*Trigger Warning*: Talk of suicide
I recently saw a video clip from an Australia-based TV show called “You Can’t Ask That!” The show asks members of marginalized groups questions that people may be thinking and do not ask. The goal of the show is to provide individuals from marginalized groups the opportunity to answer these questions and crush the stigma, discrimination or simply lack of knowledge that can create these questions. The particular clip that popped up on my Facebook feed was suicide attempt survivors. I attempted to end my life when I was 16 years old so this clip and these questions are important to me. I want to answer the questions, some of which are hard, and I hope it teaches you a little about the experience of people who have survived trying to end their life or, if you have tried to end your life, please know that you’re not alone out there.
Why did you try to kill yourself?
I was tired of feeling so bad. I wanted to stop feeling so bad. I couldn’t identify why I was trying so hard to keep it together. I couldn’t see what I was living for. When I looked at my life I saw the friends and family I was letting down. It hurt me that I was hurting them. The actual trigger was when an ex-boyfriend of mine told me that I was worthless. Looking back, his opinion should not have mattered but I was a huge people-pleaser and what he said just flicked a switch in my head and I decided I was finished trying to live.
How come you’re still alive?
This is a pretty uncomfortable question and one that I would like to think is self-explanatory. The method I choose was ineffective. I think the better question would be “how do you feel about being alive?” At first, I was pretty upset. I was already in a “I’m a failure” mindset so coming out of this alive didn’t help. In the long run, I am very happy that I am alive. My life has been filled with joy and I would have missed all of it! Surviving is the number 1 thing I am so glad I failed at.
Do you ever regret not dying?
I’ll make this one simple. No! Not anymore.
Did you do any physical damage?
No. At least none that I can see and that has mattered in my life. Now, the emotional damage is a different story. Over the years I learned to show 16 year old me compassion. That has made moving on from my attempt a lot easier. It’s not something I want to dwell on.
Don’t you think you were selfish and cowardly?
Are suicidal people crazy?
No. I believe many are suffering from the deepest pain you could ever imagine. Just because you can’t understand it does not mean that it is “crazy”. I also agree with physician-assisted suicide in some cases and recognize there are many reasons people may want to end their suffering by ending their life. It’s not “crazy”.
Do people now treat you like you are emotionally delicate all the time?
When it happened I found that my family treated me like I was delicate and my friends just ignored what happened. Honestly, it’s a topic that has either been avoided or spoken about vaguely. No one treats me like I am emotionally delicate now. I kind of wish they would to a certain extent because the opposite seems to be no one really caring if what they say or do hurts you! When people first find out, like if I am sharing my mental health story publicly, I do notice that the faces of the audience are either filled with sadness or fear. People don’t know what to do so I guess they think it’s just easier to be careful with you.
I’m going to add my own question: What did you learn from surviving your attempt to end your life?
I learned that I can get back up when I think I’ve been knocked down for good. An affirmation I started using a few years ago was, “You’ve survived this far, so keep going!” This reminded me that I could have tried to end my life again but instead, I decided to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I saw my survival as evidence that I must not be done with life and that I must and can keep fighting for calm, peace and joy I know I deserve.
About Kristen Bellows
Kristen lives in Southern Ontario with her partner and their new baby boy! She identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. Kristen is a registered social work, working as a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills group facilitator. She is also training to become a birth and postpartum doula. Since giving birth, Kristen has become interested in exploring how mental health issues intersect with motherhood. Kristen identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. She loves cats, reading, singing, pickles and learning. You can read more of Kristen's blog posts on her personal blog www.prideinmadness.wordpress.com