Lessons from my attempt

CN: Suicidality and ideation explored, attempt referenced: no mention of methods

It’s been almost one year since my suicide attempt.

I’ve talked about this in spades. But I wanted to wait to share with you the lessons I learned from this experience until I was ready to write them. To be honest, I’m not so sure that time is now. But I think it is an important part of my healing to do this.

I have come a long way since August 6th 2018. But I still have a long way to go. What I am about to share with you are the notes and reminders I have been keeping on my phone since that night, to remind myself to choose life next time.

I’ve debated posting this as these lessons are deeply personal and often involve the people most precious to me. But if I can help one person who is suicidal not make the decision I made a year ago I will be satisfied.

So let’s get into it, shall we? What did I learn from my suicide attempt?

I didn’t actually want to die.
When your suicidal death becomes this romanticised idea. Nothingness. Emptiness. No pain. I just so desperately wanted the pain of my life to stop. I had lost the ability to hope for a better future. My life felt like it was going no where fast. I often fantasised about disappearing to another country but I couldn’t afford that so suicide seemed like the next best option. This highlights my strong desire to escape. And to take control of my life.

I felt like the only way I take control of my life was to end it. But the reality of actually dying was not something I had thought of in detail. Or what it meant for me or those around me. In fact I can tell you the exact moment I realised I didn’t want to die. It was when my partner J came bursting into the hospital room and I saw their lip quiver. That lip quiver meant everything to me. It was my future. The one I had forgotten to hope for. And I didn’t want to die.

It doesn’t solve anything.
People who die by suicide don’t live to see the consequences of their actions. When you attempt suicide and survive you see everything. You see the lip quivers. You see the broken hearts. You hear the tears in the hallway.

I can honestly say attempting suicide created more problems for me than I thought it would solve. The clearest example I can give is the transfer of pain. My suicide attempt transferred all of my pain onto those I love. It merely hand-balled it to them. I’m not saying you should stay alive because of your family. I don’t like this narrative. What I am saying is that I did not consider my family and friends when I tried to take my life. And now when I feel suicidal they are very much on my mind.

People really love me. 
Speaking of the people who I love, I did not realise how loved I truly was. And people told me in many gestures through out my time in hospital and in recovery. J didn’t leave my side in hospital. I remember being semi conscious and hearing my Dad say to the nurse “Thank you for saving my daughters life”. Now you don’t know my Dad but that’s the equivalent of him kissing her feet. He never shows his emotions.

Another person who really got behind me was my mother-in-law. She picked me up from hospital and drove me to McDonald’s; a colossal act of kindness. All of the friends who escorted me places so I could try to get back into life in baby steps are remarkable human beings. They never asked any questions. I think the ultimate act of kindness comes from my best friend who invited me over to simply play board games when I needed to be silent and couldn’t talk.

Some people can’t handle it.
I just spoke about some pretty amazing people who really stepped up to the plate following my suicide attempt. There were other people, equally amazing in their own right, who just couldn’t handle it. I won’t go into detail but I lost friendships following my attempt. It cuts both ways: tertiary friends became incredibly important close friends. And close friends became tertiary friends. There are probably people who think we just grew apart following the events but I actually chose to distance myself. There are friends I am also still very close to with whom the relationship has changed irrevocably. They are people I know can’t rely upon in that situation. They were either insensitive, too sensitive or in some cases made it about them and why did I not contact them sooner? There are people I have never felt the same way about since that night.

Healing takes longer than you think. 
Something people don’t tell you about attempting suicide is how traumatic it is. I won’t go into detail but anytime I was exposed to a situation similar to the method I took I would have flashbacks of that night and become extremely distressed. I’ll be honest. This still happens to this day a year onwards. I also experienced trauma in the hospital system. I also won’t go into that but that has given me a lot of mistrust of emergency services people.

I think what really stands out to me is that I had no escape plan for my escape plan. I definitely hadn’t considered surviving and how that would affect how I felt about myself. I can tell you this, the shame and guilt are palpable. I wanted to harm myself all over again due to the guilt. I hated myself for the pain I had caused and how irrevocably changed I felt.

Attempting suicide does change you. It opened a new part of my brain I didn’t know existed. I remember one day being in the car with J, crying, asking if I would ever be okay again. Months on I can tell you, I am okay again. But I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.

Things do get better.
I may not be the same again but things have gotten a lot better for me. At the time of my suicide attempt I was unemployed, beyond stressed with my thesis and every second of my life was influenced by my complex trauma.

But some pretty cool things have happened since my suicide attempt. For one I got a job. Three actually. In fact I am so in demand I recently had two organisations fighting over me which resulted in me getting a promotion. Extra context here. One of the organisations that was fighting over me was the one who declined me for a job the day of my suicide attempt. It’s funny how much things can change.

I also submitted my thesis and received a HD. I competed Honours in first class. I moved in with the love of my life and we recently got engaged. But there is something I want to flag here. Recovery is not linear. All the anti-suicide messages tell you that things get better. But they don’t tell you that things can get better and you can still feel suicidal. I’ve been suicidal the last four weeks. And whilst these lessons remind me to stick around the fact that things have gotten better doesn’t necessarily make me not suicidal. Trauma and suicidality are complicated things.

There is so much left to learn.
So I admit it, this blog really should be a chapter in the book I’m eventually going to write. I apologise for it being so long. But you may remember me saying a few scrolls ago that when I attempted to take my life I had lost the ability to hope. Now I recognise that hope can be really hard. Being hopeful about tomorrow may feel impossible. But try being curious. Curious about what tomorrow might bring.

For me, I’m curious now about what tomorrow might bring. I think about how if I had died that night I wouldn’t have met some people I really value in my life. I wouldn’t have seen that movie. Or learned to love that band. Or been to that restaurant with the awesome green tea cheesecake. I’m now curious about all the new things that might come into my life and all the lessons I might learn. Just look at all these lessons I learned in a year. Surely there are plenty more to learn.

August 6th is going to be hard for me. I hope this blog has given you some insight into why. Writing this blog has been hard for me but I wanted to do it. I wanted to do it to document my growth. But above all else I wanted to write it in hopes that you might pin it for a moment you might be feeling like I felt that night. I already learned these lessons for you. I hope you don’t have to follow the path I did to learn them.

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