reach out to me. I’ll do whatever I can to help you keep choosing life. And I promise to do whatever I can to help make life a little less dark and a little less lonely; it’s only fair, if I ask that you keep working through the pain and the darkness. Because, trust me, I know how much strength that takes.