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.
Can hope be restored?
In our time-constrained and limited perspective, we tend to focus on our own little world, our own heartaches, and our own losses. That’s natural, and I am not asking today that we look further, or that we be more concerned about the trials of another. There is time enough for that.
Allow me to share the idea of restored hope.
The beautiful words of this hymn, Whispering Hope, were penned in 1868, nearly 150 years ago. Isn’t it amazing that those people knew, just like us, the burden of hopelessness. They also knew, however, the promise of hope restored.
Soft as the voice of an angel,
Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasion
Whispers her comforting word:
Wait till the darkness is over,
Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,
After the shower is gone.
Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.
If, in the dusk of the twilight,
Dim be the region afar,
Will not the deepening darkness
Brighten the glimmering star?
Then when the night is upon us,
Why should the heart sink away?
When the dark midnight is over,
Watch for the breaking of day.
Hope, as an anchor so steadfast,
Rends the dark veil for the soul,
Whither the Master has entered,
Robbing the grave of its goal;
Come then, oh, come, glad fruition,
Come to my sad weary heart;
Come, O Thou blest hope of glory,
Never, oh, never depart.
Whispering Hope, Septimus Winner, 1868, Public Domain
FACT: Abusers who strangle their victims are 800% more likely to later murder them.
For so many years, I downplayed the domestic violence I lived with. I didn’t want to be dramatic, to overstate my case, to have people think I was being a baby. I mentioned it on occasion, but I never wanted to spend much time explaining the broken ribs, busted lips and strangulation. Now, more than 30 years later, I have begun to educate myself, and I don’t like what I’m learning.
Strangling, not choking. I never thought about the nuances of my word choice, but it certainly does sound more violent to say that he strangled me. I don’t like using the word though. It sounds so harsh. Maybe that’s why I always soften it. I mean, did he really strangle me?
Let’s see, all I remember is that he sat on top of my chest, used his knees to pin my arms to my sides and wrapped his hands around my neck. Then he applied pressure to my airway until I could no longer breath. For a while. But wait, I didn’t end up unconscious or dead, so should I call it strangling?
Do we have to wait to die to call it what it is? I recently read an article about the importance of educating police, EMTs and others about the distinctions between choking and strangulation.
Kids choke on hot dogs or hard candy. Adults choke on big pieces of steak or a drink that “goes down the wrong way.” It happens accidentally, and no one is at fault.
Strangulation is what one person does to another. They do it on purpose with the intention of creating fear and causing harm. Sometimes the victim struggles for breath until they are freed. Sometimes they lose consciousness, and sometimes they die.
He strangled me. Now I can say it. Now I wonder why I didn’t call the police and scream, “You need to get over here because my husband just strangled me.” I wonder why I never pressed charges so I would have the opportunity to stand before a judge and say, “Yes, your honor, he strangled me.” I wonder why I didn’t tell my friends, “Get me out of here. This creep just strangled me!”
Now that I accept that he strangled me, I also have to accept a disturbing possibility. Cutting off someone’s oxygen by blocking their airway can result in brain damage in a very short amount of time.
Brain damage. Now that’s harsh. But now I can’t go back and call the police or press charges or stand before a judge or ask my friends to help me. Now all I can do is wait and see what strangling did to me.
Advocate for yourself! I wish I had.
#domesticviolence #domesticabuse #strangulation #gladtobealive
Stop it! That’s what I’m saying to myself right now. Stop jumping in fear every time you see that shadow. It is only an imitation of the real thing. It doesn’t belong to a person; it belongs to a bad memory. To a bunch of bad memories, actually.
I was minding my own business, walking down the street on a beautiful sunny day, hand in hand with my husband, when out of nowhere the shadow of fear and insecurity appeared. Just like it always does, it blocked out all the sunshine, and it made me afraid and unreasonable. I thought it was real. I always think it’s real, but it isn’t.
I should know that by now. I mean, that same shadow has been following me around for years, darkening my world with fear and insecurity time after time. It comes when I least expect it; my heart seizes up and my confidence flees. When the shadow comes I forget what is real, and I only see the memories.
I think things like, “You’re ugly; you should lose weight; your husband likes that woman because she is thinner than you; you look disgusting; he thinks she is sexy; why can’t you be sexy; why can’t you look better; no wonder he’s not interested in you anymore.”
I have to keep telling myself that the shadow is only a memory. It is temporary , and it carries no weight. I’ve begun talk back to the shadow, saying things like, “I am beautiful; I am enough; I am lovable; I am good; I deserve to be treated with respect; and there is nothing wrong with me.”
Take a hike, shadow. You and the fear you carry are not welcome anymore.