Every word that follows has been written by a beautiful 20-year old woman who regularly struggles with thoughts of suicide. I have nothing to add to her words.
Scars are forever. And the thing about scars is that you can cover them up, layer them even. And you can walk around with all the confidence and happiness in the world until one day, someone or something tries to peel off those layers you’ve worked so hard to put on. And suddenly you’re aware again, and everything plummets to the floor, including that confidence you worked so hard to find.
Words are often that something that peels off those layers to reveal a nasty scar you thought would have been healed by now. Sometimes these words have nothing to do with whatever it was that cut you in the first place, but something triggers in your mind and in a split second everything comes crashing back down.
Like being cut by ice, you may not feel the pain at first. You’re too numb to your surroundings, and your outlook on life is very logical, unattached, and strong. Until you’re in a warm, nice place, maybe a place you didn’t even know could exist because you didn’t know so much warmth could exist. Then amidst the warmth you begin to feel that cut, and it’s deeper than you thought.”
These were the thoughts of the 15 year-old me.
American dies by suicide every 12.3 minutes.*
The first time I thought about suicide I was 15, but there wasn’t actually a thought. I just stood up and started walking through my tears toward the bathroom at 2AM. I remember trying to process what I was doing as I reached for the bottle of Advil and struggled to open it. I stared at the ingredients and thought, “I wonder what would happen if I took this whole bottle.” I didn’t want to end my life – it was an uncontrollable, unwanted response . A last resort. I got the bottle open and started to pour it into my hands, and I froze. Not because I was in danger, but because the thought of not waking up the next morning didn’t scare me.
90% of those who die by suicide had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.*
When people say that “suicide is selfish” or “why would you do that to your family,” I can only say one thing.
The first thing I thought about was my mom finding me the next day, then my sister, then all of the phone calls and screaming, the funeral, the lifetime of grief they would feel. And I knew they would miss me.
Saying “suicide is selfish” implies that I am gaining something from considering it, that I don’t know that I have people who love me, and that my experiences do not justify these thoughts. It’s a dismissal.
So I didn’t take it very seriously, until it happened again in my car when I was 16. Then again and again when I was 17, 18, 19.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 44 and under.*
For me, I was running from my situation in the only way I knew how. I was trapped in a cycle of sexual abuse. I was blamed for what happened to me by some people who were supposed to protect me, then accused of lying about it. I started to become numb and my mind would wander so I didn’t have to feel – I stopped being present during the abuse. I didn’t “decide” to think about suicide – it just became another part of my being. “If they don’t care about what happens to me, why would they care if I just stopped existing?”
Sometimes the pain was so intense, so physically overwhelming, I just wanted it to end right then and there. After I left, sometimes my body would think I was being abused and my mind had no control over it, no way to grasp reality. How do you tell someone who constantly feels like their body is not their own that they should be strong and hold on? That they need to realize it’s not real. It’s not real.
But it was real. It is real.
Suicide is not selfish.
Suicide is real.
I share the words of this young women with her permission and because of her desire to bring awareness to the reality of suicide. You know her, or you know someone like her.
Is there a way today that we can reach out and love someone who is suffering so silently?
Please share your thoughts.