What I Realized as I Was Saying Goodbye, Prepared to Die by Suicide
A common theme in mental health is to reach out to others for help, to rely on loved ones and friends for strength when we can’t find it in ourselves. Well, when I became suicidal, I did the first part: I reached out. But I didn’t do it for help, I didn’t do it to try to talk myself off the ledge. I did it to say goodbye.
I did it so people would have good memories of me when I was gone. I did it so people wouldn’t have a bitter taste in their mouth when they spoke of me. I did it so people would only remember the good, not the bad.
That’s why I put up such a good mask for so long. When people looked back on their lives with me, I didn’t want them to see someone who was sick and struggling. I wanted them to look back and remember someone who was joyful, someone who enjoyed life, someone who spent his time with his loved ones because he loved them.
I never wanted my death to be a statement on the failures of those around me, because no one ever failed me. People cared about me, no one ever turned their back on me if I told them I was struggling. I know that is not true of everyone’s experiences, but it is true of mine. I know I could reach out to any of my friends, and if I just said, “I need help,” I know they would be there for me. But I didn’t want them thinking that.
My life was, and is, enriched every day by those I consider my friends and family, even chosen family. But when I was ready to say goodbye, I wanted to make sure they were taken care of. My note even stressed this, plenty of times. I told my friends, my partner and my family they shouldn’t blame themselves for what happened to me. Because, in reality, it wasn’t their fault. It was my own mental illness that caused me so much pain that I tunnel-visioned. I thought the only escape was death. But something happened.
When I reached out to others, simply to say my goodbyes, I learned I actually did have rewarding relationships, ones I wanted to have for a very long time, the rest of my life even. I learned, while my identity is not defined by my relationships, they were a very important part of who I was. My friendships, my family relationships, my loved ones, played a huge part in my life. And as I thought about it, I considered what effect my death would have on them. My parents, my siblings, my grandmother. They would be devastated by my death, so how could I put the pain of grieving a death on them?
When my cousin died by suicide, I still remember to this day, very vividly, my mother getting the phone call from my uncle in church. She screamed. And she immediately started to wail and cry. How would my mother react to her own child’s death?
I have stressed this in many of my articles: our self-worth is not defined by the relationships we have, it is defined by ourselves. But when I reached out to others to say my goodbyes, I realized what my goodbye would do to them. And I couldn’t do that to them.
If you are contemplating ending your own life by suicide, remember this: first off, you are a beautiful, valuable member of humanity, worthy of a life — an enjoyable life. But I know mental illness and other circumstances can make life difficult, perhaps more difficult than anything you’ve ever faced. But you are loved, you are valued by those around you and I know you have what it takes to keep going because you have made it this far. I believe in you. I may not know you, not even a little bit. But I love you, and I want you to live the life you deserve. Keep going, you can do it. I know you can.
Unsplash image by Karl Fredrickson