It often takes a lot to push an individual to the ledge. Their toes curl around the edge gripping to one last bit of humanity. Looking downward at what seems to be the sole resolution to their present situation.
What has always amazed me is the moment right before the leap. This is the moment when an individual can decide to lift their head and look around them. That is the exact moment where they realize that it is not the only choice and turn around.
Therefore, I decided to conduct my own informal qualitative study to examine just that. I put out a post on our social media requesting for individuals to share their personal stories related to contemplating suicide and/or suicide attempts. The response was overwhelming. Please check it out. It will leave you in awe as it did with me.
Can you briefly describe your story?
Well it’s a long long story… But I’ve always dealt with depression and I can remember even when I was around 5 or 6 that I’ve outright told my dad I wanted to die. I don’t remember why though it was probably because of like other kids didn’t like me or whatever but anyway I was super depressed in high school though. I hid it pretty well for the most part. I never cut or anything, I was always the asphyxiation type… I was caught by my sister trying to hang myself off my bunk bed with a belt and had my ass beat with the belt by my mom because she had to leave work to deal with that mess. It always existed and still does, but it’s died down a lot the past year. But 2-3 years ago, I was a mess. I would choke myself out in bed while my boyfriend would be asleep and stop, realizing how it would affect him and I’d never want to hurt him so I’d be in the middle of it and stop because I’d feel shitty for ruining his life… I never really cared how I felt because I just always felt like I was better off dead. I was put on so many different kinds of antidepressants and nothing really worked for me but going to therapy was the best thing for me. My therapist taught me how to deal with it and had me work with DBT groups to learn skills and stuff.
The first time I ever had suicidal thoughts was during my early years of high school. My father was verbally and emotionally abusive, and my parents’ marriage was disintegrating. My grades were suffering and I had no popularity to hide behind. Over time, my depression and anxiety escalated to a point where it started to affect my adult life – I had a second bout of suicidal thoughts in 2016. This was when a harsh two-and-a-half-hour daily commute to work was tearing apart my relationships with family members due to how irritable I was getting (Exhaustion, impatience and stress all playing roles). Lastly, my most recent bout was this winter, when a toxic work environment caused me to physically respond to my anxiety for the first time. I literally threw up every morning, and lost 15 pounds on two weeks. It got to a point where it felt like I was choosing to live by leaving the job compared to dying by keeping it.
So about 5-6 years ago, I was at a really low point in my life, I was insanely overweight, working a dead-end retail job, felt like my life was going nowhere. It was the morning of August 22nd 2012, I woke up early for my shift, and I just felt like “I can’t do this anymore, I can’t go on living anymore, I’d be better off dying.” I remember going out to my truck in the driveway and I just sat there, thinking to myself “I’m just gonna get on the parkway, and drive as fast as I can, slam into the concrete divider and hope I die in a fireball explosion or I go over the bridge into the bay.” I guess the very small amount of humanity that I had left in that moment just told me to not do it. I remember breaking down, bawling my eyes out, and realizing that I need serious help. Now over the next couple years after that.. it was no easy task, I left my job, was broke, going to therapy, but all of it seemed to not work. Then, one day I made a mistake with something and I just hit the final straw because all I could think was “I’m stupid, I fucked up, what good am I to my family, I’m worthless, I’m better off dead.” I was going to get in my truck and go and try to kill myself, but my mother ran out of the house screaming and crying begging me not to do it. My brother came home. He grabbed me and got me down on the ground, begging me not to do it. I was checked into a psych ward and released. I just kept at therapy, changed up my diet, changed up my meds, which was one of the contributing factors to it, and just kept working on it to manage it. It took my best friend of 10+years, who moved out to California, to give me that big wake up call to keep going and keep changing, and I’m still here today.
