I wanted to write something meaningful considering the date, but I feel exhausted writing about this topic in general. I am a pretty doleful person as it goes and I know people get tired of that, but the subject does need talking about–the stigma, the misconceptions, the neglect, the survivor guilt–these are all things that we need dialogues on, and what better time than today? So let’s get real for a minute.
How to Help
I know it’s been said many times in many ways, but the most important thing to do when a person in your life is feeling suicidal is to take them seriously. Don’t let it go. Don’t ignore them. Listen. It sounds simple, but it cannot be overstated. When I talked to my friends about feeling suicidal they had no idea what the “right thing to say” was…I could tell they were worried. In my experience it’s not what you say, it’s the being there that will make the difference. Just keeping a dialogue open, asking questions. You’re not going to convince someone else to live or find their reason for living in a conversation or ten thousand conversations. What you can do is be there to talk to them.
And they might not want to talk. Again, there’s no perfect way to handle this. There is no guaranteed protocol. Your best bet is simply awareness and persistence, and though that sounds a bit like going to a fight without any weapons, it can save a life. It did save mine, twice.
Don’t worry about making the person feel better, or “curing” whatever they have. There are mental scars we can get as humans that cause just as much suffering as any biological disease. Suicide, as unglamorous as it is, is more of a will to be rid of that pain than anything dramatic. I know for me at least, I felt that pain and I felt like I was a burden to people who cared because of it and how it affected my life. So the idea of ending the struggle was very appealing. I say this so that you can keep it all in mind when talking to someone about their mental state and suicidal thoughts. This isn’t something that a yoga class or a church session or a good book or the correct inspirational quote will fix. So don’t focus on that aspect of it. Just acknowledge their pain the way you would any other loved one suffering any other kind of pain.
There are a lot of support networks out there for those who have suffered a loss from suicide; I can’t speak too much about how to heal from that, but I might be able to offer insight as someone who has been there contemplating it. It is definitely not anyone’s fault–again, these are mental scars and it’s a pain so severe it consumes you. I figure many of those who choose suicide feel as I did, that they were a burden or that their loved ones either wouldn’t care or would move on quickly. It’s something I believed wholly, and I can’t say why. So in trying to figure out your pain, I hope that at least makes some sense. And if you haven’t yet, please find a support group or therapist to help deal with your loss.
I have to interject here and thank the amazing people in my life for what they’ve done over the past few months. I would not be alive without their support and the reason I continue to stumble around every day trying to find some kind of footing in life is because of them. Things are not perfect with my mental health–far from it, but suicide has been removed from my mind as an option because of those loving hearts who want to keep me around. You can be that for someone.
The following photos were all taken after my experiences, which were so, so recent. To think of never having these moments seems strange now. I consider them trophies, successes.