Before I became suicidal, my life was in a word “a mess”. I come from a truly dysfunctional family in which I suffered what at first appeared to be episodes of depression. I was hospitalized on 3 occasions during my late teen years and therefore managed only to graduate from grade 12 (grade 13 was incomplete). When I was 19 I was raped on the “first date” I had. In my family, dating was not an option until marriage was on the horizon.
From this disastrous beginning, I met my first husband and I would have married him even he had had three heads and an extra eye in the middle of his forehead. My misfortune was that he was abusive and so I finally got rid of him after 5 years.
Shortly thereafter I met my second (and present) husband and the three of us (included was my son from my first marriage) moved to London to start life over. When I got pregnant again, I sent my son to stay with my parents as my husband was attending school and I thought a short stay would be all right. However, after the birth of my daughter, my parents refused to give me back my little boy.
It was at this point that I became suicidal. I left the hospital alone and went back to my apartment. I could not comprehend a life without my little boy and I truly believed that they would side with my first husband no matter what. I just could not stand thinking about my life anymore and so I decided to kill myself by jumping off the balcony. We were five stories high and the basement made it six stories. At the very last second as I hung onto the railing of the balcony I did not want to die but it was too late. I landed on the parking lot pavement.
When I came to I saw a lot of bodies dressed in white. I remember saying, “Where is God?” Somebody replied,“She’s alive!” I remember swearing because I had thought that God could fix the misery I felt.
If someone should think that ending their life is a good solution, I can attest to the fact that it is not. The pain that I felt was indescribable. I had a broken leg (above and below the knee), broken pelvis, broken arm and so on. They could not set any bones until I was stabilized. The doctors inserted a steel pin just above my knee and put my leg in traction. People who try to kill themselves and do not succeed are privy to a mess they can in no way imagine. The physical pain can be unbearable. Then you get to see the pain and horror in the eyes of someone you love and who loves you. Many people suggested to my husband that he should leave me in the hospital, go on with life and forget about me.
During the process of recovery in the hospital, my husband was with me every day.
When I was released from the hospital, my husband tried his best to encourage me to walk again. And with the help of psychiatrists and a later hospitalization, I was actually diagnosed as bipolar. Since 1983 I have been taking lithium and have never had a recurrence of suicidal thoughts or for that matter any kind of depression.
A few years later, I began a business in my home. Eventually my husband and I moved to a commercial address and he worked for the business as well. Daily contact with customers gave me the self-assurance I lacked. When I was able to assist them in finding and securing good employment opportunities they told me that I was “wonderful” and that I had been responsible for their success. I helped a lot of people who thought I was great and pretty soon I started to share their assessment of me. My work also enabled me to learn a lot about people and to empathize with their job successes and failures. In other words, I became a friend.
I truly believe that if a person is suicidal, that person does not feel any self-worth. Such a person also probably feels inadequate and unable to resolve issues that for them are truly heartbreaking.
The first reason for me to go on living was seeing the love my husband had for me even though I had been so self-destructive and essentially had abandoned him. The second reason was that though I did not have my son, I had a daughter who also loved me and needed me. I see my first son often now, which is very important to me. Thirdly, my customers gave me purpose and validation.
Why go on living when the world is sometimes a very hurtful place and it seems that “you just can’t win”? As I now like to say, “Everything shall pass one day – even the good stuff.” Nothing stays the same and therefore, one never knows what changes may come in the future.
The oddest thing in the whole world has been for me to recognize that no one looks at you and judges you as to your social and economic status. Having an open mind and being willing to listen has made it possible for me to establish relationships with individuals from all walks of life.
In short, suicide is not the answer. It is only the accumulation of bad feelings that can change. Life can be good if you wait.
Story #5612 & 5613
I am not a great writer (I have dyslexia). I did attempt suicide once, when I was 13. I don’t really remember my thought process, but I remember thinking, this hurts too much, not again. I was sexually abused by both parents, which I blocked from my consciousness until adulthood. I’m sure that’s a huge reason.
I want to use this to “process”, this is what I do, almost every time with someone. But I just can’t, so I’m writing it. I have bipolar, so it's still a struggle, at times, the depression is emotionally and physically debilitating. I’m going to write, to remind myself, the reasons, not to do it. Because, even though I think it, I seriously consider it, if I was “just me” I’m sure, I would have by now but… I do not want to die. The biggest reason, that I would not attempt, is my daughter. I had a car accident and had to learn to walk and talk again. She went without her mother for a long time. I could never, let her go thru that pain again. So, no matter the feeling I have, no matter the pain I feel, no matter how hopeless I feel, no matter how I feel and think, “what’s the use”, I will think about how my life is not my own in some important ways.
