No Regrets? Surviving Attempted Suicide

No regrets? Surviving attempt suicide - image of a phoenix

First off, before we talk about surviving attempted suicide, we’ll establish a couple of things:

  • If you’re having thoughts of suicide and need to reach out, there’s a list of crisis resources here.
  • No need to worry about me; I’m not currently suicidal.

Regretting attempts

I recently saw a post by Elizabeth of Life. Love. Bipolar. on the topic of suicide attempts and the way people only talk about a certain kind of regret. She mentioned Kevin Hines, a well-known motivational speaker who survived a suicide attempt by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He describes feeling regret as soon as he jumped. Not everyone feels that way, though; for some people, the regret comes from not dying.

According to PsychAlive, 29 people have survived jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, and they have all expressed regret at trying to take their lives. In an interview with The Guardian, Australia’s national mental health commissioner said that in a study in that country the majority of people who have attempted suicide “report having this profound realization during their attempt that they want to live.”

AFSP statistic: for ever suicide there are 25 suicide attempts

Regretting surviving

That’s great that some people are experiencing this kind of regret and able to shift focus to wanting to live, but, like Elizabeth pointed out, we also need to talk about the fact that for some people surviving attempted suicide, the regret is about not dying. While this is less talked about, it’s equally valid, and those stories deserve to be heard as well. There needs to be room in the conversation for all viewpoints, regardless of how uncomfortable they may be to hear about.

I’ve had four suicide attempts, plus a few in hospital that I don’t remember. After each of them, my regret was not dying. I don’t recall any ambivalence at the time around living vs. dying; I was very much set on dying. Nothing magically changed after the attempt. My life didn’t get instantly better, and I didn’t get well anytime soon. If anything, being hospitalized initially made things worse.

The role of impulsivity

In a study published in Psychiatry Investigation, it was determined that 48% of suicide attempt survivors had made an impulsive attempt. Impulsive suicide attempts were associated with lower intensity of suicidal ideation and less intent to die. People who were non-impulsive were more likely to identify psychiatric symptoms as the primary reason for their attempt.

I suspect that the more impulsive the attempt, the more likely it would be that a person would later regret it. My attempts were not impulsive. They were planned, and I tried to resist the thoughts of suicide as long as I could solely because I was concerned about hurting my family.

There’s more on this issue in the post Suicidality: Impulsivity vs. Planning.

Relationship with death

I’m not sure if it’s the depression or something else, but I continue to have a bit of an odd relationship with death. I go on living because it’s status quo, not because I have any particular wish to be alive. The thought of dying doesn’t bother me at all. That’s not to say that I’m suicidal. While there are times when, because of my illness, I do wish to die, entirely separate from that there’s also a sort of baseline undercurrent of being okay with death. It has nothing to do with a wish to die. It’s more a sense that the happy times of my life are behind me, and death is just a natural part of the human cycle of existence.

All experiences are welcome

I think that it’s important that the dialogue around suicide incorporates the broad spectrum of experiences people have in relation to it. We don’t need more taboos around what is okay or not okay to say.

Sometimes, the voices of suicide attempt survivors are left out of the conversation entirely. But we’re here; we exist, and we’re not a monolithic group who all have the same experiences. All different experiences related to suicide are equally valid.

If you’ve considered or attempted suicide in the past, what sort of relationship did you have with regret?

Straight talk on suicide - graphics of phoenix and semicolon

The Straight Talk on Suicide page has crisis and safety planning resources, along with info on suicide-related topics from the perspective of someone who’s been there.

46 thoughts on “No Regrets? Surviving Attempted Suicide”

  1. I’ve always self-harmed by cutting. I’ve thought of killing myself tons of times in the past but never had a full attempt. However, I was trying to one night when I was 21 but my roommate found me in the bathroom & took the razor away. I’m thankful to him to this day. I guess I don’t know about regret since I didn’t get far into it. But there’s always been this hope in me that keeps wanting to carry on, even when I hurt my worst. Did you hear about that poor Dutch girl, Noa Pothoven? Breaks my heart. I’m all for euthanasia for cancer & things of that nature. But idk how I feel about euthanasia when it comes to mental illness. Especially as young as she was. I understand why they turned her down but she just ended up committing suicide. Just breaks my heart.

  2. You courage for sharing such a petrifying event from your life is unbelievable. Your giving a voice to people who have experienced the same challenge and also those going through the same. As a medical psychology student, am passionate about mental health awareness and helping those affected unconditionally. You are a warrior in this fight to push for mental well being for all .

  3. Thank you for sharing this and for your courage. You’re opening and creating conversations every day and every post you share. You’re helping and giving us all a place to relax, listen, reflect, and share. That’s not always easy to find. I applaud the rest of you for sharing as well. I have not attempted suicide but when I’m really hurting mentally I feel great compassion for the people who cannot withstand it any longer. I want to live and I hope we all can find the will to fight and love our way to healthy. Best to you all, keep on keeping on.

  4. Last week someone I’ve known a long time took their life. I had to go to therapy this week (pre-scheduled, not because of the suicide), and when my therapist asked me about how I felt about it, I said I was jealous. She laughed and said “That’s exactly what I thought you would say.” So to answer your question “If you’ve considered or attempted suicide in the past, what sort of relationship did you have with regret?” I’m with you. I’m sorry I didn’t die when I attempted it and I’m sorry almost every time I hear of someone dying, who presumably had a lot to live for or who enjoyed their life. I tend to wonder ‘why not ME, Lord?” I am suicidal. Passively suicidal. But I tend to keep it to myself, because authority figures are sometimes dim witted and think that means I’m going to try and try until I succeed. I won’t do that, but I will have a huge amount of regret (and probably will for the rest of my life) that I didn’t succeed.

  5. I’d like to say I can’t imagine what you’re going through, and technically I can’t in many ways. That said, I have schizoaffective disorder and deal with suicidal thoughts and have had attempts as well. What has kept me going is finding some medication that works “well enough” to keep me out of the hospital, and allow me a shot at life. None of what people with our kinds of issues deal with is easy. Some other things that have helped me are always working on myself with a level of resolve to have better and brighter experiences. Truth be told, I am a work in progress, as all of us are really. If I were to have one wish for anyone going through what I went through or some variation of what you and many of your readers have experienced, I’d hope that we all could examine the alternative to life in greater depth, realizing (maybe) that we haven’t exhausted every possibility for getting better help. Maybe I just have to be hit with greater pain than what I’ve experienced up until this point. IDK, but for me (and this is my experience independent of suicidal thoughts), I currently dread dying like no other, and while I am likely making death get here sooner with my lifestyle, I still want to live. I hope that this finds everyone well, and I understand that we each have a different take away on life and death (and all matters in-between).

  6. dear Ashley, selfishly for me the world is a better place with you in it 🙂 I’ve thought of suicide but haven’t done it — & am glad now to be alive. that said, I’m always grateful when folks remind us that we needn’t all be pollyannas & follow cookie-cutter personalities

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