There’s not really anything in particular that started it. I had been dealing with bad social anxiety and OCD since I was a little kid, and, out of nowhere, I got hit with really deep depression about age 12. There’s not much rhyme or reason to it. It doesn’t follow any cycles or have specific triggers, but it’s happened off and on since then. Even when I wouldn’t qualify myself as being in an episode, I have pretty frequent passive suicidal thoughts. The kind where you’re driving and you just think “I could run off the road right now.” I had tried to go to my parents as a kid about it, but my mom basically just told me “everyone gets sad sometimes” and left it at that. I remember explicitly yelling at her that I’m sure she doesn’t wake up every morning wishing she had died during the night. The suicidal thoughts got a lot worse late high school into college when I was in a long distance relationship that was emotionally and verbally abusive and manipulative, and at some points sexually. I often relied on my friends and managed to convince myself not to kill myself, but turned to cutting for a while instead.
Back when I was in HS I thought about it and was really depressed. My parents didn’t take me seriously because they didn’t believe in therapy. I was just constantly told I was over dramatic and needed to “grow up.” Then, I found out it was due to an allergy medication. When I stopped taking it, I was “back to normal,” but then when I moved away to college, the adjustment was too much. The depression returned with the suicidal thoughts. I decided to take matters into my own hands and instead of relying on my parents for approval I looked into therapy services that were covered under the insurance and began my journey with therapy. I eventually told my mom and she was supportive. My dad was iffy about it. I’ve been in therapy on and off for the last 7 years, and it saved me. My journey led me to where I am today as a child therapist! I decided that I didn’t want any kid to feel alone like I did with nobody who understood so I turned my weakness into a strength, and I am finally happy!
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for years. At the time, I was under extreme stress, taking an 18 hour credit load, working two jobs to put myself through school, commuting over 2 hours a day between school work and home, in a very controlling/emotionally abusive relationship, and only getting about 3 hours of sleep a night. I was stretched very thin and didn’t think I had another way out, so I planned a big last hurrah for my 21st birthday in Atlantic City. I planned to sneak out of the hotel room with friends and swallow a bunch of pills on the beach. Right after I swallowed the pills, I was listening to music on the beach and just had an intense sense of regret so I forced myself to throw it all up and luckily I was okay. Never told a soul about it until today.
I was getting bullied for being LGBT and was already struggling with depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. I was told to “go kill yourself” three weeks in a row, I attempted suicide for the first time. All the others one were similar. The second and third time my sister was really violent. Everyday I would come home from school she’d attack me and tell me she wished I was dead, and she’d be happier. At both of those times, our family was under a lot of stress with lack of health insurance, and my health getting really bad. I thought I was a burden and decided both times to attempt again. The fourth time I had reported someone for a gun threat, and I started getting threatened and bullied. Two months after that, I decided to attempt again.
Well, for a long time, I’ve struggled with depression and fighting parents. When I was younger, I thought that suicide would be better than having to deal with unhappiness with no cause and my parents fighting. I tried to commit suicide more than once…The biggest attempt that probably would have worked was lots of prescription sleeping pills and ibuprofen, but I had a friend that called me that knew I wasn’t doing great that stopped me.
Alright, well, I don’t know where to start really, but I’ve had suicidal thoughts to varying degrees of severity, since I was probably around 11 or 12. I wasn’t diagnosed with depression until I was 13 or 14, but I had read about it years earlier and strongly suspected that’s what I had (I wasn’t diagnosed with anxiety as well until adulthood.). Eight grade a psychiatrist made my dad take me to the hospital, but I was sent back home the same day. I never actually stayed overnight for suicidal ideations until 2014, around my 23rd birthday. I never made a plan, or attempted anything. It’s always been more, “Well, maybe that’s an option.” I’ve described it not so much as a desire for death as a desire for nothingness.
What do you believe caused you to feel like suicide was the only option?
I felt like lost… I didn’t know this was a thing until my therapist told me but I’d disassociate a lot of the times. I felt like a shell and felt like I provided nothing beneficial to life or anyone. And I felt helpless because it’s such a taboo thing to talk about with people so I never reached out to anyone about it too… That’s definitely an issue but at this point I don’t care and feel like it’s helpful for people to talk.
