Outreach Coordinator, WhiteFlag
The look of absolute, overwhelming shock on my mom and dad’s face after I uttered the words, “I tried to end my life last night,” is something that lingers in my head still, 10 years later.
The whole week before I attempted suicide, I pondered for the right day, the right time, the right moment. I knew that I could no longer mask the pain I felt every moment of every day. I hid it so well. Damn, did I hide it well. Not even the closest people to me knew I was in pain. They didn’t know I was cutting my wrist to feel anything other than numbness. They didn’t know I would cry myself to sleep or cry when I woke up because I was pissed I woke up. Why? I felt like it was easier that way. Easier to suffer alone than to burden anyone else with my depression.
I was so good at hiding my depression that no one even knew I attempted suicide. I wrote my suicide note to my ex-boyfriend in silence. I texted my mom, dad, brother, and cousin, “I love you,” without them knowing why I sent the random text. My best friend, who was also my roommate at the time, thought I was just having an anxiety attack because I couldn’t stand up without collapsing.
The night of September 26, 2011, I waited for the perfect opportunity to take my own life. All of my roommates went to the grocery store while I stayed behind. I poured myself a strong glass of Raspberry Smirnoff and Sprite, took a bath while crying to a Drake song, and then I swallowed 2,000 milligrams of my antidepressant medication. After I swallowed those pills, for the first time in probably 4 years, I felt happy. I felt at ease. I finally felt the breath of fresh air I haven’t felt since my depression engulfed my life.
My dad and brother had a gut instinct something was wrong that night. While they drove 45 minutes to pick me up from college, the effects of my overdose started to take a toll on me. I couldn’t stand, I was shaking uncontrollably, and threw up numerous times. Still, my roommate didn’t know what was going on, even though she was sitting on my bed watching me pack a bag to “go home.” That’s how good I was at hiding my mental illness. My depression. My suicide attempt. I knew I wasn’t going to make it home that night. All of those milligrams I took would finally end it all… or so I thought.
Even as I was sitting in the passenger seat in my brother’s car, puking out the window, no one knew I just took the rest of my entire bottle of my antidepressant. Never once did it cross my mind that I could have died 2 feet away from my brother while he was driving me home. Never once did I even care. That’s how deep into my depression I was. That’s how dark it felt. Once I got to my dad’s house, it finally dawned on me that what I took wasn’t enough. Now, 2 hours after I swallowed the pills, I was dealing with the effects of the overdose. I felt like something was crawling out of my skin. My muscles were trembling. I started to hallucinate that spiders were all over my legs. I was sitting on the bathroom floor in complete confusion as to where I even was.
Fast forward to the next day ‒ I survived. With still feeling the effects of the overdose and not getting a moment’s sleep, I was pissed. Pissed that even with my suicide attempt, I felt like I couldn’t do anything right. I couldn’t even kill myself right. What a failure. I called my therapist Beth, and told her I needed to see her right away.
I sat down in her office, on her warm, welcoming couch, and muttered the words, “I tried to kill myself last night.” She still talks about how numb, emotionless, and cold my facial expressions were. I felt nothing. Nothing other than anger. I felt angry that I couldn’t do it. That I was still here. Beth had to do her due diligence and report the suicide attempt. Because she knew I was upset I didn’t take enough to end my own life, she thought I would attempt again. Her question to me: “Who do you want to call to take you to the hospital?”
I knew that regardless of which parent I called, they would be in complete shock. Complete denial. Complete helplessness. Because, again, I hid it so well. As far as they were concerned, I was in therapy, taking my medication, and thriving in school ‒ my depression was gone. This wasn’t their fault. My parents were the closest people to me, yet they still didn’t know, as I had mastered the art of lying about it.
I need to say this one more time: it wasn’t their fault. I chose to hide it from them. They didn’t do anything to make me think I had to hide my struggles ‒ that was my choice.
My parents really did everything right. My best friends did everything right. There was nothing that they could have done to prevent my suicide attempt. I was too far into my illness that nothing they said or did could have stopped me from trying to end my life. Even though the guilt they feel still might hold, they need to know that there was nothing they could have done. They need to let go of the guilt. To this day, my mom has still blocked that day out of her memory. She refuses to take herself back to the place and back to the emotions she felt that day.
As I’m here writing this, a survivor of my suicide attempt, I want to spread relief and clarity to those of you who might have lost a loved one to suicide: It was their mental illness that was too overwhelming. Not you. At the time they attempted suicide, they might have felt like it could never get better. They might have thought that this was the only way out ‒ not the easy way out ‒ but the only way out of the pain and suffering. Please know that they knew you loved them; they don’t want you to live your life in agony. This is an illness that affects so many ‒ an illness that can have masked symptoms, hidden realities, and cause trauma to those around it. It is an illness whose impact can be felt through ripples and tidal waves. The pain is just too overbearing sometimes.
If you have lost someone to suicide, do not hold onto the blame. Hold onto them and the memories that you shared with them. For those of you who have attempted suicide, I am so glad you are still here. For the ones in pain from losing someone, or for those who are thinking about ending their lives, there is help. There is support. Talk to someone who has been there. That’s the beauty of WhiteFlag ‒ you no longer have to struggle alone.
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