Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts: An Inside Perspective

Remember:

Oppression thrives off isolation. Connection is the only thing that can save you.

Remember:

Oppression thrives off superficiality. Honesty about your struggles is the key to your liberation.

Remember:

Your story can help save someone’s life. Your silence contributes to someone else’s struggles. Speak so we can all be free. Love so we can all be liberated. The moment is now. We need you.

~Yolo Akili

A dear friend of mine shared these words with me a while back, and I took them personally. They reminded me of why I chose to come out of my shell a little bit and write this blog. They reminded me that I have a responsibility to save my own life first and foremost. They reminded me that if I save my own life, I might then be able to help someone else save theirs.

I’m in sorry shape right now, holding in there with this toothache that has been horrible for over three weeks now.  I told the housemate the other night that I was having a hard time with the toothache. No one wants to live with a bad toothache. I don’t want to live with a bad toothache. But I have to be clear with myself that there is a huge difference between the words ‘I don’t want to live with this toothache’ and ‘I don’t want to live.’ I got caught up in the toothache and lost sight of the difference between the sentences for a short time. But I climbed back on the horse. And I really don’t want to live with this toothache.

Voodoo doll with large clamp on her head. An image of suffering.
Voodoo Doll Tatto Flash by S. Grice, colored by me.

 

But even as recently as this past October I could not differentiate between ‘I don’t want to live if I have to feel this sick’ and ‘I don’t want to live.’ And I got lucky on that one. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital crying ‘I don’t want to live’ I may have died from a near-fatal lithium level. You see, the lines get blurry and there isn’t always a right or wrong answer when someone is feeling suicidal.

I believe that every person to some degree or other has a suicidal impulse. I think part of free will and self-determinism is exploring the idea of NOT living anymore. Some people will only ever think of suicide in the most abstract fashion, “I was so embarrassed I wanted to die.” Some people react to many conundrums with some kind of suicidal impulse. I must admit that I fall into the latter camp. If I am brutally honest, even on my best days, suicide crosses my mind at least once. On bad days, it is the only thought I can hold in my head.

I don’t like to talk about this. Probably no one does. Someone who constantly talks of suicide begins to look manipulative, and even if they aren’t manipulative, the topic is pretty much a downer. Whether I like to talk about it or not, today I’m going to talk about it.

Now do not, I repeat, do not get freaked out. I’m talking about my thoughts here. I am not talking about actions. I’m fine, I just have a toothache. I’m not letting a toothache push me off the Dravosburg Bridge. So remain calm, remain seated, keep your trays in the locked upright position.

I think there are a surprising number of people who go through their entire lives being quietly passively suicidal. For the most part, they just buckle down and get on with it. But life can be hard and a big enough stress, or a bad enough situation (say a toothache that is over 3 weeks old) can push that suicidal inclination from background noise right to the forefront of their awareness. That person’s interior landscape changes dramatically. Suddenly the background noise has become a looming presence right in front of them shining a flashlight right into their eyes, blinding them to anything else. I’m sure it is different for everyone, but that it how it is to me.

Suddenly the person finds themselves in direct conflict with their very self. The will is screaming ‘DIE!’ while the body is screaming, ‘LIVE!’ The body becomes the enemy that must be defeated. Some people attack the body directly-they become the self-harmers, the cutters, the scratchers, the burners. Some people begin to quietly plot elaborate revenge on the body-they become the smokers, the drinkers, the hard drug users. Some people strive to outwit the body-they begin to pay careful attention to the contents of their medicine cabinets, they take careful note of tall buildings they encounter, they observe every rope, every bridge abutment. And some people try to retreat from their body completely-they withdraw, they become unresponsive. I’m a mix of all four, and probably most people are.  And look, I’m not saying that every person who exhibits these signs is necessarily suicidal, most probably are not…but if your friend gets weird in a way that you find scary, never rule out that they might be suicidal.

There is good news and there is bad news about suicide. The good news is that most people fail at it. The bad news is that some people do not fail at it. Every person experiencing suicidal thoughts and urges should be viewed as a potentially successful suicide. They should be gotten to a safe place like a hospital or treatment center with all possible haste, and they should be helped to feel safe with themselves. If you don’t know what to do for them call this number.  And don’t feel bad about calling, sometimes the smartest thing you can do is call an expert. Please don’t mistake my next words. Suicidal people should be helped. Please don’t mistake my next words.

BUT.

BUT.

For some of us, we need to think these things all the way through. Sometimes alone, sometimes with help. But we have the right to our thoughts where we might not necessarily have the rights to our actions. I told someone here at the house that I was feeling suicidal. I explained why the normal actions were not appropriate in this case (if I am locked up in the looney bin, I might miss the dentists appointments that can fix the toothache, duh) and I retreated to my room to think it through. And my friend checked in on me regularly. I thought about things this way and that way. And I was able to realize that suicide is not an optimal toothache cure. And that sounds funny and obvious when I write it here, but it was not funny or obvious while I was arriving at that conclusion. It was big and dark and scary. But it was only big, dark, scary thoughts. There were no actions. “Just” thoughts.

I feel like I should tell you things to say or do for a suicidal person, and I promise I will in another post. What I want to say to you right now instead is this. I think there are a lot of people out there who are passively suicidal. I think if science were ever able to study that number, many people would be shocked at how many there are. And I think people have a right to be passively suicidal, they have a right to their thoughts, and they have the right to think them through. BUT. If someone tells you that they are feeling suicidal, then they are no longer passively suicidal, they are actively suicidal, get them to help and safety with all possible haste. BUT sometimes life gets weird. Sometimes a person IS actively suicidal, but being in the hospital could actually make the situation worse (say they have a toothache that has gone on forever…) then keep them safe yourself if there is no alternative. Be an intelligent friend. Give them some space, but be present, check on them, be prepared to interfere. Believe me, if I had taken one suicidal action, I would be writing this post from inside a hospital. I am blessed to have intelligent friends.

Author: belladonnareed

Pamela Alexander is a 48 year old mother of two and mild menace to society. She resides in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA with her sorely oppressed partner, and flatulent dog and a cat. She smokes like a chimney, swears like a sailor, and has been known to drink. When she grows up she hopes to move to the West coast of Mexico.

Please share your story. I'll try to listen compassionately and answer to the best of my ability