TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of Suicide, Self-harm, Depression, Anxiety
My first attempt at taking my life happened when I was 13; I took 26 sleeping pills, two for each year I had existed uselessly.
Now, which part of the above sentence strikes you the most, dear reader? The fact that it was a suicide attempt, or that it implies that I had many others, or that I was a mere teenager when I first attempted? Or maybe you’re wondering why a 13-year-old felt the (repeated) need to try and kill herself?
I don’t think there even exists a valid answer to your question. Peer pressure? Bullying? Misunderstandings on the side of my family/society/friends? Fear of the future? Hormones? Depression? Even now, almost a decade later, I couldn’t tell you if it was any of these things individually or all of them combined, which made me swallow those pills on that fateful Thursday in early May.
Oh yes, I remember the month, day, date, and even what I was wearing when I attempted. I remember that it had been raining. I remember wondering, hoping, as I held the bottle of pills in my hand, if my pain would be washed away and if I would arise anew in another world, just like the earth rises clean and fresh after every shower. I remember giving the afterlife; heaven and hell and all the mythological stories my dad used to narrate to me about punishments, a fleeting thought as I lay in bed drowsy and half-conscious. I remember murmuring a ‘Sorry’ to my mom, for hers was the last face I saw in my head (or was it in reality?) before the darkness pulled me under.
Unfortunately, having been blessed with an eidetic memory means that I have the capacity to recall even the things I don’t want to, in perfect clarity.
I recall briefly regaining consciousness in the ICU as they pumped my stomach. I recall looking down at my own pool of sickness and thinking, ‘Oh crap, I failed.’ I recall waking up much later in a normal ward, gazing up at the disappointed and worried faces of my family.
And later, I recall the weeks of tense silence that followed me as my family skirted around the issue. I recall searching for a Band-aid one day to find that the whole medicine cabinet in my house had been wiped clean. I recall being paranoid about seeing if my guilt followed me around like a shadow. And I recall shattering the long mirror in my bedroom one day, because I just couldn’t look at myself.
Some say that suicide is a coward’s way out because only people who don’t have the courage to face reality and the challenges of life take the apparently easy way out. Well, having survived multiple suicide attempts and having learned something from each of them, I’m here to tell you otherwise.
It takes an extraordinary amount of determination to make the decision to end your life, and an exponentiated amount more to continue to live after a failed attempt. There’s tonnes of research and psychoanalyses pondering the question of why people consider suicide at all, so I won’t delve into that now. Let’s look, instead, at a group of people that society treats as pariahs – the survivors.
You would think that if someone comes back from the cusp of death, their near and dear ones would celebrate them, molly-coddle them and never let them out of their sight, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what happens in most situations.
Most survivors’ second lives (I like to think of them as being born a new person) are filled with awkward silences, misunderstandings, and lots and lots of heartbreaks. Our very normal and perfect society views them as abnormal and imperfect, making the survivors regret and start to hate their second lives, more so than their first.
My situation was very similar. In the months following my attempt, I found myself more confused and lonely than I had been in my entire life.
My family was walking on eggshells around me; talking to me only when necessary, I wasn’t allowed to go out socially anywhere, not even with a chaperone, not even to meet my only friend at that time, I was asked to lie to everyone that I had taken time off from school because of a stomach ache, and the list went on. So how did I deal with this?
I went into self-destruct mode.
But then, after numerous cuts, burns, popping painkillers, and a night where I spent hours and hours throwing down countless bottles of alcoholic cocktails (don’t worry, I was no longer underage) which made me end up in the hospital (again) with (another) pumped stomach, it all ended.
How, you ask?
It’s no great miracle; it’s something you see happen to everyone you pass on the streets, probably. It happened to me, too, when I was 21.
Love, the destroyer of lives. Which actually ended up redeeming mine.
Yes, reader, I fell in love. Madly, irrevocably, head-over-heels in love with probably the most understanding, caring, and loving being in the entire universe.
He was my entire universe.
Within four seconds of seeing him, he had me floored (and I mean literally, with my back on the floor, with him licking me furiously). However, redemption is not as easy as falling in love. It is a long, difficult, (mentally and physically) exhausting road filled with more thorns than roses. Which is probably why, come to think of it, one of the only two ways to destroy a Horcrux (to the non-Potterhead, it is an object of dark magic where a witch or wizard hides a piece of his or her soul) is to seek redemption for your deeds (the other one being stabbing it with something that has Basilisk venom; at this point, I would highly recommend everyone just pick up a copy of Harry Potter).
After what seemed like endless visits to therapists and psychiatrists, heart-to-heart discussions with my family, and many, many tears, I learned to deal with it all.
Oh, no, I wasn’t fine all of a sudden, far from it. All the panic attacks and the depression and the self-harming tendencies and the suicidal ideation (yeah, my latest therapist has an extensive vocabulary) didn’t go away. They were very much there. I just learned to deal with them in a healthier way.
For example, Therapist #2 introduced me to the wonderful world of bullet journaling. It was a really calming activity, especially for someone like me who used to have a creative streak before all this went down. Therapist #3 taught me mindfulness and grounding techniques and ways to deal with the urge to self-harm. While I don’t really appreciate all of them, some of them, like the 54321 exercise or even simply holding an ice cube in my hand, really work for me at desperate times.
So what am I trying to say through this (ridiculously long and depressing) rant?
That it’s okay to spiral into self-destruction as long as you come out of it? Of course not.
That love makes everything perfect? Definitely not; perfection doesn’t exist.
That people shouldn’t be stigmatized for attempting suicide? Well, yes, but that’s beside the point.
Then what is the point, you ask?
It is this; the night is darkest just before dawn.
Okay, I might have just recited a quote from Batman: The Dark Knight, but let me elaborate.
I’m not saying everything will be peachy at some point in your life, that all the trauma you suffered will fly away as though it were never there. In fact, I’m saying quite the opposite; there will be the ‘Bad Days’, there will be the days you would want to punch the smiles out of everyone’s faces (the ‘Fudge-You Days’), and then there will be the days when you would feel as though the world isn’t ending (the ‘Okayyy Days’).
I’m saying, trudge through the bad and the worse and try to live for a better day.
Because that’s all anyone can really do in life – try.