- Art by Jaison Cianelli
- 12:30 P.M.
- Mood: pulled.
*TRIGGER WARNING: This post talks extensively about suicide, so tread lightly out there, friends*
I’ll admit something to you: I’ve thought of suicide before.
It honestly becomes easy to think of it either when you feel that there’s no hope left for a better life, or when you get into a situation where everything is just so overwhelming, death would feel like a peaceful getaway. But, I’ll also admit that I never necessarily wanted to die when I’d think of suicide. I think I got the thought of something permanent mixed with the feeling that I just wanted to not exist as I was in that moment. I didn’t want to be anything to or for anyone, and I didn’t want to go through the motions to get by on a day-to-day basis. I just wanted to be whoever I was, in whatever my truest form was, and no longer co-exist with the problems life brought. So, maybe a vacation would’ve sufficed just fine. I’m not entirely sure. But, through this self-reflection, I did start to realize that my grasp on what suicide really is was a bit limited.
So, the other day, I got a raw, uncomfortable dose of reality about what really drives the mentality of suicidal ideation. I was over my boyfriend’s parents’ house with my boyfriend, his mother, his twin brother, and his sister-in-law. My boyfriend’s mother had been closely following what was going on with a former student of her’s (she used to be a college professor) who kept in contact with her. The ex-student had e-mailed her before about losing hope in life, and wondering what she did to deserve a life like her’s. Her brother had died shortly before she moved to a place she wanted to move with him, she had money troubles, and she felt absolutely lost. Mrs. K (I’ll call my boyfriend’s mother that for short) was worried absolutely sick about this, and let her ex-student know that she would be willing to help take care of her and get her back on her feet again. She also reported to the authorities in her ex-student’s area that she seemed to be on the brink of a very rash decision, let them know where she might be living, and even told them of some of the jobs she knew that she applied to. All of this absolute madness ensued to try to figure out where she was and what was happening.
Until Mrs. K got an e-mail from her ex-student’s daughter, letting her know that she had passed by way of suicide.
Mrs. K was in absolute shock. As she told all of us what had happened, she looked absolutely helpess and tried to fight back very obvious tears in her eyes. She talked about how she hadn’t seen this coming, and not knowing what else she could’ve done to have made more of a difference.
This spurred a very important conversation that I believe we all needed to have in that moment. My boyfriend’s brother, who also struggles with depression, talked about what I assumed to be firsthand knowledge of what a suicidal mindset actually entails. He’d said that it seemed like his mother’s former student had been struggling with depression long-term, and hadn’t gone about the means to identify it, or even see that it was an abnormal mindset. Things felt natural to her, as they were natural for someone with severe depression. But, not knowing that she had depression, she tried to rationalize all of her negative feelings on more trivial things. She’d think “Oh, I’m feeling this way because I’m low on money”, or “I’m extremely down because I can’t find a job right now” without looking deeper than that. However, people without mental illnesses don’t look at problems like these and go “I don’t know what I did to deserve this. I’d rather take my own life than to struggle with this anymore”. That’s the thing about it. People without mental illnesses could be rendered homeless, and still find reasons that they’d rather live and tough it out.
When Mrs. K’s former student reached out to her, she wasn’t looking for solutions to her problems. At this point, she already had suicide set in her mind, and just wanted to be able to get her final thoughts and goodbyes out. For people who are severely depressed and thinking of suicide, chances are that they’ll already have different ways to go through with it planned out. It becomes like an obsession. And, by that point, no matter what anyone else does, without some dramatic form of mental health intervention, there’s a very slim-to-non-existent chance that someone is able to be talked out of suicide. It’s never a matter of “Maybe I could’ve done more to talk this person out of it”, or “Maybe I said something wrong to push this person toward suicide”. All that it boils down to is that the person knew in that moment that taking his/her own life was the only way to stop suffering each day.
