When I read on Facebook about Marie Osmond’s teenage son committing suicide, it brought knowing tears to my eyes. Of the 19 comments, not one of them mentioned compassion for the son. While my heart certainly does go out those left behind, I immediately empathized with the excruciating pain and utter hopelessness he must have felt to have done such a thing.
Having committed what was labeled a serious suicide attempt, I’ve been in that terrifying place. Although I can’t begin to know what he or anyone feels or thinks, I have my ideas.
To my surprise, no one has asked me specifically about my feelings at the time of my attempt which, I think, is part of the problem perpetuating the negative cycle of suicide. Attempting suicide carries a huge stigma of shame, is hush-hushed, and no one wants to talk about it because it makes people squirm uncomfortably. I believe that only by sharing honestly can I heal fully and help others.
I’ve heard people say that suicide is a selfish act, but I didn’t see it that way at all when I tried to take my life. In fact, I thought of it as a selfless act. Now, I know how terribly skewed that sounds, but then, I honestly thought that the world, especially my kids, would be better off without me. My opinion of myself was that low. That’s the kind of thinking that leads to a suicide.
When I tried to kill myself, I had many of what I considered to be good reasons and a blur of painful thoughts and memories ran on an endless loop in my head. The mental movies played out in intricate, garish detail all the worst “what if” scenarios possible in the future and the most horrible scenes of my past in full color. Over and over. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find the pause button to make them stop and hadn’t slept for any amount of time in weeks. I was desperate for some peace and rest.
My brother and best friend in the world, had died 11 years earlier of AIDs and although I didn’t know where he was, I wanted to go be with him wherever that was. Several of my relatives had taken their lives and through the learned power of suggestion, I saw killing myself as a viable option. I was also two weeks into a new antidepressant which could have been a contributing factor.
Regardless of the circumstances, the bottom line was that I didn’t have the vision, faith, or hope to see a way out of my despair nor did I have the tools, energy, or drive to begin to know how to help myself. Now, I want to scream at anyone who is suicidal telling them that they will not always feel this way even though I know they won’t believe me right then nor do they want to hear this kind of talk.
Life is a lot like the story of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz which is chocked full of meaningful metaphors. Life is a journey which is going to include good witches, skipping on the yellow brick road, and emerald castles, but tornadoes, bad witches and flying monkeys are going to show up from time to time too. Expect them. They’re part of it.
A problem arises when we buy into the illusion of a wizard who’s going to solve all of our troubles. In life, there is no such wizard, and if we think we’ve found one, they most likely turn out to be nothing much behind an elaborate screen like in the story. In the Wizard of Oz, the wizard flies away in a balloon, leaving Dorothy once again to face her own problems.
With the help of the ruby slippers, a symbol of the power Dorothy had within herself all along, Dorothy makes her own wish come true and saves herself. Like Dorothy, we all have the power to make our own wishes come true and transform our own realities. This power lies in our brains. (See blog: What’s In Your Mental Health Tool Box)
We each have to find what works for us. Employing the power to change our own lives may mean altering the neurochemical balance in our brain with other chemicals, consciously directing mental processes which, because of neuroplasticity, change the physical brain and its functioning, such as meditating, visualizing, keeping a gratitude journal, or making behavioral lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating healthier and limiting neurotoxins. In most cases, overcoming depression will most likely require a combination of some of these, but everyone has the power to start changing their life for the better. We are already wearing the ruby slippers.
When someone is suicidal, they cannot fathom this concept and will hate you for even suggesting it. That’s OK. They’ll get over it. Someone who is suicidal needs a person to extend a hand, intervene with force, if necessary, to keep them safe until they can do so themselves and begin to take the steps towards healthier thinking.
I didn’t like it one bit and was mad as hell at those who saved me and were continuing to ensure my life. I thought, “How dare they! This is my life. Why don’t they mind their own damn business?” Now, I am forever grateful. Be a bother. Butt in. A suicidal person will not appreciate it at the time, but they will later.
My advice to anyone in that dark, suicidal place is to quit running and stop struggling. Exhale. Surrender. Have a break down. Sink into the pain and despair. Feel it. Allow it to move through you. And it will. You won’t stay there forever. Experiencing your feelings won’t kill you. Suicide will. Ask for help and actually allow it. If the first thing you try doesn’t work, and it probably won’t, keep at it.
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