I normally veer away from writing triggering material on my blog site, but this is a message I feel very strongly needs to be shared. The following post is about suicide and the strong emotions that accompany both before and after an attempt is made.
If you feel unable to read such material, I ask that you do not. Be safe.
There have been a lot of high profile people taking their own deaths into their hands.
Kurt Cobain, Chester Bennington, Kate Spade, Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain are only a few of those who left us to wonder why they died so soon.
Their deaths by suicide have left the rest of us stunned to silence.
What were the thoughts of these people when they decided they no longer wished to live?
I have a front row seat into how that feels, and today I’m going to speak openly about it.
My purpose is simple; to try to help those in grief and those who would say these fine human beings were weak to understand the truth. Also, I wish to open a dialogue, to get people talking to each other about suicide and the real reasons people decide to make this permanent step to end their pain.
In 1995 I took an overdose of medications in an attempt to end my existence.
The day began normal enough.
I got up, made breakfast for myself and my husband, (now my ex-husband), then began the day cleaning the house and paying the bills.
Just another day.
Later that afternoon, I helped my husband, who was a truck driver and worked by driving away from home a week at a time, pack his things. After he and I had some intimate time together, we kissed goodbye. Then I calmly watched as he got into his truck, and drove away.
Just another afternoon.
A few hours later, I went to the kitchen to make my supper. I reheated a piece of pizza, grabbed a diet soda and my medication box. I then sat down in my recliner in the living room to eat. It was my full intention to sit and watch television after I took my nightly medications.
Just another evening.
I had not felt depressed any more than usual that day. I was always full of anxiety and an overwhelming sense that I was not supposed to be alive. I had fought that sensation for years, but it was very strong that night.
Sometime while I sat munching my pizza, I decided that taking my medications would help and that I would soon feel okay again after they took effect.
The next thing I knew I was staring into a completely empty medications box. There were all sorts of empty bottles, but not a pill in sight.
Now comes the part that many will find hard to understand.
Once I understood what I had done, I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t panicked.
What I felt was an enormous wave of relief washing over me.
I had struggled my entire life with depression and anxiety. It was the result of experiencing severe trauma in my childhood. I was in therapy, desperately attempting to understand what I had been through and place it in the past where it belonged.
The horrendous and exhausting pain of therapy, having to look myself and my past straight in the face, cannot be described in mere words. Many times, my heart was so weighed down that I felt I had lost any ability to ever reach my dream of a peaceful and fulfilling life.
I was a victim, a person who was of no value.
When that huge wave of relief hit me, it made me smile. I think I even laughed out loud.
It was over.
I had seen the wave before. I have taken care of elderly men and women and been with them when they took their last breath. I’ve seen with my own eyes the acceptance and watched that same tidal wave of peace washed over them.
I recognized that the pain, sorrow, anxiety, fear, I had been experiencing were all done. My struggles had finally come to an end.
I then went to bed fully intending never to wake up again.
Obviously, I was not successful in my leaving this world, and the repercussions of that evening still echo to this day.
When I awoke in the intensive care unit, I was devastated.
Not only was I alive, but now I had to face the flood of angry faces and voices of those who did not appreciate at all my attempt to escape my pain.
They felt betrayed and let me know it.
Because of this my self-disgust went beyond explanation.
For years after my attempted escape, I was looked upon by family, friends and doctors as a lost case. They resigned me under the label of lost cause, as someone who was going to eventually complete the task. In their eyes, I was either too weak, too sick or too far gone to ever succeed in life.
I became even more isolated than before.
I almost didn’t survive surviving.
I am telling of my experience with the wave of death to give important information to both survivors and anyone else who will listen.
I want to try to help those who are left behind and those who, like myself, have survived but still hear the enticing sound of the wave daily.
There are things you must know.
The agony I felt before I took those pills, and the relief I felt after, knowing my life was over, still sing in my mind. I’ve never felt the relief the wave brought me again, and quite frankly I crave that sensation.
Perhaps the minds of those who have died by suicide have also heard the singing of the wave, and gave in to its call.
Or perhaps, as in my case, there wasn’t someone in time to help them back to shore and resuscitate them.
This wave is enticing, and in the cases of those who were taken out to sea unnoticed, deadly.
I know the agony of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, helplessness, and that sense of thinking one should never have been born. I know the thinking that says I would be so much better off dead because I wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place.
I can also tell you this.
I wasn’t angry at those I was leaving behind.
I wasn’t trying to get back at them or hurt them.
I wasn’t crying out for someone to help me.
I wanted to die. Period.
I felt that warm wave of relief and knew I wouldn’t have to hurt ever again.
How can we help those who are considering suicide?
First, we need to offer them something more enticing than the power of the consoling wave of death.
We should offer people like myself, who have experienced the warmth of the wave, a chance to make a life for themselves and help in moving on.
I don’t mean just therapy, I mean boosting their self-esteem by not ostracizing them because they have mental health issues.
We also need a plan that does not put people in the position where they must hide their despair for fear of being treated as damaged goods.
We all need something to live for, and to be frank, in today’s world there just isn’t much there.
I live in constant anxiety over the events that are going on in my country. I fear losing what little support is very grudgingly given me. I desperately need to know my mental and physical health care will be available to me and that my basic needs of food and shelter will continue.
I am called a consumer, a user, and falsely looked down upon as someone who takes but gives nothing back. I am called worthless and even by some deemed not worthy of life.
Without the few supports that I do receive and with the angst I feel when I say I need help, my thoughts often return to the warmth of the wave.
I continually tread water near the shore cold and alone, hoping that my life jacket won’t be ripped from me. I am always ready to allow myself to be swept out to sea if it does disappear.
I grieve with you over those who have been enticed away.
I wish I could have held their hands and told them I care. I wish someone had found them in their moment of desperate decision when they heard the enticement of the wave. Perhaps a loving presence would have outshone the siren song of the wave.
I can understand the isolation and loneliness that drove them to the shore in the first place.
I am sitting here in my room at the back of our apartment where I spend most of my days alone with my computer writing about mental health. I try to put on a good front, but inside I am harboring such strong emotions that the wave is only a few yards away all the time.
I’m treading, kicking hard to stay afloat so that I too do not become another statistic, but it’s hard some days.
The statistics of suicide in this country are astounding. In a recent release of information by the CDC, the rate of suicide in the United States has jumped 30%.
The saddest fact of all is that 27% of these ordinary human beings who take their own lives have not been diagnosed with a mental health condition. The problem has grown so large here that suicide has become the second biggest cause of deaths of teenagers and young adults.
The despair, anger, fear and loss of identity our nation’s people are suffering is killing us.
The wave is winning.
Until we begin to speak truthfully in public about suicide and have marathons and dinners to defeat it like we do cancer, it will continue to kill.
Suicide isn’t something that happens to somebody else, it is happening to our neighbors, our friends, and to our families.
If the sound of the warm wave coming to take us away remains stronger than the voices of those who care, then the wave will continue to win.
If you are feeling suicidal when reading this piece, then I urge you to seek help.
I know the sound of the wave is calling and it seems like such a wonderful idea to give into it, but it isn’t.
I’ve been where you are.
Your loneliness, fear and hopelessness will end, but if you die you will snuff out the marvelous creature called you.
There is only one like you, you are unique in the entire universe.
Humanity needs your light.
There are people like me all about you who do care.
We love and respect you just as you are, with all your flaws and shortcomings. God knows, all humans have enough of them.
We need you, we want you, you are valuable and you are beautiful just as you are right now.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”