Loneliness. Each of those times, it felt like I was the only person who could possibly be experiencing the feelings I felt. Take my most recent case for example – when I tried to explain what I was going through at my job, I got responses like “Oh, you’re going to leave this job, too?” or “This is what real life is like. You have to deal with it.”
Well, there’s quite a bit, one of those was my dead-end job. My original plan when I started there was to only be there temporarily, so I can pursue further education for a career. But due to the stress and being taken advantage of, was an enormous burden and I felt like there was no escape because I was one to not say no at times. Another major factor is my mental disability. I have a plethora of things, from Asperger’s syndrome, to ADHD, severe OCD, SAD, and depression. Everything wasn’t being managed properly. My doctor would just basically “throw a pill at it and see if it works” and that was the wrong way of doing it. I didn’t realize it until the second attempt because the meds were causing a severe imbalance and fighting against other meds essentially cancelling out each other. Now there’s a lot more to it than this, but those were the two major factors.
General feeling of hopelessness. I often got to the point with my depression where I got the empty and numb feeling, and often felt dissociation. Also feeling like my family didn’t really understand and that I didn’t have the support in that way at home even if they were supportive otherwise.
Because my family didn’t recognize that I had a legitimate problem. I always wanted and needed their approval, so feeling so down and not having their support made me feel worthless crazy and alone. I thought i was a waste of a human who couldn’t function.
My doctor’s solution was to put me on anxiety medication, but I didn’t like the way it made me feel – I felt like a zombie all the time so I stopped taking it, and she wouldn’t prescribe me anything else. My mom just thought I was being dramatic when I told her a few years prior and reported it to Rowan and tried to get me kicked off of campus. She almost reported me to my boss, so I stopped talking to her about it. My friends didn’t understand, and I didn’t really have the option to cut back on working because I couldn’t afford to pay my bills and pay for school without both jobs. Just felt like there was so much pressure on me and nobody cared or wanted to help.
I wasn’t honest to my therapist or myself. I hated life and wanted it to be over.
Not really having anyone to talk to and it not being like a normal thing to society. A lot of people think it’s weird or not normal to think that way.
Generally, I think it’s been less that it felt like the only option, but that it was something to consider as the ultimate last resort. Like, I could keep living and struggling not to be miserable and messing things up for myself and others…or I could just go away. This might be a weird analogy, but it’s almost like when I’d play certain video games as a kid. I’d be more likely to restart entirely if I made a dumb mistake and messed up than keep playing with an uphill battle, knowing it’s already harder than it has to be (or find a new game, I guess). I guess I should also say, I often struggled with this feeling like the problems I have or mistakes I made, today or yesterday or years ago will follow me my whole life, and it’ll just keep piling on.
What would you have done differently to prevent you from getting to that point?
I definitely would have talked to people about what was going on… But I didn’t even know about therapists until I got older because my parents never took us to the doctor or anything unless it was urgent. Mental health wasn’t a thing in my house we just never shared our feelings and even if we did it was blown off.
I would have gotten help while I was in middle school when my depression and anxiety began to settle in instead of when I hit high school.
Looking back, I would have stuck to my game plan, which would have been stay at my job for 2 years, while looking into further education, saving up funds to do so, and kept at my exercise routine from when I was on the wrestling team, because my weight didn’t become an issue till I started at my first job and I could have kept it under control. Also look into other options for treatment.
I think I would have been more open with supportive people about what was going on earlier instead of trying to struggle through it often on my own. And I think I would have made more attempts to help my family to understand instead of getting frustrated and shutting down.
I had other adults in my life who I could have leaned on for help, so maybe leaned on them or my friends instead of suffering alone.
Probably would have stuck with a therapist so I had a non judgmental outlet to vent to, and cut back my hours at work even if it meant struggling financially a bit. I’ve learned the importance of asking for help when I need it and making self care a priority to avoid burnout.
Be honest and believe in what others were telling me.
Have someone to talk to and be able to better handle it.
