I’ve seen so many positive stories from people who have attempted suicide in the past, who are now loving life. They’ve managed to get their life on track, they’ve found a partner who adores them, they have a family, a house, good friends, etc. It’s normally accompanied by the words, “it gets better, hold on”. And that’s great for them, honestly I am so happy that they’ve gotten to that point in their life. But it got me thinking – I haven’t seen a whole lot of stories about people who have attempted suicide, and yet, with all of their being, still don’t want to be alive.
So, hi. I’ve attempted suicide, but I’m still suicidal.
A little over a month ago I made what would be the first of several attempts to end my life. Within a week, I had three hospitalisations due to suicide attempts. “But, Kate,” you might say, “a month is hardly enough time to give yourself to feel better about life.” And you’re right, it’s not; but the thing is, I’m almost 26 and I’ve been passively suicidal since I was 11 years old. I feel like I have indeed given myself plenty of time. I truly, truly wish that I could say that my attempts magically changed my perspective on life, that I was like one of those people you hear about who jumped off a bridge, and while they were falling realised they wanted to live, and somehow they managed to come out of the attempt with no life changing injuries. God, I wish that could have been me, because no one wants to be suicidal, do they?
But here I am, three weeks on from my last attempt, and still suicidal. Still wanting to die. Still having not an ounce of will to live. But, somehow, still surviving.
After my third attempt, I realised that I needed more support to be alive. I spoke with my psychologist and my GP, I allowed myself to be referred to a community mental health team, I reached out to my university lecturers to get assistance in the work I’d fallen behind in, I continued going to my job as if nothing had ever happened. I was, and am, doing all the right things, making myself seem like a functional human being, but I’m still suicidal, and I don’t think that’s changing any time soon.
And that’s okay. It’s okay to not magically feel better after a suicide attempt. It’s okay to still be suicidal after a suicide attempt. It’s okay to wonder, “who am I even living for? Because it’s surely not myself”, because, believe me, I have those exact same thoughts. I am merely existing in this terrible, painful life for the people around me. Not for myself. And that doesn’t exactly help with the suicidal thoughts. So I’m not going to say that it gets better, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll question, “will it, though?”. But, I can say some of the things that have helped me while I’ve been suicidal.
Having someone to talk to that you’re comfortable with.
There is a huge difference between being comfortable and uncomfortable with someone. After my first attempt, my psychologist met me in the ER because he knew I was scared, he always listens to me, he never invalidates me or dismisses me. The community mental health nurse I was referred to after my attempts, however, makes me feel invalidated or belittled any time I be open with her. It’s gotten to the point where, just yesterday, I was ready to make another attempt, and she called me out of the blue. I acted like I was okay and not on the verge of attempting suicide. I said nothing to her about my suicidal thoughts and pretended everything was going just peachy for me, because I didn’t want to feel invalidated, dismissed, or be readmitted to hospital. If it had been my psychologist to ring me out of the blue when I was on the verge of a suicide attempt, I would have been able to tell him what was going on for me. I would have trusted him, I wouldn’t have hated him if he thought I should go to hospital. But even if he did think I should go to hospital, I know that he would listen to me about what I want.
And this point doesn’t just mean a mental health professional, but even a trusted friend. Someone who can listen to you if that’s what you need, or distract you, if that’s what you need. And if you don’t feel like you have any friends like that, then please message me on my Twitter (@katelaurg) and I will try to help.
Having a safety plan.
Okay, yeah, this one makes me roll my eyes, too. “I don’t want to be safe when I’m suicidal, so why would I look at something designed to keep me safe?”. I get it, because that’s my thoughts too. But there are different safety plans that can be tailored to suit you. I have one that is a page of writing, and it’s a really good one put together with the help of a mental health nurse from the hospital that I actually liked, but I never look at it. My psychologist suggested a flow chart, knowing that I like visual things, and now that’s something we’re going to work on together. I’m now in contact with a Suicide Prevention Team who actually seem to listen to me, and my case manager told me the key to the safety plan is to look at it when you can feel your mood dipping, or when the suicidal thoughts start. Before you’re overwhelmed and in the place of “I don’t want to be safe”. I thought it was a great point, though I did raise a thought to him; “I’m constantly feeling passively suicidal, so even if it’s not active I still don’t want to be safe”. I think that’s something we’ll be discussing.
Getting out of the house.
This is another one I would normally roll my eyes at. I’m suicidal, that means I don’t want to be around people. But this one actually worked for me yesterday. I was home, I was actively suicidal and perhaps the only reason I didn’t make an attempt was because I didn’t have the necessary items to make an attempt with. So I forced myself out of the house, went to uni, and sat on the laptop in the cafeteria. I let myself be around people, while not being present with those people, and it kept me safe.
Suicide proof your house.
This is a related point to my last one. The reason I didn’t attempt is because I didn’t have the necessary items to do any damage to myself, and that’s showed me that, while absolutely frustrating in the moment when all you want is to die, it actually can keep you safe. You can limit the amount of things that can hurt you in your home; give your medication to a trusted person, have the pharmacy only give you a week’s worth of medication, hide your car keys or give them to a trusted person.
Find something to live for.
This one has been the hardest for me, because I do have things to live for, but when I’m suicidal, it’s tough to see them as a reason to stay. My cat is my biggest reason to live, I’m pretty certain he’d be lost without me, but when I’m suicidal I tell myself that he would move on and forget about me. But when I’m passively suicidal, he is always a driving force for why I keep trying to live.
And, look, I know these aren’t things that are going to work for everyone, these are just what seems to have worked for me so far. Everyone’s different, and that’s okay. Find the things that can work for you. Have a look online if you’re stuck for ideas. We can’t know if things will get better, but we can keep trying for as long as we can. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep going, or if things will magically get better. All I can do is keep trying.
Suicide hotline numbers:
Australia: 131 114
United Kingdom: 116 123
United States: 1-800-273-8255
Canada: 1 800 456 4566
Ireland: 116 123
If you have any strategies that have helped you when you’ve been suicidal, feel free to share in the comments!