Content warning: This post talks openly about suicide and suicide attempts, in the context of exploring my own thoughts about suicide.
It’s National Suicide Prevention Week, so it seems like an appropriate time to talk about suicide in all its ugliness. I have attempted suicide multiple times; most were associated with my first episode of depression just over 10 years ago. Suicidal thinking is a symptom of my illness, and it will most likely recur when things get really dark. It’s something abnormal that unfortunately has come to be all too familiar.
In 2007, I had three suicide attempts outside of hospital, plus multiple attempts while in hospital that resulted in me being sent to psych ICU. At the time of the first attempt, I hadn’t been diagnosed with anything yet; still, I was pretty certain that it was depression. The suicidal thinking had been building, and then it got to the point where I had a plan. The next step was getting pills, and finally, I ended up taking those pills. Each of these steps was well thought out and took some time; there was nothing impulsive about any of it.
I tried to hold off as long as I could out of a sense of responsibility to my family and other people in my life, but things were just so bleak and hopeless that the idea of remaining alive seemed totally intolerable. The suicidal thinking was new to me at that point, so it was hard to figure out ways to cope. I went through a brief phase of cutting as an alternate way to deal with the pain.
When I became depressed in 2010, initially, suicidality wasn’t among the symptoms I was experiencing. However, as the episode extended over the next year I began having ever-increasing thoughts of suicide. I took myself to hospital voluntarily, but had a very negative experience and ended up being discharged without feeling any better.
I developed a suicide plan involving my psych meds. At the time, I was working Monday to Friday with every other Friday off, and my plan was to take the pills on one of my Fridays off so no one would notice anything out of the ordinary until Monday. Each Friday off, I would evaluate whether I or not I could make it through until the next Friday off.
Eventually one Friday I decided I just couldn’t take the pain anymore, and I took the pills. Over the next few days, I alternated between sleeping and wandering around delirious. When I didn’t show up for work on Monday, they called the police. When the police showed up at my door, I was totally loopy, and they hauled me off to hospital. The only regrets I had were about being found, and being alive.
I haven’t attempted suicide since then, but there have been a few occasions when I’ve taken steps towards enacting a plan to kill myself. What has stopped me has been fear—not fear of dying, but fear of “failing” to kill myself.
I generally don’t tell people when I feel suicidal, partly because I don’t feel like talking will help, and partly because I have a strong aversion to getting committed to hospital. I’ve come to the conclusion that, given the history of my illness, chances are fairly good that I will eventually, at some nebulous point in the future, end up dying by suicide. I don’t say this because I desire this outcome or because I’m suicidal right now, but in terms of simple probability, it seems the most likely.
That brings me back to what I said in my post yesterday. To really decrease the risk of suicide in those of us living with mental illness, we need more than just awareness, we need better treatment. We need more than just an ear to listen to us; we need something tangible that will truly make a difference and create a bright light of hope. We need better choices to be available to us. And that can’t come soon enough.
The Straight Talk on Suicide page covers a variety of topics related to suicide, including getting help and safety planning, from the perspective of someone who’s been there.