In the moment, on a case-by-case basis, it’s always a bunch of specific things. Things I could have said differently, or just different choices that seem like they wouldn’t lead to whatever’s upsetting me. So it’s hard to say. But generally, addressing negative emotions before they snowball out of control would probably save me trouble. Realizing I’m getting those feelings and doing something to try to cool my mind down a bit, whether that means talking to a friend or even just taking a break of some kind. Finding the right music can do wonders. I even have a mental list of “comfort reads” that I can usually count on to reignite some positive feelings.
How important is the role of self-care in preventing suicide?
Super super important! I always second guessed myself on what to do. For example, for years my therapist would tell me if I can’t reach her to call a hotline. I was always scared to call because I hate talking to someone I don’t know, much less someone I can’t even see. I was in a really really bad place at like 4am (this stuff would always keep me up late into the night) and I called and it was the best decision ever. It helps so much to keep your mind away from what you want to do. And I found that the app Headspace was a good thing to have around to led me like ‘recenter’ myself and shift my mind away from those thoughts. Headspace is the next best thing since sliced bread, man. Taking a nice hot bath listening to that guy’s voice narrate you through the process of clearing your head is amazing.
Extremely. When I enter severe bouts of depression, suicidal or not, lots of my own methods of self care fall through the cracks. I’ll start to eat fast food because I lack the energy to cook. I’ll take lots of unnecessary naps and lock myself in my room. Its important to not forget to do the things that are in your control to give yourself the best chance to feel healthy – both physically and mentally.
It’s very important because self-awareness of your situation in life, especially if it isn’t necessarily a good one, can help you plan and make changes in small steps to help you get out of a toxic situation that could potentially get worse. But the key thing to remember is it can’t be done alone. One of the worst feelings that I’ve had during that time, was the feeling of loneliness along with the helplessness, feeling like no one cared, nor was there anyone I could look to for help because the feeling of being a burden to those people, just put up like this big barrier that essentially would turn me away. So to go with that self-awareness, is the person needs to reach out, to anyone, a family member, a friend, teacher, authority figure, someone they can trust, but avoid the ones who you feel like wouldn’t necessarily be of help. For example, my parents, I couldn’t necessarily go to them because I felt that their old school ways, which is how I was brought up, would not help in this case. So yes, it is important, but it can’t be done alone.
It’s paramount. I find that my worst thoughts of self harm and suicide come when I’m stressed, isolating, and generally neglecting my own self needs. It plays a huge role.
I think it’s very important. You are the only you there is and the world needs you so sometimes you have to be “selfish” and do what you need to do for you instead of trying to make everyone else happy. Also, if you’re exhausted, you’re not at your clearest, so taking the time and space to help recharge is never a bad idea.
Definitely incredibly important. You can’t fill from an empty cup – gotta put yourself first sometimes.
If you don’t take time to care for yourself and focus on yourself, all you are going to do is bring yourself further down and make everything worse.
If you are able to care for yourself and have the help from others, it can change how you feel about yourself, make your life happier, and make it feel more like living.
Huge, I’m sure. With my diagnoses, I guess I’m predisposed to those kinds of thoughts, which means self-care is likely even more important for people who don’t have some kind of mental illness (which isn’t to say it isn’t important for everyone). But I think it’s also important to understand what self-care is. I think a lot of people assume self-care means going overly easy on yourself, almost like it’s a lazy or childish thing. It’s a trap I fall into sometimes too, but I know intellectually it’s more serious and important than that.
What would you tell someone who was contemplating suicide?
I’d say that first, please reach out to someone you absolutely trust and can share with. And ask if they know anyone who could help or if they can rely on them to help when they’re in distress. But if they’re aware that they’re on the verge they should call a hotline immediately and talk to someone there and they can assist them with their needs. Don’t ever hesitate with going to a hospital if needed. And there’s plenty of community groups they could attend to help get some therapeutic sessions in weekly in most cases for free. Or even vent on Reddit subreddits about what’s going on and ask for support. I’ve had plenty of rants on there and the people on those subreddits are a great help. If they’re fortunate enough to afford a psychiatrist that’s great, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t find a doctor right away. It felt like forever finding the right therapist and psychiatrist, but, in the end, it was worth it.
