I googled “help for suicide survivors” all that came up was help for the loved ones that survived someone who had completed a suicide and how to help them cope. I could not believe it. I was a survivor, I survived self-murder, I was the one, left like a newborn, with open raw wounds and wanted the help of others like me. I found nothing. Thankfully in just the four years since my attempts, this is changing. People are starting to come forward, organizations are realizing the importance and it is changing. I am slowly reaching out to them and they are giving me courage and strength I never knew I had. That is such a huge step forward.
I believe that suicidal thoughts and suicidal actions are different. I believe that once you cross that line into action it actually becomes an option in the future, that it is never truly safe to have the thoughts again without having a safe support system to openly express the thoughts in a nonjudgmental way. The actions become an answer and the thoughts can evolve into action. Thoughts are thoughts. Actions however can change the world. Change life. This is why it is so important to open up dialogue publicly about suicide and mental illness. The statistics show that many completed suicides are not initial attempts. Those that need help are not just those with the thoughts, but those that have already tried to end their lives. Being one of these people, I know firsthand that there is more shame and more fear after an attempt then when I was having just thoughts. Surviving my attempt backfired on me and made me feel like I did not want to over utilize my long developed support, I had put so many loved ones through hell, I did not want to seem overly needy, I isolated myself more than ever. I put the people who supported me through so much that I feared letting them know I was still struggling to heal. I wanted everyone to think I was ok, back to normal. I am still not ok.
I am blessed with a strong mother who asks me daily if I am ok. My boss checks on me daily, I have a small handful of friends that know my silence is a queue to call and check on me. Sadly, many of my friends and family do nothing unless I bring it up, which is not easy when I do not know how they feel about it.
Once the shock and initial responses occur, life for others tends to go back to normal. Many have no idea how to behave or what to believe. Some think it was just a moment of bad judgment, they do not understand it is an ongoing illness and just because you survived, does not mean the illness disappears. This is the ideal time for family and friends to take time to educate themselves, instead of going back to acting like it never happened. Yes, some suicides are impulsive and due to circumstance, this is also where education is so helpful.
When discussing my intentions of openly discussing my suicidal tendencies with a few people in my support system, I was met with positive reactions, until the questions were asked. You do not mean posting it on social media or putting the information somewhere total strangers could see this right? This is not going to be shared with people you know right? Wow! Had the past several years of my discussion of how important it is to take away the stigma gone unheard? When I said publicly, I meant publicly, not partially public except for those that may judge me. It saddened me to hear that the very people I rely on, even if for that moment in conversation, judged my decision to share such personal details. If I am to become an advocate and help others like me it has to be open and real. The most important thing anyone can do for someone expressing suicidal thoughts is to listen and not judge or minimize what they are saying.
Open dialogue has to start somewhere and my somewhere starts now. I am still a good person. I am still kind and intelligent and reasonable. I am also gifted with insight, the ability to forgive, and admit wrong doing. I appreciate my ability to relate to others on many levels and be open-minded. I also have mental illness, it does not define me, but it is part of who I am.
I am relieving my conscious of the secret I held due to fear of being judged or misunderstood. I have a lifetime illness, I struggle in some way, almost daily and it is real. A suicide note is real. Quiet struggles are real. A beautiful smile may or may not be real. Talking openly is not just real; it is necessary.
Please rethink your ideas regarding mental illness, ask those you love if they are ok, a simple smile can change another person’s day and learn the symptoms, the signs. It is not contagious, it is however deadly.
I can sum my experience up in a poem I wrote:
My silence is an echo of my repetitive pain,
Reminding me of demons that live in my brain.
They haunt my days and stir my fears,
They have been there living for all my years.
Some days are bright, some weeks, a month,
Eventually though they come to the front.
They scream so loud I cry in shame,
But only I can hear this pain.
My silence protects the demons from showing,
People often judge me but they are really unknowing.
To think that depression has a sound or first name, is as ignorant as thinking two think the same.
If you hear nothing but silence beware,
Ask before assuming the person does not care.
Silence is my prison that mimics I am okay,
The demons are there and I fight them every day.
Copyright- National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI)