My interest in this topic began when I was in my mid-twenties, with the attempted suicide of my mother. My mother’s act of aggression did not come out of the blue. She was depressed; she was drinking; she demanded that life bend to her demands. When it seemed that life was going to do as it damn well pleased, she, in a fit of anger and despair, decided to take matters into her own hands. While she lived for many more years after her attempt, she never really got beyond her depression and all its many manifestations.
Suicide once again touched me personally when I discovered the body of my twenty-something next-door neighbor who had planned and executed a carbon monoxide garage death. Just two evenings before, we had dinner in my home. I never had a clue that anything was wrong. He seemed happy with his new job, enjoyed playing with my three kids and appeared to be in the prime of his life.
I can’t really say that I found out why he did it. But I did find out that he was being treated for depression and that he and his family kept it a secret. Maybe, I told myself, if I had known he was depressed, I might have become suspicious when he told me not to worry if I didn’t see his car around for a while. Maybe, if I had known he was depressed, I would have taken him aside and had a heart-to-heart talk with him that may have lifted his spirits.
My reaction to his suicide was a myriad of intense emotions:
Surprise: “OMG, I can’t believe it!”
Anger: “How could you have done this?”
Compassion: “You must have been in so much pain!”
Sadness: Bursting into tears at any moment.
Frustration: “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Confusion: “Why did you pretend that everything was ok?”
It’s important for all of us to understand what traits promote the belief that suicide is the only way out:
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, shamed.
- Feeling defeated and in despair.
- Feeling alone, lonely, isolated, abandoned.
- Feeling that I don’t belong, I’m different, nobody can understand.
- Attempting to escape the pain, via drugs, alcohol, isolation.
- Finally, a sense that nothing matters anymore. I can’t go on. My life’s not worth it. I’m better off dead.
As time goes on, the suicidal mind develops a mind of its own, searching for signals that reinforce the belief that there’s no way out. It ignores reassurances from others; it takes as gospel that nobody cares; it negates that help is available, it refuses to believe that things may get better; it nullifies any hope; it paints a dark future.
And so, I write this personal note to anyone who has been feeling suicidal:
Though you may not see a way out right now, it’s not true that ending your life is the only escape. There are other ways out of your pain, loneliness, shame, hopelessness. So, I hope you’ll take a chance and trust someone enough to let them help you.
If you speak to someone who doesn’t understand, minimizes your concerns or berates you for feeling as you do, don’t give up. You haven’t found the right person yet. Instead of giving up, it’s imperative that you believe that:
- there’s someone who will listen to you and truly understand what you’re feeling,
- someone will appreciate how difficult your journey has been and still is,
- someone will take you by the hand and guide you toward a better life,
- you will smile again, feel safe once more and truly know that your life is worth living.
Please, don’t give up until you find that special someone.