NOTE: This post was originally written last year.
TW: suicide, suicidal ideation, depression, self harm
Last month I was asked to speak at State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Symposium. I talked about the many times I’ve been suicidal, and I realized I’ve never told the story here. While it is painful at times to retell, I think it’s so important to talk about because so many people suffer in silence. The stats on suicide have gone up, and there’s no doubt in my mind that those numbers will double, maybe even triple, because of the pandemic. If you are struggling with suicidal ideation, please seek help whether it’s your doctor, a trusted friend or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.
Here is my story.
I was alone at my parents’ house, and my depression was out of control at the time. My parents had taken my kids to their lake house about 90 minutes away. I remember fighting on the phone with my husband, I don’t know what about. I hung up with him and I felt out of control, like my insides were trying to jump out of my body. I was pacing, sobbing and didn’t know what to do. I started to shake, sweat and suddenly I all I felt was pain. My brain was telling me to die by suicide* and I calculated how to die — I would overdose on pain pills that I knew were in my parents’ bathroom.
I went over and over my plan, and I started to shake harder. I had to sit. I didn’t want to die, but my brain was telling me everything would be better if I did. And my family would be better off, too. I thought of my kids and the guilt overwhelmed me. Then I thought about my mother coming home from the lake house and finding my dead body. My dead body. Those words gave me the chills, and I cried harder.
I called my mom in hysterics. She tried her best to calm me down. I hung up with her and texted my best friend, who urged me to go to the nearest emergency room. I was really scared I would die, so I went.
When I got there, I whispered, “I’m suicidal.” And the tears kept coming. A nurse took me to a room, and asked me routine questions about my health, then my mental health. I saw a doctor, although I don’t remember our conversation. They left me in the room for almost an hour, waiting on transport to an acute psychiatric facility.
The men in the ambulance didn’t talk to me the entire ride. They joked and laughed from the front of the ambulance and then pushed me on a stretcher into the building. When I got inside, they asked me to change clothes into scrubs they provided, asked me questions about my plan to die and mental health history. I was taken to a room and told to go to sleep, it was late then. I had a roommate who I didn’t meet until the next morning.
I can’t say I received the help I needed while I was there; the doctor, a man, was rude and condescending and told me I couldn’t go home until he talked to my husband (who was in Corpus Christi at the time). Once he talked to David, he said I could go. The whole experience was humiliating, and I hope to never repeat it.
I don’t mean to discourage those who are suffering to go an emergency room — please do so if you are in immediate danger of killing yourself. My bad experience doesn’t mean you’ll have one. My point, and I could go on and on, is that the way we treat the mentally ill MUST change.
But I regress. I’d like to say that was the last time I was suicidal, but it was not. When it does happen, I know to text my best friend, to call the Lifeline and to reach out to my husband. Most of the time, I’m about to tell myself that those feelings are temporary, and that they will pass, as painful as it us at that moment.
Being suicidal is the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through — I feel severe pain, I wrestle with the idea that I’d be leaving my kids and family, then I feel extreme guilt. The guilt just makes me feel more out on control. It’s awful. Let me be clear: I hope to never hurt my children, family and friends because I’ve killed myself. I love them more than anything, but when I become suicidal, I obviously am not thinking clearly. The only thing I truly feel is to end the pain. I don’t even want to die, but I do so long to end the pain.
That’s why I can’t stand when people say that those who die by suicide are selfish. They weren’t being selfish; they just wanted their anguish and pain to go away. And it’s completely understandable, having been in that position myself.
Again, that’s why we need to talk about this and expel the myths and misconceptions. We need to be able to discuss suicide like it’s any other topic, because too many are dying. What’s scary to me is that it’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. The CDC reports that someone dies by suicide ever 12 minutes. Even scarier is that more than half — 54 percent — of people who die by suicide have no known history of a mental disorder. This means that a lot of people are struggling, not disclosing they are struggling and killing themselves without reaching out. It comes from out of the blue. How incredibly tragic and painful.
So, let’s end the cycle. Let’s be open about mental illness and suicide and resist the taboo and social constraints that are clearly killing people. Because it’s only going to get worse, thanks to COVID-19 and the lasting effects of the virus.
It is beyond tragic when we lost someone to suicide; I imagine someone in crisis, feeling overwhelmed and in pain. It hurts me to think that one of their last thoughts may have been, “I’m alone. I am worthless. I’m better off dead.” And that they die not knowing how special and needed they are in this world. It’s painful to think about, but that’s what we must do in order to change things.
And we must change things.
If you are in crisis, please reach out. If someone reaches out to you, please be open and supportive. Offer to drive them to the emergency room, sit with them or give them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Do your part. Show compassion. Give love and support.
That’s all I got.
*Instead of saying, “committed suicide,” please say, “die by suicide.” There’s a lot of judgement when you use words like commit and it implies that they are doing something wrong (like committing a sin) when really they’re sick and need medical attention.