I have tried to start this post several times. When writing about such a sensitive topic as suicide one has to be careful with their words.
I have had much experience with suicide. This first was a good friend of mine in middle school. He was 13. I struggled so hard with his death because that was the beginning of my own mental health struggles. I experience suicide at 12 years old tends to shape your worldview about the subject.
I began my own struggles a couple of year later and my first attempt at 13. If I had parents other than mine they would have known what I had done. My mom however said “wow looks like you got sick in the night”
Nothing about the empty pill bottle or my withdrawn mood; if she knew she never said anything because in my family things get swept under the rug faster than dust bunnies.
When it came to my mental health there were so many things that were done based on the symptoms I displayed. In my situation those symptoms stemmed from severe abuse but no one ever went to that place with me. I had a bottle of medication shoved at me and had to go to therapy with some of the worst clinicians I have ever experienced.
In high school suicide became a regular thought for me. I would plot and plan inside my head about what I was going to do and when. I was scared though and don’t really think I wanted to die, I just needed someone to see an outward experience that explained what I was feeling on the inside. I needed the people in my life (my parents) to see how much pain I was in and that I was desperate to make it stop.
I should stop here and say that at this point 75% of my abuse was buried so deeply in my subconscious that I didn’t even know it was there. Everything I was experiencing I thought was normal so it was never questioned. Plus as a young teen the clinicians tend to listen to the parent first and the child second.
As I got older and the attempts became more serious and closer together it somehow became my parents’ job to make it stop. I honestly think the reason that they were so adamant about medicating me was because my struggles were making them look bad and they needed me to be better for them.
I tried to get better, I really did yet when I was living in constant chaos and fight or flight mode it was difficult to really focus on what I needed to do.
Things didn’t change until I was correctly diagnosed and put on the right medications. I also found a therapist who works with trauma victims and so far I have made several changes and certain things have gotten easier to handle.
But in the ten year time period I had several suicide attempts, hospitalizations and trips to rehab. To me, living in those moments chaos was the only way I knew how to live.
It wasn’t a good, healthy abundant life at all and that includes after I became a Christian. Actually becoming a Christian made my mental health struggles worse because of the severe ideas in several camps about mental health, medications and suicide.
When I look back over the years and think about all the people who took their own lives I cannot help but be grieved at the death of Robin Williams. He has been such a figure of greatness within the entertainment world.
When a celebrity commits suicide it suddenly becomes a thing where everyone has to know everything. It could be a form of rubber necking. There are people who choose to speculate as to why or make asshole comments like he took the cowards way out or that depression is just mind over matter. I want to throat punch those people because their ignorance spreads and leaves the door open for other people to believe the same thing.
People that have never been there can be supportive, loving, empathetic and gracious when in a relationship with a person struggling with depression. There are so many ways to help also. Making them dinners for their family, helping to clean and do laundry. Take their kids for a couple hours so the persona struggling can rest.
When spending time with someone who is depressed (in my experience) the best thing to do is sit by their side, no matter where they are sitting and listen. Sometimes offering advice is hard because there really is no right thing to say. Offering trite Christian sentiments and “promising that God has better plans for them” certainly doesn’t make the hurt better. In my experience it makes it worse.
One of the biggest reasons why I left the church was because of their stance on mental health and medications. I have heard that therapist’s are tools of the devil and that medication means that you aren’t putting your full trust in God; tends to make things worse. That was my personal experience in one of the first churches I attended after becoming a Christian. I was being mentored by a woman in the church who told me that mental illness isn’t real. I have been told that I lack faith or just need to try harder. All the while I am suicidal again and now it’s affecting my daughter.
This is why I take the death of Robin Williams somewhat personally. Even though I did not know him, I can understand the struggle that would lead him to take his own life. Each of our struggles with mental illness are different there is a strand that binds us together. That’s precisely what this community needs right now is to band together. To love people that we know are struggling and even those that aren’t. Support, love, and knowing you’re pain is seen and heard can go a long way.
I am so open about my PTSD because I know there are others that need to hear our stories and also because I have been able to let go of the shame I used to carry. Mostly because of the stigma that’s attached to MH struggles.
Standing beside our people and being willing to just be there is huge.
And to those who are calling him a coward for taking the easy way out, or saying that it’s just mind over matter or that they should just choose happiness – I say to you now shut the fuck up.
Unless you’ve been there or walked beside someone who has, your nasty thoughts will fall on deaf ears. Watch it when you speak about, on the freakin news peoples struggles because it’s likely you have zero idea what we go through on a daily basis and why sometimes suicide feels like the only option.
I am no longer suicidal; I haven’t made an attempt in almost 10 years. That doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with those thoughts but I have grown enough in therapy to learn coping skills. I also have an amazing therapist who walks with me and has shown me a new way.
August 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm
Brilliant. So well put, painfully honest and truthful. Bless you.