I know you’ve already got your torches lit and your triggers all half-cocked, but hold your tits. I just wanted to get a rise out of ya, it’s kinda my thing – and pissy people are my demographic.
I would be terribly surprised if you had never heard that sentiment before though, that “suicide is selfish” because once something like that happens it ripples through the immediate community like a tsunami, leaving loved ones reeling with questions and sadness. With the party in question no longer with us, the focus turns to those people who remain and the hushed question on a lot of people’s lips is “How could you do this to us?”.
The real question should be “Why did you think this was the only choice?”, because believe me – suicidal people don’t settle upon these decisions haphazardly. Generally they feel like they’ve slowly whittled away all the other options to relieve their pain and suffering. Thoughts of dying have followed them for so long they simply become status quo. They are always there, lingering, sometimes masquerading as passive ideations slowly laying the foundation.
Passive suicidal ideation – a desire to die without an accompanying plan to make it so.
Active suicidal ideation – a desire to die with an accompanying plan to make it so.
They show up while you’re driving – What if I just drove off this bridge?
As you go to bed – What if I didn’t wake up?
Surrounded by those we hold most dear – They would be better off without me.
I’ve had suicidal ideations, of both passive and active style, pretty much my whole life. It’s why I had a love of heights as an avid tree climbing child, because at any point my footing could just slip…Even as it sits right now, most days I can think of more reasons not to live than to continue living. My first serious attempt, at roughly 17, was a combination of both passive and active. During a particularly nasty storm my then partner and I, along with some friends, decided it would be a good idea to go to the beach and swim in the unusually choppy waters. Why not, right.
I still remember the sting of the rain as the wind whipped it at us as we undressed, leaving us all polka-dotted with pain. There was already a number of surfers out, taking advantage of the waves. It is important to mention that at this time, like many others actually, not a single person around me knew of my struggles. At that age I was depressed, struggled with eating disorders, self harmed, drank alone and took pills to numb the pain. I was already on a downward spiral that would soon lead me to push everyone away and retreat further into my own darkness – but I digress.
A few wanted to swim out past the pier, so I decided to go along. Persevering past the daunting swells left me exhausted with muscles burning by the time we made it out that far. They all had quickly turned back while I lingered. Being out past the break point allowed me to just bob with the waves, rest a bit and take in the beauty of the storm, just watching everyone else from afar. As the waves got stronger I realized that I had been slowly creeping in to shore, and knew I needed to start making an effort or I would soon be overcome by the waves crashing as they broke. In that split moment of being at peace in the dangerous waters, my brain said “Nope, I am done” and I took a breath and sank as the first big wave crested over me.
Photo by Mark Tipple
I distinctly remember not feeling panicked or even having the urge to breath as I calmly, slowly emptied my lungs into a beautiful stream of bubbles. Even though the salt burned my eyes as I opened them under water, it was worth the view. The water was churned up on the surface but below it was like another world, protected and welcoming. I had to keep sinking down as the loop of waves and current kept pushing me towards the surface, I suppose I was just relatively buoyant, and it was during a moment of transition that I was struck upside the head with a surfboard. I remember the force violently knocking my head forward, curling my body into a fetal position before everything went black.
When I opened my eyes again I was tumbling head over feet, caught in the cyclical current very near the shoreline. As the survival mechanism regained control over my faculties, I thrust my head above water and gasped for air – which was immediately followed by a vomited stream of rejected sea water. I stumbled out onto the shore and plopped down as my brain sorted out the event while my lungs evicted all the moisture from them. A trickle of diluted red ran down my back, which spurred the questions from nearby friends. I was struck by a surfboard I said, rolled back to shore by the waves, and once it was concluded I was fine enough – all concern washed away, followed the raindrops to the ground. As we went to leave, I recall looking back to the water overwhelmed with sadness. I was so close…
They say that change only happens when the discomfort of staying the same overrides the discomfort of changing. I argue one could say the same about suicide. When one feels they have tried and failed all other avenues of lessening the pain of living, and that that pain overrides the potential pain of dying – lives are irretrievably taken. While it saddens me deeply when this happens, it also irks me when people say it is a selfish thing to do as if they are owed anything from these deeply burdened souls. A majority of the time, these are the people that have long forgotten their own needs and wants in order to help and serve those they loved – those they thought were more deserving. Honestly, it’s a very unpopular opinion I have that taking their lives and effectively ending their pain once and for all just may have been the first selfish thing they had done for themselves in a very long time and no one can fault them for that.
In the current fight to remove the stigma from mental health issues, it must also be removed from the more unsavory things such as suicide. We have to have the hard talks, we have to make people uncomfortable while simultaneously offering support. We absolutely must give them more options. If you find yourself in an increasingly dark place, please reach out to friends and family and the multitude of help lines and local resources around you.