On Suicidality and Selfishness
**Trigger Warning: This article may be triggering to those struggling with suicidal ideation or other mental illnesses. **
"Suicide isn’t chosen. It happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. When you wake up in extreme pain and crippling sickness and get mad at God for allowing you to wake up instead of thanking him for the day. Because you don’t want the day…because you have no choice in your life anymore.
Two years ago I didn’t know this, and I thought that people who died by suicide were selfish, insane, weak, and stupid. I thought they were willingly throwing away the life they were given because they were momentarily frustrated or sad or angry or even just pessimistic. I had no idea that I soon would be in the position of fighting intense suicidal urges. I didn’t realize that suicide was more than just being selfish and stupid. It’s just about utter hopelessness and an inability to cope with circumstances. A permanent solution for a temporary problem? Sometimes, yes. But what about when the problem isn’t temporary? Or when you have no way of knowing if it’s temporary and you truly cannot live another day in such agony…
That’s all suicide is about. Coping. A natural human instinct. I don’t feel bad or weak because of it. I don’t even feel like I truly WANT to die. Quite the opposite, really. I just have more pain than I can cope with. It’s certainly not my first choice to die but when every day is agonizing and this is what life is, I cannot see myself living like this any longer. "
You're probably wondering what kind of messed up website that excerpt came from. You might be frustrated with the author's opinion of suicide being a coping mechanism and not being selfish. Maybe you understand and wholeheartedly agree with the above words because you've fought demons of your own. Maybe you're not sure.
Well, I'll let you on a (not so little) secret. The author of that excerpt is me. That was a few paragraphs out of my six page long suicide letter that was composed on December 31, 2016.
If you know me, that lil' nugget of information may have completely caught you off guard. In fact, the mere fact that I'm even writing this post is because I'm convinced that what I went through for the past year and half had to happen so that I can help others. I didn't see it whatsoever whilst in the thick of it--but now I do. So here I am. If you're someone that's shocked and dismayed and embarrassed at the fact that I'm writing this post...you can go. I refuse to let my experience remain enclosed when releasing it can be beautiful for others.
Long story short--if you're new here--I've struggled, since I was about 17 or 18, with various and varying degrees of mental illnesses. Anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, a somatic disorder, and PTSD being the main ones. I have zero shame in saying that because if there's one thing I've learned it's that I didn't make any one choice that gave me any of those diseases--they were brought on by genetics, trauma, life experiences, and honestly who knows what else. But it doesn't mean I'm crazy or a disgrace to society. The reason I say that is because I am a very high-functioning member of society--4.0 GPA, involved in all the extracurriculars, graduated college at 21, etc. I'm not some crazy monster that brought these things on herself. And neither is anyone that deals with similar mental disorders.
The first time I had a suicidal urge was September of 2016. I lived away from family at the time. I won't go into detail so as to avoid triggering others, but it caught me off guard and terrified me. I never understood what it would have to take to bring someone to consider suicide...I could never imagine any circumstance where I would want to do that. But all of 2016 had been so rough on me--several hospital admissions--one even 3 weeks long, failed therapy attempts, failed medications, countless medical problems that weren't getting resolved...
That's the insidious nature of depression and suicidal ideation--when the urges or severe episodes come, they COME. And death feels like the only option. Because you've exhausted all your resources--all your coping skills. And YOU'RE exhausted because every day is like World War 3 in your head.
From September to December I continued to struggle, to varying degrees, with my depression. I was always baseline depressed, and then every week or two I would have a major depressive episode. We're talking can't-get-out-of-bed-or-shower-and-want-to-crawl-out-of-your-skin-and-die type of episode. Hallucinations. Catatonic states. Memory loss. A seizure, even.
The worst episode happened around December 28th of last year. I began my letter, unsure if I would magically come out of the episode and change my mind or not. On December 31st, a series of events led me to printing out the letter and leaving it on the kitchen counter for my parents and family. I then went upstairs to my room.
I'm still alive, clearly.
I don't need to go into specifics about that time. Soon after that day, I was admitted to a program that helped me deal with my severe depression, trauma and other mental health issues for a while. I moved to Denver for about three months. I also finally gained back all of the weight (and more) that I lost from my eating disorder because after being chronically very underweight for five years, my body needed to not be under physical stress so that my mind could work on healing, as well. I have not had a major depressive episode since that time--I currently see a therapist once or twice a week, a psychologist (because I'm finally on medication even though for so long I fought it), and this week I will be starting a type of therapy for trauma called EMDR. I underwent very extensive (and expensive) psychological testing that provided extensive information about my illnesses and treatment for them from here on out. I learned a lot about myself including that I struggle with a severe somatoform disorder. This disorder makes me get very, very sick whenever I am anxious or depressed or detects a threat--my body actually begins to attack itself for survival to protect me from my brain. This very disorder is what caused all of my health issues last year.
I have spent the last five months working harder than I ever have on my mental health. Actually, on my physical health, too! For me, I needed to gain almost sixty pounds to finally not be underweight anymore and that required a lot of sitting and A LOT of food. I've had to wake up early for therapy appointments, undergo a lot of trial and error with many medications, take time off of work completely, and prolong going to graduate school just to focus on my mental health. My mental health was so poor that I almost killed myself on more than one occasion. If you're struggling, don't think you can just distract and avoid and get through it. Pay attention to your mental health.
I spent all of 2016 and the first few months of this year in the darkest, scariest, lowest place I've ever been in. I never saw a way out. Actually, I still have days where I see no way out. But I can say with 100% surety that I went through all of this because it's going to come in GREAT handy when I have my degree in Psychology and I'm helping others that struggle like I do. Maybe there will be another reason, too, (maybe I'll meet my future husband one day when I'm walking to therapy hahaha) but I know for sure that one of my top five values in life is empathy, and I have a whole lot of empathy to give.
Now, I'm returning to work, planning on returning to school in the fall, feeling (and looking, sheesh) physically a whole lot better, and dealing with only minor anxiety and occasional depressive, intrusive thoughts. I still have flashbacks but have hope that through EMDR I will be able to lower the pain that PTSD causes me and the effect it has on my other disorders.
On the outside it's nearly impossible to tell that I struggle in the way that I do. So many people have sent me messages or left comments asking how I "got" all of these illnesses since I'm a successful, attractive, privileged, young, white woman. My answer for that is I DON'T KNOW HOMIE. But I do know that there are millions of others like me out there thinking they're the only one out there that has some of the nastiest demons inside but hides them inside a picture perfect exterior.
Is suicide selfish? My answer is a big fat NOPE. Because trust me, I knew that my family and friends would be devastated and truthfully the one thing that could take the edge off my urges was thinking about my three little nieces growing up. I did not want to die because I was weak, or selfish, or careless, or cowardly. I just wanted a relief from the physical and mental pain I was experiencing. But the thing is--death isn't a relief. No one is relieved in the midst of suicide. In fact, it's a very painful experience. I've got a purpose here, and I'm not leaving until I've served that purpose.
So, no, I am not weak, selfish, careless, or cowardly. I am STRONG as hell, EMPATHETIC more than you can imagine, THOUGHTFUL in every sense of the word, and BRAVE because I'm here today after making it through the hardest time of my life thus far. And brave because it's not over yet--I'm not healed, and I may never be. But with acceptance I don't have to be completely whole. I just have to be willing to fight. I look back on that day in December spent in the hospital (and the dozens of other times) and I am shocked by the person I am now. I do not feel victimized or sorry for myself because of my illnesses. I feel empowered and special and capable. I'm a warrior.
If you're struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out. Talk to a trusting family member, friend, therapist... or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255