i’ve had this piece for awhile, working on it, thinking about it. thinking about the why – why write it, why post it. i think its because my suicide attempts are things i don’t talk about and sometimes i really need to. the post is long, sorry about that, but i had some things to say, and in the wake of several high profile deaths by suicide this week, i decided to share.
i’ve tried to kill myself three times, most recently in november of 2014.
it is a bizarre thing to able to write that about yourself. it’s a strange thing to know about yourself, to know that you are capable of taking such drastic action. there was a point in my life, long past now, where i couldn’t imagine what would drive a person to want to kill themselves. it was unfathomable. i would discuss it with other tween friends at school and when having those deeply philosophical discussions that girls of that age often have. that was before the eating disorder took over my life, before anxiety made it difficult to function, before depression set up residence in my soul, and before suicidal ideation showed me so many ways to kill myself, a multiple of times every day.
ideation is fatiguing. it wears on you when you think about ways to kill yourself all the time. are you going for a drive? steering the car into the k-rails suddenly seems like an option, or off a bridge, or you could just turn it on and keep the garage door closed.
were you cooking something for dinner? what would happen if you put your hand in the garburator and turned it on? what if that sleeve brushed too close to the burner flame?
are you taking a shower? the razor is in easy reach and the water’s already nice and hot.
how about when you take your meds? it’s hard to take just one or two when all you see in your head is images of yourself downing handfuls. living like that is exhausting. for a long time, i thought it was normal. i thought it was just part of the human condition, something that everyone else experienced. the fact that i struggled simply made me think that i was once again failing in comparison to everyone else, who i assumed were better adapted.
combine the ideation with throwing up multiple times a day, self-mutilating, and the challenges of trying to function in a world and seem normal when your anxiety has you screaming inside and your depression is telling you it’s all pointless anyway and it becomes easier to understand how someone can give up. how they can decide that the fight, which feels like it has been going on forever, is too hard and it can’t be won anyhow. it feels like you will be stuck in hell forever. that thought takes root, and grows, and becomes increasingly unbearable. it’s not so much that i wanted to be dead, i just wanted it all to stop. i wanted peace for just a moment and it had come to seem like there was no other way to get it. nothing worked. i simply couldn’t stand to live in my brain and body anymore. it was too much to bear.
still, it’s a strange to know that i went there. that i fell so far. i don’t like to think about it all that often. i like to keep it all pushed to the back of my brain, where i don’t have to see it or come to terms with it. where i don’t have to wade through the sadness that rises up when i do revisit. i hurt for her, the me that was at those times.
my first suicide attempt was the least serious, which is often the case. it happened at university. my bulimia was completely out of control. i woke up in hell and stayed there all day. i couldn’t see any way out and i hated myself for that. i found myself to be weak and disgusting and pathetic. i revolted myself. i looked up and saw myself in the bathroom mirror one afternoon post-binge and i couldn’t stand to see my face.
the mirror was there, and then it wasn’t as i punched it. it’s not as easy to break one of those industrial wall mirrors as it appears on television. they resist destruction. the first blow had no effect so i hit it again, and again, and then i started to smash at it with my forearms until it started to crack into a multiplicity of pieces which i pulled and tugged at until they tumbled into the sink.
one of the shards lying there just called to me. hand-sized and triangular with nicely sharp edges. i picked it up and made a small cut on my forearm. the first cut was not the deepest but it was the hardest to do. i was surprised by how little it hurt, and angry too. i wanted it to hurt. i had a need to feel pain. i sliced again and again. i changed arms and attacked the other forearm too. i still felt the frenzy had overwhelmed me when i was breaking it. the blood was intoxicating. i wanted to see more of it. and then the feelings stopped. that sense of frenzy went away and left me standing there confused and bleeding all over the sink and floor.
the memories get a little sketchy from there on out. i got to the hospital somehow. i got patched up by someone. they told me not to do it again and let me go. mental health problems get minimized and ignored quite regularly by doctors, i’ve found, and i’ve experienced the same treatment over and over across the years.
i stayed in my room, i guess. someone cleaned up the bathroom. i was at school for two more days and then i went home for a day or two until i checked into the psychiatric wing of the local hospital for what turned out to be a six-week stay.
the second attempt happened shortly after my release.
i went to work. got a job working the night-shift in a convenience store, a job i shouldn’t have taken in a location that was dangerous to my eating disorder on a shift that challenges even the most stable. i don’t know why i took the job. perhaps i was trying to get back to “normal” after being in a psych unit for a month and a half. a pointless effort, since i was already falling.
shortly after the start of one of my first shifts, i binged at work. i ate candies and chips, microwaved pots of chili and ravioli, and warming bin fries. then panic. i had to throw up. i had to get it out. but i was at work. i couldn’t just shut down a 24-hour convenience store. how was i going to explain this failure? how was i going to deal with this problem? how could i have let this happen again?
