Please remember – ALWAYS seek professional help if you or someone you know experiences thoughts of suicide.
Despite what the song says, suicide is not painless. Suicide is not glamorous or cool. It is not trendy nor should it ever be romanticized. Suicide is too frequently a final conclusion to a life of often unseen suffering. It leaves survivors in indescribable pain, haunted by unanswered questions and a nagging sense of guilt and anger.
There is often no neat and tidy explanation for why people ultimately decide to take their own lives and many people can’t even fathom entertaining such thoughts themselves. In this post, however, I hope to provide some insight into what it’s like to find yourself seriously considering death as the only cure for your emotional and mental pain. My intent is not to glorify suicidal thinking but rather to shed some light on the thought processes that occur when you finally reach the end of the line.
During the worst of my depressive episode, I went many rounds with the demon suicide. It all came to a head one particularly dark night while the rest of my family was sleeping. I will not go into the details of what I had planned as I think it’s more helpful to focus on what I was thinking and feeling at the time. Although this occurred many years ago, I still remember the suffocating sense of despair that had overtaken any desire to keep on fighting. I remember the hopelessness weighing me down. I remember how the feeling of no longer wanting to live was so intense that it physically hurt.
As I reflect upon that night, the first and probably most obvious thing to point out is that I was not thinking rationally. By the time one reaches the point where death seems to be the only answer, there is no reasoning, there is no looking at the bright side, or finding the silver lining. My sense of despair was so powerful it left no room for reason or logic. I felt like I wasn’t living but simply existing. I often felt like an outsider in my own life. While everyone around me was looking forward to a future of never-ending possibility, all I could see was never-ending darkness. The only thing stretched out before me was a terrifying nothingness with no hope of recovery or happiness to be found. All I could hear was that cruel voice in my head repeating it’s favorite taunts, “What’s the point? Why go on? It will never get better.” So there I sat, at the bottom of my well drowning in hopelessness. I was unable to hear or see anyone else and simply too exhausted to reach out for help.
Another realization about that night which I find more shocking is how my family and friends never crossed my mind. I know that sounds insensitive but by this time my depression had left me feeling very numb. I was frequently unable to access any feelings about anything or anyone including, unfortunately, my family and friends. Somewhere inside, I knew they loved me and I knew they’d be in pain if I took my own life, but even that was not enough to convince me to stay. I suspect this may be the case for others who have either found themselves in this same situation or who have, sadly, completed a suicide attempt.
Now we reach a point where you may be wondering why I didn’t go through with my plan. Here is where I will probably offend everyone – Christian and non-Christian alike. All I can say is that by this time I had a microscopic bit of faith left in God but it was just enough for me to question where I’d end up if I took my own life that night. Would I see God? I didn’t know for sure. Even today, I’m not clear on the answer to that question and will have to leave that to the theologians. But, that bit of doubt was enough for me to abandon my plan of leaving this earth by my own hands. It was not the love of my family and friends or all the blessings I had in life but a small doubt that saved me. I’m sorry I can’t provide a more pleasant “touchy feely” anecdote, but I am not going to pretend I had some epiphanic, shining moment of spiritual clarity when that is not what happened. Perhaps at the time, God knew this was the only way to reach me and I was just fortunate enough to listen.
While it may seem trivial or silly to some, I am grateful for my tiny remnant of faith because it created the tiny bit of doubt that changed my mind. Not giving into the voices and thoughts that kept telling me there was nothing left to live for, gave me a chance to heal and recover. I still had a very long road ahead of me but I eventually climbed my way out of the pit and I know now that I would have missed out on a whole lot of good things had I ended it all that night.
Although I did have a change of heart, I have often thought about what I would want my family and friends to know had I actually followed through on my plan. First and foremost, I would want them to know that it wasn’t their fault. I would want to reassure them that while I knew they loved me, their love simply was not big enough to conquer the blackness that had taken over my mind and body. I would not want them to spend the rest of their lives riddled with guilt. I would hope they might find the strength to work with others on bringing depression and all its ugly symptoms out into the open and to help create a world in which people can seek help without judgement or stigma.
My one piece of advice to anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation is to hang on one more day. Even if you’re clinging to this life by your fingernails, don’t let go. Keep slugging your way through the darkness – it will get better. I’m telling you this as someone who spent a lot of time at the bottom of the pit – you don’t have to stay there. Resist the urge to isolate yourself as this will only make matters worse. Try to stay in touch with friends, family and any medical professionals who may be treating you. If you haven’t sought medical help yet, do so quickly. Again, the important thing is not to give up. Regardless of what your mind may be telling you now, there is hope in life not death and you will find freedom from the darkness of depression and suicidal thinking if you can just hold on until tomorrow.
I have listed some resources below for more expert advice on dealing with suicidal thoughts and surviving suicide.