Last week a close friend of my sister’s took her own life. Her husband found her in the middle of the night. She left behind her husband, a close group of friends, and three small children between the ages of 5 and 11.
Over the years, I’ve heard many people talk about how suicide is an incredibly selfish act. I’ve heard those say how talk of suicide or acts of self-injury and/or suicide attempts are nothing more than a way to get attention or manipulative acts to get one’s way.
Suicide, suicidal tendencies, and self-injury are not acts of manipulation. They are not a way to get attention. They are quite simply a way to deal with suffocating and intangible emotional pain.
When I hear that someone has committed suicide, I know that their pain was so very great that they were willing to risk going into whatever came after this life just to end that pain. That’s powerful and that’s brave. Sometimes I envy their courage to go out on their own terms, but ultimately they leave a group of shattered people behind. That is unacceptable for me. My deep empathy and love for my family and friends has kept me from taking that step. I will always take on more pain myself to try and avoid causing pain to others, even people I hardly know.
That’s not to say that this desperate woman didn’t love her family and friends enough. In that moment, she probably deeply held the belief that they’d be better off without her, as she likely felt like a burden to them. The poignant song “Hate Me” by Blue October speaks to this. I’ve been there, too.
I intimately know what it’s like to be in so much emotional pain that you just want it to stop, no matter what the cost. I’ve been there, more times than I’d like to admit. One does whatever one can to get that pain to stop, even for a few moments of relief.
I’ve struggled with depression and an emotional regulation disorder for over 25 years. Most of that time my family has been in denial about it, closing their eyes to my pain because they honestly didn’t know what to do or how to help, so they pretend it doesn’t exist. They change the subject or tell me to smile, and then they move on. I’m unable to keep a job for very long because as much as a diabetic is incapable of producing insulin, I am incapable of dealing with certain situations and stresses. Yet my family would always advise me to “just stick it out.”
Years ago I stopped trying to communicate my emotional turmoil when it pops up, and it is by no means constant. In fact, I’m normally pretty happy and content, but the crazy time doesn’t stay away for good. Some days are worse than others. Some years are harder than others, but overall I am a very lucky woman who is surrounded by people who love and support her, even when they don’t know what to do. Very, very lucky.
Still, when the crazy time hits, I had gotten so used to people turning away that I stopped reaching out. I now fold deeper inside myself, repeating the mantra “no one cares how you feel but you and your husband.” And that is usually true for most people because everyone else has their own problems and demons and struggles to deal with, they don’t need to deal with someone else’s, too. I’m extremely fortunate to have one other person in this world who cares enough to stick around and do whatever it takes to get me through those times, no matter how long it takes. Many have no one else.
Believe me, I don’t blame the many, many friends I’ve lost over the years due to my emotional intensity (“good” as well as “bad” emotions) for walking away, because if I could walk away from it, I most certainly would. In a fucking heartbeat.
When talking to my sister the other day, imagine my surprise when she said (referring to her friend) that “it’s a disease and it should be treated just like someone who has cancer or diabetes.”
This is the exact thing I have tried to express for decades. Years ago, I had talked with them about chemical imbalances. I’ve sent them literature to try to help understand, but they never looked. Now because it was a friend, she gets it. I’m glad she gets it, and I hope that more people will reach out to friends in pain before they are gone. Please read this amazing post by the Kilted Travel Agent “Remember and embrace those close and not so close to you” while you can.
My sister went on to say how “everyone knew [her friend] was depressed,” but no one knew what to do. She described how her friend had expressed anger at herself for even being depressed because she had nothing to be depressed about. (yep.) Then the friend was ashamed of not only the depression but the anger, too. (been there.) Lately she had been dealing with anxiety attacks and such. (they really suck, btw.)
But…no one knew what to do, how to act, or how to help.
Fortunately we have something now that we didn’t have twenty-five years ago: the internet. If you have a friend or family member with a particular diagnosis, Google it. Get books on it. Learn about what they’re feeling and what you can do to help. If they are on medication, research that medication to see what possible side-effects might be altering their behavior or physical well-being as well.
As I said in a previous post, ultimately everyone must be willing to help themselves first. If they are not willing, there is little you can do; however, those people struggling with depression, self-injury, suicidal thoughts, and addiction might need a little extra patience and understanding from time to time. Learn how to reach out. Learn what to say and how to help them through that time.
Take it from me, no matter how tired you are of hearing about it, it’s nothing compared to how completely exhausting it is to experience.
Finally, through amazing groups like To Write Love On Her Arms, this silent, dark suffering might finally be brought out into the light and be embraced with love, not judgement.
Resources that might help:
- The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide
- The Mindful Way Through Depression
- Talking to Depression: Simple Ways to Connect When Someone In Your Life Is Depressed
- Tips on Dealing with Depression and Anxiety
- How to Help Depressed Loved Ones
- Death to Breath: Support for Sufferers of Mental Health & Suicide (video)
*Please read my other articles on relationships and romance*