Thoughts of suicide have been on my mind lately. I'm not contemplating it by any means, I've just been reflecting on my own experiences with it after seeing some recent posts here from members who were reaching that point in their lives.
It occurred to me that the only time we really talk about suicide is when we're in the middle of someone else's crisis, or maybe one of our own, and we're wrapped up in committing all our compassion and energy in getting someone through a terrifying night, giving all the support and encouragement we can, along with referrals to help lines and suicide prevention resources. There's never really time to reflect and share our own stories.
I wanted to start a different kind of thread... one for those of us who may have reached the end at some point in our lives, felt that suicide was the only answer, yet worked our way back into the world and thrived. I'd like to start an open discussion where we're talking about the issue without being in middle of a crisis, where we can share not only our personal experiences, but also, the things that have worked for us and kept us from falling back into the abyss.
Most importantly, consider the following questions: As a survivor, what would you want to say to a person reading this thread who may be thinking of suicide? Is it a philosophy or an outlook that allowed you to continue? Was it a clinical matter requiring treatment or medication? Were there situational changes that improved your wellbeing? Also, how do you continue to deal with those days when depression returns? I would even hope to hear some outcomes that could inspire those who are reading this who have not been able to see their own self worth.
The reasons for suicide are as individual and diverse as the people on this site. There is no right or single answer as to what could prevent a person from having these thoughts. But the sharing of our own stories may provide hope to some people, and encourage them to seek out their own answers.
In a recent post, I recalled the quiet peaceful morning when I was going outside for the first time after my suicide attempt. It was so long ago, at the age of sixteen, stepping outside and feeling the sun on my face. It was just this small, simple pleasure that made me grateful that I didn't succeed in killing myself and gave me a small glimmer of hope in the long journey ahead.
It also struck me about the number of people who stated that the only reason they were still alive was because there was a dependent in their lives, such as caring for a sick relative or even having a pet who relied on them. I suppose it all comes down to finding meaning in our lives and having other people recognize our worth. Viktor E. frank was an Austrian professor and founder of a humanist psychology. He was a survivor of the Auschwitz prison camp.The basic assumptions of his approach to psychiatry are that life has meaning under all circumstances. We find meaning through creativity, experiencing, and change of attitude (even if we can't change our situation we can change our attitude toward a condition, a transcending way of finding meaning, especially in unavoidable suffering) I don't accept all his concepts, but I do believe in our innate need to find meaning in our lives.
I struggled with depression for many years after my suicide attempt. I was young and gay(although I was still in denial about that). By the age of twenty two, I was in a very closeted gay relationship. We weren't 'out' to anybody, not even our closest friends. It was the late seventies and gays risked violence, ridicule, and loss of housing or employment if we were discovered. It was too much for my partner to bear and he took his own life, combining prescribed medication with alcohol and then tying a plastic bag over his head. In the same year, a good friend took her life after discovering she was pregnant and her boyfriend took off on her. She died three months pregnant.Also, my best friend had relapsed on drugs after being clean for over a year. He wandered out onto a highway, completely stoned, and was hit by a car seconds later. All the people closest to me were gone within six months, their young lives lost in some of the most horrific ways possible.
At the age of twenty two, I became an alcoholic and was heavily hit with depression. I was drinking a bottle of Southern Comfort every night and going into work late and hungover every morning. I was worried about another suicide attempt, even though my last one was six years previous. I took up long distance running and several years later I ran my first marathon. It gave me the strength to continue and I still credit running with having saved my life. I began working at a local distress Centre and wanted to continue in the field of helping others and sharing my own experience and empathy. Eventually I quit a good paying job working in the government and went back to school for Social Services. I now work for a non profit agency that advocates for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. My life has taken so many twists and turns, but I have found my voice and passion in defending and fighting for vulnerable populations. The days of contemplating suicide are far behind me. I know that we never really get over it, but at least for me, it got easier.
And so... this thread is for us... an open discussion for those of us who have battled suicide and depression, and are still here to tell our stories, and to share them with people who may be feeling at risk today.
What say you?