I had very severe post-partum depression, but I took care of my daughter, not myself really, but her...I did. I was told by a psychiatrist that he didn't know how I did it. Most people couldn’t have, being that severely depressed. But the maternal instinct is very strong in me. In that car accident my aorta was partially torn. They gave me a 15 percent chance to live and because of the head injury even less to come back from it. But I did, with a lot of hard work. I was told by more than one loved one...it was my daughter that brought me back. And during rehab...I told my “big sister" when I want to give up, remind me...it's not for me. It’s for my daughter...she needs me. You can’t know the physical and mental pain it was. But you forget, kind of like child birth. No one would have kids if they really remember the pain. Her father is not involved. She’s never met him. I’m it. So who am I, to make that judgment call? She’s 16 now. I have thought, maybe when she leaves home...but for better or worse... I’m her mother. If a parent commits suicide, their children are much more likely to do it. I guess...heaven will have to wait. If at times I have no reason for myself, I have my courageous, intelligent, witty, artistic, daughter. So at times that’s the ONLY reason I stick around.
Hey, I almost died. Really 85 percent I should have. But as selfish and unreasonable as it is, this thought has been rolling around my head. God knew what he was doing when he gave her to me. Don’t get me wrong...it's still very hard with the chemical depression; after all, I am very very very bi-polar. But... I love my daughter, more than life itself.
There’s an article I read, where a man, dove into the ocean to wrestle a child out of a sharks mouth. Then he went back for the child’s leg. The boy, unfortunately, died, but I always say, that would me. I’d probably die… but I’d die trying! And I have an intense fear of sharks. So...this might not be, what you’re looking for, but thank you for giving me the opportunity to process. So there it is… mistakes and all.
Oh...my daughter’s name means “Gods gracious gift.” Best name I could have given her. But there are times, I really want to give up and die and kill myself but… then…. there’s… her.
(submitted the next day)
I don’t know if this is allowed, or even wanted, but I just couldn’t let my story have that ending, because, it’s not. I wanted to write a follow up letter to my first one, the true ending. The beginning is story 168. If you read that one it will make much more sense.
It’s a day later. I wrote the first in the throes of deep depression. I have persevered again. And the world has colors now. Hope has been renewed. It happens this way. Unfortunately, I can’t see out of the box when the chemical depression and seasonal affective disorder has set in (this disorder means I need more light than most people. Light affects me very strongly and dim winter months are very hard). But now, my outlook is much different. Yes, I have money problems, car problems, bipolar and many others.
It’s a little unbelievable, but I will tell you the whole truth. The man who raped me, when I was 6 months pregnant, held me for 6 hours, choked me until I passed out and threatened my life, along with my unborn child, has just recently been released from prison.
Life is so unfair. Why should that monster, be able to be set free when doing so opens deep psychological wounds.. I have PTSD (spelled out is…Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) from it. Which means that at times I can feel like it’s happening, all over again. Or things can trigger flashbacks, for me it is the sense of smell mostly. I have been to therapy and worked through a lot of it. I have coping skills, I learned in therapy to deal with this and it continues to get better. And usually it only happens on the anniversary date. But… him getting out of prison has triggered my PTSD. So… life takes on shades of dark gray or charcoal black. At these times I cling very tightly to my strongest reason to live…my daughter. But on the other side…I see through clear glass, instead of fragmented crystal.
I have many other reasons to live. I have many things yet to do. Especially, if I can help just one person gain hope when dealing with some of these strong tragedies, it would be…well, I won’t say worth it, no one should have to go through these things. But, if I can use it to help….
This hope of mine brings a sense of reason to horrific circumstances. But healing takes time, my outlook didn’t change overnight, not for a long time. The only thing I could do for a long time, was stretch my hand, not even my whole arm, out into the darkness. I guess, I want to say, if you reach out for help, even if all you can do is write about it, it does get better, it has for me anyways. And every time (well, over a period of time) I do get help, especially things like…therapy or/and a support group or/and at trusted website and surround myself, with people who can relate and don’t get preachy with me.