That was a misconception about suicidal ideation that even I had. I’ve known a lot of different accounts of people feeling this immense amount of guilt and resentment toward themselves because they felt that they let someone end their life, or made them feel like they had to end their life. They suffer with not only a tremendous amount of grief, but with feeling like they didn’t do enough to prevent the death of a loved one. In reality, that was never the case. The person had just suffered so long with depression (whether they realized or not) that they felt like that was the way they were going to be stuck in life, and that there was nothing else they could possibly do to get away from it.
This is an absolutely devastating and terrifyingly large cause of death, people. According to The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among ALL ages. There are potentially 121 people PER DAY who have absolutely made up their minds that taking their own lives is the only way to feel anything other than despair, hopelessness, or nothing.
Maybe they’re like me, and what they actually wanted was to exist only within themselves, and no longer co-exist with the problems life has brought. Maybe it was something entirely different. But, instead of invalidating these feelings, or thinking of suicide as an “ill-thought out, selfish” choice, we need to be leveling with suicidal people to find out more about what really drives this mindset.
I know it’s with good intentions that we tell suicidal people that “it gets better” and that “life will be worth it if you hold out long enough”. But, we have to face the fact that, to them, none of that holds true. They’ve been waiting for their life to be worth it and to get better for years now. They don’t fucking see it happening once suicide becomes an option.
To be honest, I’m not even sure what a sure-fire plan would be to help those of us who struggle find hope again. We’re always going to be in a trial-and-error period with this shit, and it absolutely churns my stomach that it will cost us the lives of our fellow humans. But, what I do at least find important is that we make it “cool” to learn more about what mental illnesses entail, and seek help as soon as something doesn’t feel right. Stop it RIGHT in its tracks. It seems like we look at seeking help for mental illnesses the way we look at talking about religion. It’s apparently not very edgy or cool-looking to be involved in either of them, and that shouldn’t be the case.
I honestly went back and forth with seeking help at first when my mental illnesses pushed me to my limit recently. I didn’t want to go see someone, just to have them roll their eyes at me and tell me that I was just a little too stressed, and that I didn’t really even need to come in. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but, you know…I didn’t wanna be the girl that cried “depression” if it wasn’t really the case. I take mental illnesses very seriously, and I don’t simply want to be self-diagnosing myself with something that others truly suffer with. It could’ve all just been me being mood swingy from PMS. But, the fact was that I got tired of feeling so worthless, low (even when nothing was wrong), and hopeless. Before I felt like there was no other way, I wanted to exhaust the living fuck out of my potential options. I just wanted to feel like I had some sort of plan, even if it all fell through.
I’m sure there are others out there who feel as unsure as I felt. Even still, with any mental illness, seeking help can be extremely overwhelming and tiring. People may feel like their feelings aren’t valid (like I did), like no one would believe them, or like the help they need would be totally unaffordable. But, I’m telling you that if you at least try (even if you need help doing it) to see if there’s anything else, you’ll at least have a bit of hope restored. I have no insurance and little money, so the most I could do was reach out to a local clinic. They ended up having a program there to help with physical and mental health for people with no insurance, and they may have places like that all over.
There’s also this thing people do where they feel absolutely awful every day, but because they don’t talk about it or look into what it could all mean, it becomes their new “normal”. BE ABSOLUTELY CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE FEELING, PEOPLE. If you’re normally chilled out, and you suddenly get SUPER NERVOUS, you better check that shit out, man. If you’re normally neutral, and you suddenly become ELATED for a while, look into what may have triggered that. If you’re normally depressed, DEFINITELY seek help. But, then, if you wake up, and you don’t feel anything, please ask either a friend, family member, or a professional what that could mean.
Suicide’s not 100% preventable. For some, options will feel like they aren’t working. But, before anyone becomes absolutely set on taking their own lives, we have to be willing to hear them out. Then, we’ve gotta let each other know that it’s okay to wonder what it all means, and look for other ways to get rid of it.
We would at least be able to say that we tried. And we deserve to have tried.