Originally published 10 September 2016
*Warning* this post may contain triggers.
It was three years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday.
The year I persistently tried to end my life.
I always say, it’s strange the things one remembers. I live with fibromyalgia which causes a range of cognitive impairments including problems remembering. I forget so easily. Yet I remember even the most minute details of 2013.
In my unconscious state during the second episode, I recall hearing the voices of the ambulance crew trying to keep me with them.
“Alisha do you know what day it is?”
“Alisha do you know where you are?”
“Alisha stay with us”
My consciousness was ebbing but I remember the feeling of my body stiffening as I suffered two grand mal seizures en route to hospital.
I remember waking in disappointment three days later. I remember the woman on my hospital ward who bought me a stuffed monkey and left it on my bedside table. The first time I met my friend’s pastor – I had woken when no one expected me to. She had brought the holy man to pray for my soul. I remember the guard posted at my bedside, silent but watchful. I remember feeling that the world seemed different and scary, and wondering how I would find the courage to navigate this place where I didn’t feel I belonged.
Every 40 seconds someone around the world dies from suicide. Years of long term therapy and rehashing traumatic events have hardened me, but suicide can shake me up any day. Because I remember. I remember what led me to that path, twice in one year, leading to hospitalisation in high dependency units, attached to machines, not fighting for my life while others – strangers and friends fought for me.
It is poignant because while I remember I still suffer. Life with depression and C-PTSD mean that suicide is rarely far from my mind. I suppose the only difference, and the biggest one, is I’ve had a lot of help and support. My father was perhaps the biggest surprise. I never thought he would understand. We come from a culture where it is heavily stigmatised. But God he tried so hard, and never once, unlike so-called ‘friends’ who I had confided in, did dad ever say ‘what you suffer is all in your head.’ Or ‘it never happened, you imagined it’. I met a number of supportive medical professionals who supported me the best that they could, and thanks to that, I’ve been slowly able to rebuild my life and learn ways of managing. I know that when things get harder, there’s someone I can turn to who won’t shun or judge me.
Months ago dad told me I had changed. Incidentally, the same week my therapy group said the same. I couldn’t see it then, but I do now. How could I not have changed? Suicide changes you. When you plan to depart this world, then wake up to return to your demons, as well face layers upon layers of guilt and shame…such terrible shame, how can you not be changed? I am lucky and thankful to still be here to have a chance at life. But so many people didn’t fare well. So many others weren’t taken seriously by their loved ones because they too were told it was ‘all in their heads.’ And worst of all, so many passed on without telling a soul out of fear – fear of judgement.
I cannot say it enough. Suicide is a real problem. People who commit it are not selfish, contrary to what seems popular belief. It is human instincts to want to live. To even consider suicide means that the individual is suffering such immense pain, that they can no longer bear it. It is exhausting. It is so exhausting words can never capture the extent of it. Trying to live, drawing excruciatingly painful breaths when all you want is to end the pain. That in itself is painful because you know you are leaving behind things and people you love more than life itself. But you honestly feel deep, deep down that you are no longer any good in this life, struggling and failing to overcome pain, and so reluctantly you must do what you have to to. Death still seems scary. Just life seems moreso. So death becomes a friend of sorts. Every time I hear that someone has succeeded at ending their life, I feel immense sadness, like I have lost something irreplaceable. Because I know. But more importantly, I remember.
Please endeavour never to tell someone who is suicidal or has been or who has tried that they are selfish. People in this position rarely consider it as a first option. Only when at the very last of their human capacity to bear their burdens do they reconcile with death. And please, do not ever say ‘someone has it worse than you.’ You would never want someone to say this to you. This is not helpful. Every person feels their own pain.
Let us end the stigma associated with suicide. This is not to say that we encourage it. But by ending the stigma, we will make it safe for people to talk about it. And talking could very well be the first step to saving a life.