Yesterday at one of my alma maters, BYU, a student attempted suicide. She jumped from the fourth floor of the Tanner Building and survived. I don’t know her. I don’t know her story, but I do know that she is brave. To attempt that, she has to be. Some people think that those who attempt or consider suicide are weak. But I don’t think this is true. I think those who are struggling with mental illness or other circumstances that bring them to that point are strong and brave.
Yes, they may be tired. I know this because that’s how I felt. I felt so tired of living. I felt like I couldn’t keep living with those thoughts and those feelings. It wasn’t that I didn’t know people cared or that I had nothing to live for—I had a family, I had a husband and kids. But I felt so exhausted and unable to keep fighting my mind. It didn’t feel like I was in control anymore, and I couldn’t live like that.
Again, I don’t know the circumstances behind yesterday’s events, but I feel for her. I feel for her having to deal with the aftermath of this—the questions, the pain, the additional trauma that now rests on top of whatever brought her to that fourth floor.
People are so quick to respond to suicides and suicide attempts by saying that they are there to talk, and that is amazing and valuable. But sometimes those of us who have suicidal thoughts or ideations don’t know what to say, or how to explain what we are feeling and experiencing. It is sometimes too much. Where do we start? How?
Sometimes we need to know that we are not alone by hearing your stories first, by hearing not just if or that you are okay now but how you got there. When a person is in the dark, battling feelings of wanting to die, any other path seems impossible to follow. It’s one thing to hear that we are not alone and that it gets better, but it’s another to hear from someone else how—how does it get better? How does a person get there? What does it feel like moment by moment?
It doesn’t always feel good. It is so hard. It requires giving up pride and accepting that you need help. Often, it requires shutting down for awhile, letting go of what we feel like we “have to do” or are supposed to do to just focus on trying to get better. Depending on circumstances, it can be a full time job to recover, to take the steps to get your mind and life back. I researched and read books about OCD and my specific compulsions. I think I went to therapy weekly and did homework daily. There have been times when I had to put my mental health as a first priority because if I didn’t, I wasn’t able to really live. I was lucky that I could do that, that I could get into a therapist and get that help. I was lucky to have a mom and husband who could help with my kids and the household.
I had a friend who also had OCD who I knew I could text about it, and I wrote her when things were getting bad. She told me she was coming to get me and take me to the ER, even though I didn’t think I was “that bad” and my husband didn’t either. I was going to the doctor the next day to get back on meds, after all. But just having someone who could look into my situation from the outside and cared enough to tell me I needed help meant something—and it helped that I trusted her because I knew we shared similar struggles. We had been open about it previously with one another.
But yeah, that day sucked for me and probably for her too. We had to wait in the ER for so long (on Father’s Day). It was boring and uncomfortable and awkward talking about what was going on, and I felt badly for taking her away from her family on Father’s Day. My husband had to make his own holiday dinner, and I was mostly out of it on meds for the night. But that was the start of recovery, again. Another recovery after another relapse. These things don’t just “go away.”
Again and Again
I haven’t gotten back off meds since then, and things are relatively fine. Yes, I’ve gained a lot of weight being on meds and had to deal with people at church asking me if I’m pregnant, but at least I’m mostly stable with my mental health.
But I know how fast things can change. I know what it feels like to not want to be alive anymore. I know how hard it is to get from that point to being stable. We need to share our experiences so that others know that it’s not just one extreme or the other. The middle is where most of living happens—the not awful but not necessarily stable or great either. It’s the land of therapy and medication and self care. It’s work. But I think it’s worth it.
For another post on the topic of suicide, click here.