Suicide is a difficult subject to talk about, it is highly emotional and opinion is divided. I believe it is so important to discuss it openly though, getting people talking about something removes the stigma and encourages understanding and awareness.
I’m not able to see every side of the suicide discussion because of my own suicidal thoughts. It might sound self-centred to some I guess but I genuinely find it impossible to consider how my family would feel without me, all I can see when the demons are screaming is that they would be better off if I wasn’t here. In order to write a balanced blog, I needed to hear from others whose lives have been affected either by suicidal thoughts or suicide. As I have said many times before I am lucky to have amazing friends, I also have met some fab people in my Facebook group and between them I have been sent a number of heart breaking and honest stories. I hope that with the help of their experiences this blog post will be thought provoking.
So the “easy” bit for me to start with is how it personally feels to have suicidal thoughts. I’ve written about it before so don’t want to repeat myself too much. From conversations I’ve had with people who don’t understand how it feels, it seems that it’s thought I’m thinking of only myself. This really isn’t true. I am thinking of my girls and my Husband because I believe they’ll be much happier without me around. The depression makes me believe I am a burden to them, that I can’t be a good Mother, that I am an awful wife, that all I do is let them down and stop them from being happy. Even in the darkest moment I know I don’t want to leave them, but I do want the pain, the fear and the distress I’m feeling to stop and sometimes the only way that I can see that happening is if I were to end my life.
Some people use the word selfish when talking about those who have died by suicide because of the devastation they leave behind. As someone who has been fighting mental illness for 20 odd years now, selfish is not a word I would ever use. It is a daily battle to stay alive and fighting every single second of every day to hold onto your life is exhausting beyond anything I could ever properly describe. My personal opinion is that it is not selfish to want that agony to end.
When the pain becomes intolerable and reaches a level where even breathing becomes difficult, on the other side it feels like there is peace and calm and happiness waiting.
Friends who also have their own fights with mental illness have told me that they have had all sorts of difficulties trying to talk to family members about their feelings. One friend said “My Husband made it all about himself. How could I consider leaving him? I understood his sadness but I wish he could have understood mine too”. Even those we live with and are closest to find it hard to truly understand what it is like inside our heads. To actually say out loud that you feel so bad you have considered ending your life is horrifying, and whilst I do understand that it must be an awful thing to hear your loved one say, imagine how terrible things must be to have got to that point.
I know many people of course who have never had any mental health problems and not everyone sees suicide as a selfish act. It was a relief to be told that whilst they had no personal experience of suicide, many of them wouldn’t criticise anyone should that be their choice. Obviously, if the worst happened and they did become affected directly by a suicide death, then those opinions would probably change but hearing their non-judgemental comments makes me feel more comfortable about sharing my thoughts and feelings.
The other side is of course those whose lives have been torn apart by a death from suicide. This is the part I needed help with the most and I have read some incredibly emotional stories from people who are struggling to find ways to deal with the fall out of losing loved ones and friends to suicide.
All of the people who contacted me said that being directly affected by a suicide death has impacted on their own mental health to varying degrees – some have even experienced their own suicidal thoughts as a result. “Since the suicide of my best friend 11 years ago, I have needed years of counselling and regularly take medication to help me sleep at night”. I can’t imagine how horrified the person who is no longer with us would feel if they had realised for a second that their actions would cause others to develop a darkness similar to that which they needed to be free from.
Many struggle to understand the reason why the person they cared about would take such drastic action, they wonder if there’s anything more they could have done, or anything they could have done differently to change the outcome – “His suicide haunts me in many ways, because I wonder foolishly if the last words I’d have said to him had been more civil, whether he would have been able to talk to me if he needed to”.
Others speak of the heartache at being left to deal with the overwhelming feelings which follow any death, but the added confusion and questions compound their grief – “They had the lucky escape. I’m still here dealing with it”.
Personally I have found it interesting to discover how those who have had to deal with a suicide death feel. The shock of such an event remains for many, many years and numerous individual lives are changed as a result of the actions of just one person. I have to be honest and say I had never considered before that a suicide might cause another person to also experience suicidal thoughts. I think that’s what has impacted on me most from reading everything that has been sent to me. I wouldn’t wish this black cloud on anyone, it is the most terrifying illness and the thought that I might inadvertently be responsible for passing on the darkness in order to rid myself of it is frightening. Of course I can say that while I sit here feeling fairly calm and the demons are playing nicely. When theintensity hits and they’re screaming at me to end it all, I hope I can remember what I have been told and that will be enough for me to fight back. No one should suffer this hell because of my actions.
As long as mental health is not considered as important as physical health by those with the money to make a difference to the medical profession, suicides will continue and desperately ill people will continue to become statistics. People who have fought battles privately or publicly, but always with a strength that should not be underestimated. People who leave behind families and friends who then develop their own mental health problems. It’s a vicious circle that desperately needs to be broken.
Thank you to everyone who bravely shared their stories with me. This blog is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives to suicide, those who are trying to deal with the trauma of being left behind, and those – who like myself – fight every day to shout louder than the demons.
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