Suicide can be a sticky topic to discuss, especially for those who have lost someone by such means or who have attempted it. As a suicide survivor myself, I sometimes think back to that day in 2016 when I was lying on my apartment floor losing consciousness. I felt at peace because my suffering was coming to an end and I could finally rest. Thankfully, work colleagues who noticed I didn’t turn up to the office several days in a row and that my phone had been switched off showed up at my apartment and knocked the door down.
I am lucky that I survived, but this isn’t the case for thousands of other individuals. In 2020, 45,900 people died of suicide, making it the twelfth leading cause of death in the U.S. There were nearly two times as many suicides as there were homicides.
It is World Suicide Prevention Day and Suicide Prevention Month, making stories like mine timely to share. While my encounter with death is still not the easiest topic for me to discuss, at times, I think about my journey and how much has changed since then. More specifically, I think about the things that have helped me get better and improve my mental health.
After my suicide attempt, the hospital I was admitted to offered counseling sessions and I declined them. Telling a stranger about my struggles wasn’t something I was ready to do and I didn’t feel it would help me. I was also disappointed that I was still alive and didn’t think a counselor could make me feel differently. I would finally start therapy about three years later when I realized the same thoughts that led me to my attempt were still lingering. I was still perpetually sad, empty, and also found myself in an abusive relationship. Having a 2-year-old son gave me the push I needed to get my mental health together. I knew if I didn’t, I’d struggle to be the mom my son deserved. I also wanted to see what was on the other side of my trauma.
Behavioral therapy has been transformational for me. It put my feelings and behaviors into perspective, helped me understand the source of my traumas and how to move forward. Most importantly, I finally understood that it wasn’t the miscarriage, the rejection, sexual abuse, or the heartbreak. It was the harmful underlying beliefs I had about myself that were fueling my depression and driving toxic behaviors.
Finding a Purpose
For most of my early years, I was very goal-driven. The deeper into depression I got, the more I felt life had no purpose and I was a waste of space. It is only more recently, after two years of being in therapy, that I can say I believe my existence matters and I have a clear purpose. Aside from knowing I matter to my son, I also matter to my family, to every stranger I make smile, or to the person who reads an article I write. Knowing my existence is of importance gives me multiple reasons to want to stick around in this sometimes strange world. So now, I problem solve vs. seeing suicide as the only escape from suffering.
Having a Support System
I spent so much time alone before trying to commit suicide and would push people who wanted to be there for me away. The majority would take my isolation personally, but a few stuck around and stood by me regardless of my distant behavior. Those people have become pillars for me. They would show up at my house when I spent too many days indoors or keep calling until I answered the phone.
It took time before I could receive the love my loved ones were giving and truly believe I was worthy of it. Now, I am able to share my struggles with those around me as opposed to internalizing them and further harming myself. I’m also getting accustomed to asking for help.
Journaling and Meditation
My mind was my number one enemy during my depression. I craved isolation so I could ruminate on all the things that were terrible about life. I thought about all of the world’s suffering, how unloved and invisible I was and how overrated living was. Those “stories” I was telling myself kept me in a dark place for so many years. It took journaling, reading books about healing, and meditation to retrain my brain to think in a different way. I will not say every thought I have is positive now, but I know I can choose my perspective. Life is more enjoyable when you choose to see the sunny side, but that doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge the things that suck too.
Depression and suicidal thoughts don’t just come about one day. They develop over time. If you are experiencing both, there are resources out there that can help. Likewise, if you know someone struggling, there are resources you can share. Here are a few:
Therapy for Black Girls directory and podcast