Saturday, Nov. 22 was International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a day on which family and friends of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support. Unfortunately, it’s also a day that much of society knows nothing about.
Understandably, it is a very personal subject for those affected. As a society, we are not taught to acknowledge suicide or mental illness. As a result, there are many misconceptions. Suicide does not happen in a day. The sufferer goes through a torturous process that both dehumanizes the individual and eventually builds an argument for why life is no longer worthwhile.
I know: I was having suicidal thoughts for almost nine years before I attempted to end my own life, twice, while I was in college.
I have amazing friends and family, and I have never taken for granted their love and support. But my brain took that love and convinced me that my confusing emotions and experiences were too much to bring into the lives of the people I love. It made me think suicide was the answer to my own happiness and to theirs. Because I didn’t want to burden my family and friends, I found other ways to cope with my feelings, which I now know were symptoms of bipolar disorder.
While they prevented my depression and suicidal thoughts, the ways I was coping were also somewhat illegal, and that is what put me over the edge. I was doing things that I knew my family and friends would never believe or expect me to do. This idea that we should have it all together is dangerous. It prevented me from getting the right help when I needed it. At the age of 13 I had my first suicidal thought, but I lied to my parents and therapist, only telling them about my depression.
I am sharing my story to highlight the sad but profound truth that people can be torturously hurting underneath without anyone knowing. It is unbelievably easy to hide feelings that we believe will affect the people that love us. I thought taking my life was the answer to my loved ones’ happiness, as well as mine, but I was wrong.
Those affected by the suicide of a loved one think endlessly about what signs they missed or what that could have done to save them. The truth is that many couldn’t have done anything because they had no way of knowing what their loved one was actually going through. Family and friends can only respond to what they saw or how they perceived the life of an individual as being.
But a person often does not want to bring others into their problems or even want to face them themselves. For me, the things I was doing and the ways I was thinking had been going on for so long I didn’t know how to articulate them accurately to anyone else. All I knew was that they made sense to me, and at the time that was all that mattered.
As humans, we like to project a certain image of ourselves and to conform to society’s beliefs of what is “normal.” We should all welcome the thought that no one chooses to be psychologically impaired.
We are losing loving, gifted, creative and beautiful minds simply because we are scared to have people in our lives who are truly suffering from natural disorders and emotions that are amplified because of stigma. It is so wrong that someone is able to arrive at a point in their life where they are too scared to go to a person that they love and seek solace.
After a suicide, family and friends are left with feeling more than just loss, but also defeat and at fault. International Survivors of Suicide Loss day is a day when I find comfort in knowing that people all over the world respect the effects that a suicide has had on themselves and others. But suicide isn’t something that we should only talk about after a person is affected by it. It’s something that society has to talk about more.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, don’t wait to ask for help tomorrow. Get help today by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime, 24/7.