Share your story: Surviving a suicide attempt
I think of suicide a lot.
At some point every day, death wanders into my mind as an option, an escape — somewhere I could go to leave the pain I’m feeling, something I could do to step out of the overwhelm, worry or fear I’m experiencing.
For most of my adult life, I can remember having phases of wanting to not be alive, sometimes intensely and other times the thoughts were just frustratingly there.
I didn’t want them, my mind just seemed to go there in moments of overwhelm or when I wasn’t distracted/focused on something else. In the quiet moments when my mind drifted, death would be there, inviting me.
Other times, the choice of thinking about suicide has felt more conscious. The desire to not be alive has felt more present, more part of my internal landscape in a way that I have felt scared of not having the thoughts or feelings there.
Recently I realized the thoughts of wanting to commit suicide, or the possibility of being able to end it, often act as a resource — knowledge that I have an escape from this pain I am experiencing — without which I feel naked, raw, exposed, and a different kind of vulnerable to how I feel when I’m feeling suicidal.
Experiencing these thoughts every day in some way leaves me feeling brave like a warrior. They are there, saying Hey, you can do this, but I choose not to. I choose to live.
So when the thoughts aren’t there as intensely, I feel weird, I feel different. Part of me needs that challenge, needs to know I’m constantly fighting to live.
But as soon as I write that, there is part of me that understands I don’t need to feel this or think these thoughts. It isn’t wrong that I’m experiencing this.
I’m not fucked up (no more than every other human anyway), but I don’t need to constantly be fighting, I don’t need to live in almost constant struggle.
I can know stability and peace within my system. Peace within the chaos that naturally comes from being human.
I have noticed how this is something I need to really learn — physically, emotionally and spiritually — that it is safe to live without chaos, both internally and externally.
Growing up with years of trauma, abuse and neglect, I feel left with a norm of chaos both inside and outside of me, but I am increasingly realizing, hearing and learning that it doesn’t need to be like that, like this.
I feel like I’m learning to trust and integrate this knowledge, but it is proving really fucking difficult and really fucking slow.
“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” ~ Brene Brown
In the US, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. In England and Wales, approximately 120,00 attempts happen each year, with 5.5% of adults reported to have made a suicide attempt in their life.
I believe there are a lot of people missed by these statistics, especially when looking at self-harm and suicidal feelings.
These are much harder to record and catch for statistical purposes, but even if they are not recorded on official paper, they are still there, these people experiencing these things are still part of our community.
There is not much space to talk about suicide despite it being so present in our society. Not only are suicidal feelings stigmatized, but suicide attempts and life after an attempt rarely get a voice.
So, in February a friend and I launched Life After Suicide — a project gathering people’s stories of life after a suicide attempt and accounts of individuals experience of living with suicidal feelings and/or thoughts.
We will be creating zines with the submissions — available online and in print — with the hope of uniting survivors of suicide attempts and people experiencing suicidality by providing a space to connect and feel heard and validated, whilst opening up a much-needed dialogue in wider society.
I attempted suicide by overdosing in April 2012, almost exactly 4 years ago. Since then, I have written and drawn every day.
Both forms of expression have provided me with a connection to myself and others in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and during a time I have needed it most.
Often these forms of creativity — and my connection with nature — have been the only things I have felt able to turn to in moments of fear, overwhelm, or desperate grief… and often still are.
I shared my words and drawings on my blog, sent lengthy emails to fellow writer friends I had made within the online community, emailed cartoons each week to my therapist, wrote every day in my journal, and had both mediums published in online magazinesand projects.
The healing that has come from — and continues to come from — sharing my story and experiences of being a human in this wild world is invaluable and indescribable.
I feel seen, heard, and my experience is continually validated by people sharing their stories in response to mine, or people simply saying that my story brought comfort or understanding to an experience they have had or were having.
As well as being deeply healing, it has brought purpose and direction to a time in which I have felt, and still often feel, incredibly lost and helpless.
“The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” ~ Brene Brown
Do you have a story to share about what life has been like after surviving a suicide attempt? Do you experience suicidal feelings and/or thoughts and would you like to share how it is to live through them?
We would be honored to have your story as part of the project.
There is no right or wrong way to tell your story, and the telling of it can never be perfect because perfect doesn’t exist — come as you are, with whatever you are feeling and have experienced, and that will always be enough.
We care about the content and your voice rather than the quality of what you submit. You don’t need to an artist or someone with lots of experience, you just need to be you.
We encourage people of oppressed identities to share their experience of survival in these intersections.
The intersections of identity and mental health are rarely acknowledged, yet identity inevitably affects the way the world treats us and thus, the way we see ourselves.
Any medium of submission is welcome — drawing, writing (fictional, non-fiction, poetry), video, photography, etc. — and it can be published anonymously or under a pseudonym if preferred.
We are gathering submissions for our first publication now, with the deadline being 8th May. However, please submit after that too, because there will be more than one zine and a continuous flow of pieces online.
I don’t believe suicide needs to be silenced, and doing so only deepens the shame and self-judgment that can exist around it. So we invite you to speak up and speak out, and be part of this dialogue.
Let’s reach for compassion and understanding around suicide. You could also send an email to chat more or to send us a submission.
Your voice counts and your story matters.
Previously published on Rebelle Society.