Even if you can’t see how it will ever get better, you feel the agony is so intense, you can’t bear it for another second, you need to reach out for help. Sometimes all I could do was cry. Sometimes not even that. That’s why we need people: to lean on them and their hope and strength when our tank is bone dry. When my hope was shattered into many different pieces and I didn’t think I would ever be able to be whole again, I learned to get help. It is not a sign of weakness in my book, but strength. It’s very hard to reach for help, when you feel like there’s no guarantee it will help. I’m not preaching, I talk from personal experience. And people keep telling me, the world is a better place with me in it. I’m not trying to be arrogant…but you never know how or when you can be of help.
For me it’s just waiting. Waiting… until that intense sense of being shattered lifts a little. I continue to reach out. So… don’t make that final decision. You just can’t know what you’ll find. If you’re in the throes of feeling hopeless, like sometimes I was, I took that agonizing step to reach out. It was worth it.
I tried to talk to my parish priest about my feelings—the response was not supportive. I knew my parents would try to “convert” me to heterosexuality if I told them. I couldn’t tell my best friend because I was afraid she would never talk to me again. There were no teachers or other adults that had ever given me any indication that they were gay-positive, so I felt that there was no one to turn to. Needless to say, I felt very alone.
After a year of struggling with my religious beliefs (which told me quite clearly that I was a sinner and could never act on the feelings of love in my heart), I began to feel that there was really no way out of my dilemma. If I chose my religion, a big part of me would never be truly fulfilled. If I chose to acknowledge my sexuality, I would lose the only religion I had ever known. The situation was not really as black and white as it felt at the time—my lack of awareness of alternatives and resources, combined with the drama of adolescence intensified the importance of the decision I felt I was being forced to make.
One night I talked to my mother in very indirect ways about Catholicism and whether or not there was room for different interpretations about sexuality. I padded the conversation with other topics so she wouldn’t know why I was bringing it up and that I was referring to my own situation. She was firm in her conservative beliefs, and made it clear to me that there was no way but her version of “God’s way” to live. I was devastated—she didn’t know it, but she had rejected who I was. She had described a future for me that would be empty, meaningless and without family or God.
I needed to get away, so I went for a drive—tears streaming down my face and music blaring. I was driving down a country road—I could see in the distance that there was a train coming off to my right. It would cross across the train tracks on the road I was on. Judging by its speed, I knew that if I kept driving—and didn’t brake—my car would collide with the train. I had a few minutes to decide what to do. It felt like a test—a perfect opportunity to end my life. To get out of the situation I was in. I didn’t have to do anything, just keep driving. In order to live, I had to take my foot off the gas and move it to the brake.
At first I decided to do it—why not? There really was no one to turn to—not God, not my family, not to anyone I knew. And then I thought about the friend I had fallen in love with. If I kept going, I would never be able to tell her how I felt. I would never have the opportunity to be honest about all of the wonderful things I felt for her—she would never know the true me. So, I braked. The car stopped about 15 feet from the train tracks. The sound of the train and the wind passing with it felt like a baptism of sorts. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want my friend to be hurt by my suicide—it wasn’t worry about how she would cope with that, or how any of my family would cope. It was the realization that I needed to try to be who I was meant to be. To be honest in the way I chose to live—regardless of how other people reacted.
I decided that I would tell my friend how I felt—two weeks later I did just that. We became lovers and stayed together through the first few years of university. We’re not together now, but we stay in touch. She knows about the night that I decided to live—and she understands. That was the one and only time I seriously considered suicide. I know there are many other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have been through similar experiences. Looking back on it now, it still shocks and angers me that homophobia and heterosexism almost killed me.
My life seemed to be going fine. I was in high school, and I was having fun with friends. Unfortunately I began using drugs. At first I had no problems, but then I started taking a benzodiazepine. It made me feel like I had no worries at all.
One night when I was 19, I got off work about midnight. I did the usual when I got home late, watched a movie and passed out. I woke up not long after I passed out and decided to take some benzodiazepine pills to help me rest. I felt that unusual sensation of no worries, then I started taking a couple more but with alcohol. I am a hunter so I had many guns in the house. Somehow the pills and alcohol affected me in such a way that I got into a deep depressed state. Benzodiazepine pills can make you forget an entire night, and so unfortunately I cannot remember everything. I remember going and getting a 12 gauge shotgun and just playing around with it. I also remember how depressed I felt, because I had let my family and myself down by screwing up my first semester of college.
