The Suicide Story You Don't Hear
I was 16 the first time I seriously contemplated taking my own life.
Some people might think that awfully young, some might think that is reasonably old. Personally, it’s just part of my life. My mental health - never the greatest, having struggled with anxiety and disordered eating since before I can really remember - took a nosedive once I left school, leaving me breathless and shaking in its wake. I’d never been taught how to deal with these new feelings that were all encompassing and tainted every waking moment. I’d never even been told that depression was really a thing that people suffered from. I got my mental health education from the social media sites I was frequenting until 3, 4, 5am every day.
There were pros and cons to this. I found amazing people that allowed me to talk to them in a way I couldn’t to the people in my everyday life, but I also found a lot of disturbing literature that exacerbated the symptoms. I can’t claim that I regret those days, but I do know that a lot of what I was dealing with was worsened by what I found on the internet. I still stand by it being an amazing resource. But that’s not the point of this story.
This is the story of someone who had vowed not to make it to their 18th birthday, but is still here and still fighting every single day at the ripe old age of 22 and 5 months. I stumbled across an article on Cosmopolitan a few weeks back. It was titled ‘This is the suicide story you’re not hearing’, and it got me thinking. There is such a stigma around the idea of someone ‘playing god’ and taking matters into their own hands, and so often the only story you do hear is the one that ends in death.
I talk about my own story every now and then with people I know, because I think it’s an important part of my background, and an integral one to how I got to where I am today. I still feel weird about telling people, and almost shame when I speak about it with family members. That shame goes against everything I believe in and everything I stand for, because I am of the adamant belief that the more people talk, the easier it will get to be open and the more people will be able to seek the help they so desperately need before it’s too late.
Because god knows it’s hard to get that help.
(Small side note: I’m listening to music while writing, and ‘Love Is An Open Door’ from Frozen has just come on, which is really not the mood I’m trying to set here). Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and as one of the main killers of people around the world it’s more important than ever we start talking, and we don’t stop talking until everyone feels comfortable talking about how shit life can get sometimes.
Even now it’s so hard to admit to people, besides a select one or two, that life isn’t feeling so great and that I could really do with some support. Because the majority of the time when I’m experiencing suicidal thoughts, I really don’t want to act on them, and I just want someone to be able to listen without freaking out. It’s hard to stay calm and not panic when a person you know, or love, or cherish is feeling bad enough that they want to die, but I implore you to stay calm - even if only externally - and just listen. It’s the most valuable gift you can give someone, and if they know you’re not going to freak out and immediately report them, most of the time they will be able to keep on going. At least, that’s the lived experience of myself and many people I know.
If I knew I could tell someone without the threat of ending up in hospital, the burden would be lifted even just slightly, and I wouldn’t keep everything so bottled. Because the reality of my situation as it stands right now is that I experience suicidal thoughts daily. Every time I stand on a train platform, or walk along a cliff, or walk over a bridge, or buy paracetamol from Tesco's - there’s the little niggle at the back of my mind and it can be exhausting. But I don’t feel like I can tell most people because I feel like it would be taken in entirely the wrong way and there would be an immediate overreaction.
But I am a suicide survivor. I’ve survived over five attempts now, and with the right support - friends, medication, doctors, therapists - hopefully there won’t be any more attempts. (I've written about the one attempt that landed me in a psych ward here). But should things get that bad again, being able to talk about how I’m feeling as openly and honestly as I want to without fear of repercussion is the most valuable gift anyone could ever give me.
The more we talk as a society about this big, ‘scary’ concepts like suicide, and the more people come forward and talk about their own experiences, the more the wind gets taken out of it and the more people feel comfortable admitting how they feel to people. Because suicidal thoughts are survivable, given time and the right treatment.
(Obviously, take every situation as it comes. If you are truly worried about a friend, and they are making an active attempt and not just wanting to talk, get immediate help.)