The Story That Made Me Realize How Complex Being Suicidal Can Be
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering, as it discusses suicide means. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
My grandfather would often provide me with brain teasing games — riddles really — to solve when there was time to spare. I remember one in particular that he gave during a long car ride.
A man is found dead, hanging high in his large living room in what appears to be a suicide. There is one problem though; he is hanging several feet above the floor with no chair, ladder or stool nearby which he would need to reach the noose around his neck. The room’s empty, but water is covering the hard-wood floor below. So, how did he get up there?
A colleague at an old job had an uncle who died by suicide when we worked together. After a week of being away to assist his family with the necessary grieving and arrangements, he returned to work and shared a few of the details with me. There was one aspect I found especially fascinating.
While clearing the uncle’s home of his belongings, somebody thought to look at his web browsing history. The history contained about three weeks of suicide planning, searching various methods and researching the logistics of what would follow. Wedged within the research, frequently in the same browsing session, were searches for baseball scores and news about the New York Yankees. More suicide searching followed, then research about vacation spots including prices and availability of hotels and rentals. This went on for weeks, arranging his death while simultaneously planning a holiday and keeping up with his favorite team.
Perhaps this is common, I’m unsure. It left an impression on me — we all mask our pain and sometimes present a faux contentment when we are struggling to function through emotionally difficult periods. What never occurred to me was the possibility of this duality extending into a person’s private thoughts as well. If we are capable of living on two opposite tracks privately, think of how well we can hide our turmoil in public. The story left me with a new appreciation for how complex people in a suicidal state can be.
“Were there rafters he could toss the rope over and somehow hoist himself up toward the ceiling?” I asked my grandfather.
“Nope, I told you everything that was in the home,” he said.
“But if there are no rafters, what is the rope attached to?”
“Maybe a hook or something, keep thinking.”
I once had a two day battle with suicidal thoughts. There were life-changing events leading up to it, but I’m increasingly certain it was a chemical, medication component that brought me to the brink and held me there. It felt different than I expected.
“I give up. I keep thinking he must have climbed somehow?” I said.
“Keep trying, you have all the details you need to solve it.”
I reached out for help from a friend who I soon learned wanted nothing to do with it. In hindsight, I realized it was a hard situation and she was in a difficult place as well — still, I was devastated. As I thought about it later, I was struck by common and dangerous perspective, perhaps stigma even, that suicide seems to hold.
The perspective I’m speaking of goes like this. A person who completes suicide is often a loving friend, family member, someone who was “too good” for this earth, someone sensitive who cared “too much.” If they had only reached out, so many people would have been there to help.
A person contemplating or “threatening” suicide is frequently considered “attention-seeking,” “fucked up, “toxic,” “weak,” “manipulative,” “selfish,” a “psycho,” and for heaven’s sake, do not to let them find out about your party because they will only bring everybody down.
Could there be a more dangerous hypocrisy than what I just described? I’ve noticed this mentality in people many times but until it was me in the middle of the crisis, I didn’t realize how precarious this perspective can truly be. It frames suicide as a game — a perpetual dare of sorts. It proposes that if you do not take your own life, you have been contriving and manipulative. It’s creates an unconquerable dilemma for people struggling where they must choose between death or toxic and flawed at their core. The choice between the two seems simple enough; however, it isn’t so obvious to someone in a suicidal state.
OK, give up? He put the noose around his neck while standing on a large block of ice. When the ice melted, he was left hanging. That’s where the water came from.
Block of ice? Who has a large block of ice in their home?
I was likely guilty of that dangerous perspective as well, until I found myself in that situation. I no longer enjoy suicide “riddles.”
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Joshua Earle