i headed to the sundries aisle and found what i needed next to the toothbrushes and pocket combs. bottles and bottles of pills just sitting there, waiting for me. i took them all back up to the counter and emptied them into one of the disposable bowls waiting to be filled with nachos and liquid cheese. at first i couldn’t figure out how to proceed. should i take them one or two at a time or proceed more aggressively? i decided on handfuls. ten or so at a time, into the mouth and down the hatch, over and over until the bowl sat there empty and devoid of purpose. then i sat down to wait. i didn’t have any regrets. i didn’t panic and call for help. i just perched on the stool behind the counter, getting sleepier and sleepier, until the phone rang.
it was my father. such an odd thing to happen. he had some random question about a card game he and my mother were playing. i gave him the answer. he asked me how i was doing. so i told him. i told him i’d overdosed. like the slashing attempt, things get a little blurry after that. i don’t remember if my parents came to get me or if an ambulance did. i don’t know who looked after the store when i left, if someone locked it up or just left it there, unmanned, ripe for the picking.
i remember being in the hospital well enough though. i remember the ipecac, which i had no interest in at all. i’d taken enough of it in support of my bulimia. they got it into me though and then everything came back up: the pills, the food, and the bile. i vomited until i felt empty in my bones.
i lost my job and got to spend some more time with the psychiatrists and nurses who’d treated me only recently during my weekend hold, which is all that attempted suicide gets you. when i went back out into the world, nothing had changed, save for the fact that my family watched me more closely for the rest of the summer and my personal shrink would ask me “how are you feeling” with extreme intensity at the end of every session. i was always fine. i was back to functional. fake it until you make it.
i never completely left the dark again though. life went on. jobs came and went, as did friends and relationships. people tire. mental illness steals many things and one of them is life stability. long-term employment and long-time friendships, things other people take so much for granted are not part of my reality. sometimes i feel like i’m here but not really connected to the world. not fully in sync.
i started falling quite seriously in 2012. i’d been low in the previous years on many occasions but i’d always managed to get myself back to stable. it wasn’t working this time. i was on anti-depressants, i was going to counselling, and none of it was helping. my bulimia was out of control, my self-mutilating was out of control. i was becoming brittle, i was impatient and intolerant, and i was exhausted most of the time. each day was just a little worse. i was once again trapped in hell, and once again i couldn’t see any way out.
one morning at work while i was up in the grain elevator, an open door caught my eye. i wandered over. at least a hundred feet down. i don’t remember what i was thinking when i stepped over to the wrong side of the safety chain. i stood there for what seemed like a long time, rocking back and forth on my feet, leaving it up to chance. it was when i thought that maybe i should just swing my upper body forward, that maybe i should just lean out that last bit and it would all be done that i panicked. i thought about my son. i grabbed the wall beside me and held on tight. i couldn’t make myself step back over to complete safety for a few minutes though and that internal debate felt eternal. finally, i stepped back over and collapsed on the floor. i crab-walked backwards nearly thirty feet until i bumped up against the wall and it took two hours of sitting there before i felt safe enough to get to my feet to take the elevator back down.
three weeks later i was off on to residential care.
i will never again be the girl who doesn’t “get it”. i can never say that suicide is something i couldn’t do. i belong to a different group of people. it’s not a club i recommend. it’s a strange thing to know about yourself. it’s a hard knowing what your actions did to the people in your life. i seriously regret the amount of pain i caused my parents all the while knowing it is not something i can undo.
i also regret knowing that in my darkest moments, ending my life is something i’m capable of. my psychiatrist has suggested the tendency is not wholly under my control. apparently, it’s just an unfortunate intersection of neurobiology, childhood stress, childhood sexual abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, long periods of anxiety, and sleep deprivation. i just happened to be lucky enough to tick the salient boxes.
the last attempt taught me some things though, lessons that were a long time coming. first, when i’m sinking, when my depression is gaining ground, i need to reach out. my family and friends keep reminding me that asking for help doesn’t make me a burden. this is a tough one for me. i have a deep-seated need to keep it all secret and go it alone. to not bother anyone by needing something. also, not being able to fix it by myself makes me feel somewhat of a failure.
i’ve also learned that when it comes right down to it, there is a large part of me, even when i’m deep in the pit, that doesn’t want to die. i need to remember her, that girl who wants to live should i ever fall so far again.
contact a suicide hotline if you need someone to talk to. if you have a friend in need of help, please encourage that person to contact a suicide hotline as well.
In general, if you’re outside the US, numbers for your country are here: Help a friend – Befrienders Worldwide. You can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to talk to someone or go to http://www.samaritans.org/how-we… to speak with someone.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Para español, llame al 1-888-628-9454.
Locate a crisis centre in your area and at The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (link to: Find A Crisis Centre). For youth under 20, you can call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
UK 116 123 (to reach the Samaritans in the UK)
France (33) 01 46 21 46 46
Australia 13 11 14