Back in my drinking days, I had suicidal thoughts. I never came up with a plan or the means though. It was more like needing to escape the pain and not knowing how. Looking back, I’m so glad I never really considered taking it that far. I have since experienced having someone in my life attempt suicide, and the fall out has been pretty ugly. To me, suicide is no longer about the person who attempts it or succeeds, it’s about the family and friends afterwards. Suicide is the permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yes, temporary. Even if something is long lasting and forever, it can be coped with. The feelings of despair can be handled with the right therapy and/or meds. In my opinion anyway. Suicide can’t be undone. The emotional scars after an unsuccessful attempt can’t be undone. I feel for family and friends of those who have attempted it or succeeded. The following guest blog shows it from both sides. Being close to a successful suicide, and personally having the thoughts but luckily never an attempt. Carin shares her story with us now. (name used with permission)
Walking the Walk
For two years in a row, I have gone on “the walk” when it happens in
September. What is “The Walk”? Well, it’s a chance to raise awareness about
the prevalence of suicide in our community, and raise money for the local
crisis centre and line. But just walking “The Walk” was an experience that
made me think a lot.
Let’s start with the name. The website is thewalk.ca and the title that most
know it by is just “The Walk”. I’m happy that now, the website’s title says
“The Walk for Suicide Awareness and Prevention,” but I always thought it
funny that the very walk whose aim was to bring suicide out of darkness and
stigma didn’t have suicide in its name. I’m glad it does now.
A friend encouraged me to go with him. I didn’t do it the first year I heard
about it because it was from dusk until dawn, and I don’t like pulling
all-nighters anymore, mainly because they seem to effect me physically quite
a lot now. So I was happy to hear the event was in the evening when I went.
His mom drove us to the starting point. In all seriousness, she asked us
“And what are you going to say if someone asks you why you’re walking in
this?” This sounded like the way you rehearse with small children when they
first start staying at home alone. “And what are you going to say if we’re
not home and a stranger comes knocking? What is the correct answer?” I don’t
think she was expecting my response. “The truth,” I said. “If they want to
ask me the question, they had better be prepared for the answer.” She didn’t
say anymore on the subject, but I continued to boil with rage in the back
seat. This same woman had lost her family doctor to suicide, but she still
seemed to look at us shamefully that we were participating in the suicide
prevention walk, like we were weird for acknowledging that suicide was
something to face head-on.
We got out of the car, and heard the speeches, the statistics, the wishes
that people didn’t feel so desperate that they felt that taking their lives
was the only option, and the words of a woman who had tried to take her own
life, but had found the strength to come back. We went on the walk, and I
noticed how much of a crowd was there. I couldn’t help but wonder how
suicide had touched each and every one of us, and I was glad so many had
decided to be brave enough to come out.
We came back to the starting point, and the two of us debated how we were
going to get home. Something had happened on a stretch of sidewalk near our
places, and people needed to make a massive detour. A lady who I kind of
knew offered to give us a ride, so we took it. On our way home, she asked
the question. “So what brings you out to walk?” I thought about it for a
while. What did bring me out to walk? I could have said that I used to
volunteer at the crisis line, so wanted to support them, but that wasn’t
even close to the whole truth. I could have said that I knew people who
struggled with depression, and was thinking of them. That was more the
truth, but not even close to the whole thing. I ended up saying that I was
there because suicide had touched close to home a few times, so this was my
way of thinking of the ones I had lost. That was most of it, and what I
thought was all of it at the time. But there was a bit that I couldn’t even
admit to myself.
Years ago, there was a time when I thought about taking my own life. I look
at that sentence and shake my head now, but it’s true. I had gotten beyond
the idle thoughts phase, and had reached the point of planning a time and
contemplating a method. Thank god I never got any further, but yes, there
was a time when I, a volunteer who used to be on a suicide-prevention line,
had thought about suicide. Isn’t that a kicker?
Strangely enough, it was the memory of how it felt to lose a friend to
suicide that gave me the good hard kick in the rear away from that dangerous
place. I’d always heard that it was the ones that didn’t give you very many
warning signs that were the ones that you had to worry about. How true, how
true it was. I will never forget the weekend when I found out he had ended
his life. He was my room-mate’s brother. his dad called here in a panic
asking where my room-mate was. I really didn’t have a clue, but told him I’d
get him to call as soon as he got in the door…which I literally did. I
don’t think my room-mate was expecting me to come running out to the door
and tell him to call home right away. His dad would not talk to him about
why he had to come home, just told him to get in a cab and take that cab
home the 150-ish mile journey. I would find out days later that his brother
I’ll still never forget one of the calls I made to my room-mate’s family’s
house. His dad quietly said to me “You don’t have to answer people’s
questions or tolerate what they have to say.” I was perplexed, but said ok.
I would learn exactly what he meant over the course of the next few days.
People were becoming forensic science experts, figuring out how this could
have been an accident or a murder. Nobody wanted to accept that he had
chosen to end his life. That was too painful a reality. His death could be
dealt with if they saw it as a tragic accident.
There was so much anger and guilt, some of which can probably never be
erased, especially for his poor parents. It was all those memories that made
me realize that if I decided to leave this world, what everyone around me
would be left to deal with would be beyond horrible, and would last longer
than anything I was dealing with right now.
Once I could step back and stop thinking about how and when to die, I could
start doing things that gave me the feeling I had control over my life, and
I had stuff to live for. I feel silly saying that now, but that was how I
felt at the time.
So when I said I was walking for suicide prevention and awareness because
suicide had touched close to home, I guess I was telling the whole truth. It
was just a different truth than most will realize.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. Maybe some day someone will read this who’s thinking about ending it, and they’ll realize they don’t have to.
There is help. Suicide is NOT the solution.
Need help now? Don’t know where to look? Here is a site full of information worldwide.