The next thing I remembered is that I was lying on my dad’s bed in a pool of blood. I didn’t know what happened, but knew something wasn’t right. The story is much more in depth but I do not have enough space to tell it all. I shot myself in the face with the shotgun. After a very long and painful month in the hospital I went home to recover. It was hard to believe how a pill could amplify my depressed feeling so bad that I tried to kill myself.
After a few months of recovery, I began to feel better physically and mentally. I travelled across state to see my ex-step sister to get my mind off of things. I unfortunately took benzodiazepine pills with me. Once again the pills just amplified my feelings of guilt and depression, which were much worse at this point. So I cut my wrist. My sister came home and found me in the tub and took me to the hospital where they bandaged my arm. I then spent a week in a psych ward. It was hard to believe at what I had done once again.
When I got back home, I tried to stay away from drugs, but I had an addictive personality. So once again I took benzodiazepines, which brought the amplified guilt and depression back. I then tried to overdose on many different medicines. I locked myself in my house and just waited for it all to end. The SWAT team broke down the door and tried to ask what I had taken. At this point I was in a confused state and was beginning to die. I remember an EMT staring at me in the ambulance, very sadly, saying I was going into cardiac arrest. I figured that that was it for me. Somehow I survived again, and was sent to an intensive psych ward for a few days. I voluntarily agreed to transfer to a rehab facility for 30days. I learned a lot there, about addiction and how it can affect one’s mind. It was a miracle that I survived all of that.
I am now almost 23. I’m about done with surgeries for the gunshot wound. It has taken three attempts to make me realize how precious life is. I cannot describe how traumatizing it all was, not just for me, but all of my family and friends. I know now what triggers those bad feelings I had. I was less than 2 minutes from death not only once but twice. That old cliché, you don’t know what you've got until it's gone, really hits home with me. I might not have died, but I felt and saw the destruction suicide can cause. Life is full of so many beautiful things and sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us. I feel hope, joy, and love. Not a day goes by that I don’t see myself in the mirror and see what I did. I used to get down about it, but there is nothing down but the ground. I now keep my head up and live my life to the fullest. Death may seem like an escape, but it is just an end. Why end your life, no matter what the circumstance, when there is so much to live for? Everyday I think of something to be grateful for, and that helps a lot. And I never run out of things to be grateful for, there are so many!
Key Guides for Survivors
After a Suicide: Recommendations for Religious Services and Other Public Memorial Observances
This booklet helps community and faith leaders plan memorial observances and provide support to survivors.
SOS: A Handbook for Survivors of Suicide
Available in Spanish at http://www.suicidology.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=259&name=DLFE-782.pdf
This is a brief handbook to help people who have experienced a loss by suicide cope with their emotions and questions.
Suicide: Coping with the Loss of a Friend or Loved One
This is a brief guide to understanding and coping with emotions and questions that arise from losing a friend or loved one to suicide.
Surviving a Suicide Loss: A Financial Guide
This brief guide was developed to help survivors of suicide loss deal with personal financial issues, especially if the person who died was the primary bread winner or financial decision maker in the family.
Surviving a Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide
This is a brief guide to help people cope with a loss by suicide. It includes information on several different ways to connect with other survivors of suicide loss.
Resources for Survivor Support Groups and Programs
Pathways to Purpose and Hope
This is a guide for creating a support program for survivors of suicide loss that offers a variety of services on a long-term basis. It is designed to help any lay person start a new program or enhance an existing one. It provides instructions for developing an agency brochure, database, and website; welcoming new families; facilitating support meetings; compiling a newsletter; and other services. It also includes chapters on communications, finances and fundraising, training, governance, and evaluation, as well as sample forms and handouts.
Preventing Suicide: How to Start a Survivors’ Group
This manual discusses the needs of suicide survivors and the ways in which self-help groups can help. It also provides guidance on how to establish and run a survivors’ support group.
Support Group Facilitation Training
AFSP sells a 95-page guide to effective support group facilitation titled Facilitating Suicide Bereavement Support Groups: A Self-Study Manual, along with a 90-minute companion DVD. AFSP also offers a two-day training program that uses lecture, interactive discussion, and role-playing to prepare participants to create and facilitate a survivor support group. The training is offered throughout the year across the United States.
Survivor Voices: Sharing the Story of Suicide Loss
This two-day, in-person training program teaches suicide loss survivors how to speak safely and effectively about their loss—both publically and privately. It is usually provided to a group of no more than eight survivors to allow time for each person to share and get support.