There is no mental health topic considered more unspeakable than suicide. It is the taboo of all taboos. There is a deep shame associated with suicide that lingers like a black, toxic, persistent cloud. This taboo is so ingrained in us that people often speak of it only in hushed, fearful tones. It is as if the mere mention of it might bring calamity straight down on our heads. As I sit on my couch writing this entry, I too am afflicted by a myriad of uncomfortable feelings. I feel as though I am breaking some sacred rule of silence that we all universally follow.
Not too long ago, the subject of suicide swept through my life like a cancerous plague. I received a phone call from my sons’ father that nearly stopped my heart. Deeply depressed, my son had made a plan and gathered supplies. He came very close to attempting to end his life. Words can’t begin to express how I felt when I received that phone call. My heart dropped, my pulse sped up, and I felt sick to the very depths of my soul. I was completely blindsided. Even thought I had known he was struggling with depression, I would never in a million years have expected him to consider suicide as an option. I was beyond grateful that instead of proceeding with his plans, my son made a phone call to his dad. He then very bravely chose to commit himself to the psychiatric ward at the hospital where he would begin his journey to recovery.
Not long after my son was admitted to the psych ward, I realized that I needed to write about suicide. I discussed it with my son and he agreed to let me share his story. I decided I needed to share my own stories as well. I felt empowered by this idea. I knew opening up about this topic was vitally important, but I avoided sitting down to write it. I felt very vulnerable. I was laying myself bare in such a deeply personal way. I was unsure of how to proceed. How do you write about wanting to end your own life? You’re not even supposed to talk about it, right? However, in the end my firm beliefs that sharing my thoughts on this subject may help others, won out over any embarrassments.
On three separate occasions in my life I have personally had serious suicidal thoughts. I never wrote a letter, considered talking to anyone about my feelings, or did anything to prepare the loved ones I would leave behind. It honestly never even crossed my mind. I was so deeply entrenched in my utter despair and hopelessness that I didn’t see my own value. I certainly couldn’t fathom the idea that I had value to anyone else. I just wanted the empty darkness inside me that was hurting me so badly, to be over. So, late at night I stood in my dark kitchen with a very sharp knife in my hand. I pulled that blade across my skin intent on my demise. Amazingly, it did not cut my skin. I tried over and over. I positioned the knife differently, pressed harder, pressed lighter but nothing happened. I can only assume God had other plans for me and eventually I put the knife down and gave up. The second and third time I had the same plan, but never made the attempts. On one of those occasions I made a call for help. On the other, a picture of my son on my refrigerator caught my eye and made me rethink things.
I didn’t just go to sleep one day happy as a clam and wake up the next feeling like my life was not worth living. It was a slow buildup of many night and days. I was in pain and growing more desperate with each breath. It was months, maybe years before I reached the point where I wanted to give up. I could have spoken up and asked for help at any point. But I felt so ashamed and weak. I was terrified that I would be made fun of and told to stop being such a baby. I was afraid I would be sent away and locked up. I was fraught with the crippling fear that I was so broken I could not be fixed. What would people think? How would my life change? What if my life didn’t change? Would anyone even care? Maybe I really deserved to feel this way? Questions turned endlessly in my mind, building and building to a crescendo. My depression was so huge and heavy that I would never have recovered from it without help. Still, I never said a word I suffered quietly in silence. I put on a brave and happy face for the world to see. It was all a lie.
This story is not unique to me. It happens to all different kinds of people. There is no set of rules or requirements. You don’t have to be homeless, jobless, using substances, sick, ugly, mean, white, gay, rich, old or any other arbitrary thing. Depression and suicidal thoughts can happen at any point in your life and for no apparent reason at all. It is no different than any other disease in its callous cruelty and utter lack of rhyme or reason.
You are not to blame! You didn’t do anything wrong! You are not alone! Most importantly, you can and should talk about how you feel. You do deserve to get help for your illness! You absolutely should not feel ashamed or weak. However, if you do feel weak, ashamed, or undeserving I get it! I have been there too and I have felt all those things. I understand and I want you to know there are many other people who also understand. Many other people have felt what you’re feeling. We all want to help you find your way back to healthy thoughts. I know it’s scary and taboo. I know it’s not pretty or glamorous. I know the idea of speaking up is daunting. I know you are suffering so deeply; it may feel impossible to overcome. I have been there myself as both the person attempting suicide and the mother receiving the call about my son.
There is one thing I know with absolute certainty, we need to share our own stories. We need to shine a giant light on suicide, dispelling the myth that it can’t be spoken about. We need to support each other and offer our understanding, strengths and experiences to those in need. Whatever you do, please do not suffer in silence! Speak with a friend, family member, minister, teacher, or your doctor. Go to your local walk in clinic, urgent care facility, emergency room, or psychiatric facility. If you are not ready to speak with someone you know or you’re afraid you can’t afford to see a doctor you can call, chat online or text with a number of free services.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 This number is available 24/7 (press 1 if you’re a veteran)
Text TALK to 741-741 or
Visit the website for online chat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
You can call RAINN at 1-800-662-4673 if you’re a victim of sexual assault or 1-866-331-9474 if you’re a teen in an abusive relationship
SAMHSA (Substance Use and Mental Health Support): 1-800-662-4357
Your local NAMI: 567-525-3435
Please remember... You are not alone! You can be helped! You do have Value! Please feel free to share your story in support, let’s end the silence.