Know that you aren’t alone. There are people put there who have felt the same way as you do. Not only that, but there are people out there who want to help you. Things always, always get better eventually – and there is so much you still have to offer to the world.
I would tell them, that I know things seem like a lost cause, like all hope is lost, like you’re in a never-ending dark tunnel and can’t see anything. But that isn’t the case, there is hope, there is a way out of the darkness. The pain is temporary. the darkness is temporary. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and once you reach it, everything after that, is amazing. The biggest lesson I learned, is you are your worst enemy. Only you can hold yourself back, if you feel that something isn’t right, or something is off in your life, don’t ignore that feeling. Reach out to someone, someone you trust, don’t be afraid to tell someone, because that is your true self trying to tell you to seek that help. Yes, it may sound like a sign of weakness, but it really isn’t. In fact, you seeking help, to get out of a particular situation, that just shows how strong you are, and you may think people in your life don’t care, but in actuality they d. The worst thing you can do is end your life, because all you’re doing is basically crushing everyone in your life. The pain of loss is too great, but what’s worse, is the pain that they feel afterwards, asking themselves “why? Why did they do it? Why did they not say anything? Why didn’t they come to me? Why wasn’t I able to help them?” And they’ll keep asking themselves that day after day. You do matter. You are loved. You are needed. Life is a grueling battle, but guess what, everyone is battling too, and we as human beings need to stick together and help each other. You can get out of the darkness. You can live life. You can be happy again. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Life is the greatest gift you could ever have. Believe in yourself, and if you can’t, then believe in me. Believe in me who believes in you. Sure, tomorrow is never guaranteed, but to be able to make it to that tomorrow is worth it, and when you look back on the previous day, whether you made progress, stayed the same, or went backwards, don’t lose hope. You’re human. we’re not perfect. We make mistakes, but you keep trying. Because to truly fail.. is to not try at all. You matter, you’re needed, and you rock.
Know that there are supports out there. That even if it feels like no one cares, there are people who do. And that sometimes it doesn’t seem worth it, and it’s so freaking hard to do, but it’s important to keep living. Because there may not be good now but there’s always the potential for good in the future.
To not give up and know that even though it sounds cliche it does get better! You’re not alone. There are so many people in the world who love you who you can lean on for help! Always ask for what you need in terms of mental health and know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of! Even though nobody has walked in your shoes everyone has their struggles and it’s important to lean on others for support.
No matter how bleak things might seem, there are always solutions and ways to help. And even when you feel like you’re alone, there is always someone out there who will want to listen and help – you just have to find them. Don’t focus on everything going wrong and try to focus on what’s going right and what you’d be missing out on. If I had succeeded, I never would have gotten to graduate college, never would have had my son, wouldn’t be able to see my brother graduate from high school – there’s so much potential for wonderful things to happen if you just hang in there and stay around to see the sunshine come back.
To reach out. No matter how hard it may be, reach out.
That there are plenty of people that are going through the same thing, and that it’s natural for them to feel that way. There is help and ways to get better. There are plenty of people that care about them and people that will be important to them that they haven’t even met yet.
Even if you don’t think you’d go through with it, the fact that you’re in so much pain that you’re considering suicide is enough to warrant getting help. Which is to say nothing of the risk of physically hurting yourself anyway. Mental and emotional pain is real, and when you’re in any kind of serious pain, you shouldn’t feel like you have to live with it. There’s nothing wise or noble about that. Also, it may sound cliche, but you definitely aren’t alone. Someone can relate. Someone cares. Remembering that can really help.
These individuals possessed a variety of backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, races, ethnicity, and ages. It demonstrated to me that this is an epidemic that did not discriminate. No one is immune from it.
I want to personally thank everyone who contributed to this post. For some of these people, it was their first time sharing their story with anyone. I commend these individuals for reaching out and demonstrating such courage to share these intimate details with us. All of them shared a common goal. They wanted to talk about it in hopes of shedding light on a stigmatized topic and helping someone else out there who may be experiencing something similar.
-The Caring Counselor