The first time I tried to take my life, I was 17 years old. I remember the day clearly. Vividly. And, well, benignly. The day was like any other: I sat up. I got up and, reluctantly, I got dressed.
But I knew when I got out of bed that morning it would also be my last day because I had written a note and made a plan. I had stockpiled what (I believed) would be enough pills to make me pass out. To make me sleep. To make me never wake up.
And I was OK with that. I was OK with the notion of dying.
But I didn’t try to take my life because I wanted to die. (I really, really didn’t.) I tried to take my life because I didn’t know how to live. Because being and breathing had become too painful.
Of course, I know that may not make sense, especially to someone who has never experienced depression or struggled with a mental illness — an undiagnosed and yet-to-be treated mental illness. But depression does things to your mind. It makes you believe you are not good enough, you are not strong enough, and it tells you that you are helpless, hopeless, lost, crazy and alone.
But there’s more to it than that. Depression hurts. Literally. You feel a deep pang — an ache — in every bone, joint and cell of your body. You feel hollow. You know you are not. Air passes through your mouth and into lungs. In and out. In and out. But the space between might as well be nothing. You are empty. Your mind is racing but your body is vacant.
You are a ghost in a shell.
Feelings become nonexistent or all-consuming; you are void of them or completely overwhelmed. And all the happy and joyful memories of your life are destroyed. Cut off. Gone. They are erased like they never existed.
But you keep fighting because you can — because you should. Because it is is the only way to survive. But one day, it hits you: This war will never end. You are defender and aggressor. With a mental illness, your mind is both friend and foe.
And in that moment — that defeated, deflated moment — you give up. You surrender because death seems (hell, it sounds) like a relief. You know you want to end the pain, and you believe the only way to do so is to end your life.
But it isn’t. I promise you it isn’t. There is help. There is hope. There is light on “the other side.”
Of course, I would be lying if I said that the morning after my attempt — the morning I “woke up alive” — I was happy. I wasn’t. I felt scared and empty, like a failure and a fraud. But eventually, things got better. I got better, and with medication and therapy, I found happiness again. I found life again. I found myself again, the girl who was once full of joy and hope.
That said, it should be noted that my story is just that: my story. People attempt suicide for numerous reasons (and some may in fact want to die). However, many suicide attempt survivors echo similar sentiments. According to the Crisis Centre in British Columbia, most of “those at risk for suicide do not necessarily want to die… [they just] want help in reducing the pain they are experiencing,” and having both help and hope is why 60 to 70 percent of suicide survivors never make a second attempt according to Mental Health America.
In other words, 60 to 70 percent of suicide survivors can go on to live full and happy lives. But first they need help. They need hope. They need a chance to survive.
So please, take every concern seriously. Take every joke or threat seriously, and if you know anyone exhibiting warning signs — if you know anyone talking about suicide; expressing an interest in suicide; and/or displaying hopelessness, helplessness, recklessness, apathy or any extreme personality change — talk to them now and take them seriously, because they are worth it. You are worth it. I am worth it.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org, or text “START” to 741-741 to immediately speak to a trained counselor at Crisis Text Line.