I Wish My Friends Had Known - Milly Thiringer
The last thing I remember was trying to sign my name. My hands wouldn’t work. The nurse ended up writing a note on my “consent to treat” form, “No signature – O.D.” They pumped my stomach and I woke up two days later with bruises all over my arms and legs from being restrained.
That was one of many attempts. Attempts that I am now glad failed. But I have three small children, and there are some days that the only reason I’m still alive is because they are too. But on the days that I’m not suicidal, which is most days, I’m really grateful that I didn’t die.
I think that most people who consider ending their own life both do and do not want to die. Mostly, we just want the pain to stop, and it seems that there isn’t another way for that to happen. Life becomes too much. Anything but sleeping becomes too much, but sleeping has its own problems, because excessive sleep leads to self-loathing. “I should get up and do something,” “I’m so lazy,” and “I hate myself,” become the refrains in our heads, and they are often echoed in the judgments of others.
I think, if there was a way to cocoon a suicidal person, to give them reprieve from the demands of the world in a non-judgmental fashion, to give them a chance to recover, we might see fewer deaths by suicide. Maybe. I think suicide is often a response to feeling overwhelmed and powerless to change our circumstances.
What it is not, however, is selfish. Many people who have never experienced the desire to end their own life will describe suicide as selfish. But often those who consider it truly believe the world would be better off without them. That they are doing their friends and family a favor by lifting the burden of their presence. Once, before I had my driver’s license, a relative was driving me to the dentist and mentioned that I shouldn’t have any more children (I was pregnant with my second child). His reasoning: It was burdensome for me to need a babysitter and a ride to the dentist. He said this. And if I hadn’t been pregnant, that would have been a very bad day for me.
So be gentle with your words. Think about how you might be making other people feel. Those with depression can’t just “snap out of it” or “be happy.” They can’t even stop thinking about it. It is all-consuming. If you can lighten their burden by being a friend, do so. If you have a minute to spare sending a text message to let them know you care, those small gestures can save a life.
Above all, don’t assume you know what it’s like. If you haven’t been there, you can’t imagine. Be a good listener, and never start a sentence with “If you just…” If your friend has confided in you that they are considering ending their life, realize that they are showing a tremendous amount of trust and bravery. And that there might be a part of them that doesn’t want to die, and that’s why they’ve reached out. Treat them with kindness and love.
Milly Thiringer is a suicide attempt survivor and lives with paranoid schizophrenia. You can find her art and writing at www.millythiringer.com.