How I'm Currently Coping With Suicidal Thoughts
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
When I was 16 years old I nearly lost my life from a climbing accident at the top of a mountain. When I was in my early 20s and my mental illnesses started to manifest I began thinking of ending my life, which developed in my mid 30s to actually come up with a plan. While I have managed to stay in control of these thoughts and urges despite a great toll, they are still present as recently as last year in response to much aching loss, and even as recently as two days ago. This time what helped me was thinking about how I bravely and buoyantly fought for my life when I was 16. I imagined what that 16-year-old boy would say to me now and that was clearly to fight to live.
Of course, who I was when I was 16 was very different to who I am now, even if the same person. I was lighter, more optimistic, more trusting in God, more impulsive and more repressed, especially regarding my sexuality. It was probably the impulsivity that got me up onto a ledge of an escarpment at the top of a mountain while my friends ate their sandwiches in a safer spot. After around 30 minutes of sitting there, the branch embedded in a rock my foot was resting on snapped and I fell sharply 10-15 metres to the soil below. In so many ways I was fortunate, such as the ledge on the other side had a deathly drop, and also I had three school friends with me, and they were immediately there to help.
However, because I fell at the top of the highest mountain ranges an hour from my home, it was much too far for me to walk down in my wounded, winded state. There wasn’t much anyone could do until paramedics arrived. I sheltered in a cave with my friends while another friend ran down the mountain to try and get help. This was at 3 pm, but no helicopter was available in this fairly secluded area of country Australia. It wasn’t until 9 pm that a stretcher reached me, and I was given morphine and slowly stretchered down the mountain, not reaching the ambulance until near midnight. All the while I never once thought I was going to die. I trusted in God and believed he would look after me and my friends kept me perfectly distracted. Yes the pain was great, but I don’t remember ever complaining. Certainly, the morphine was a rush of heaven when I got it.
While I was transferred into an ambulance I was reunited with my mother, whose face was ashen. I learned later that she was initially told by the police when they broke the news of my accident that they didn’t know if I would make it. In the two hour ride to a hospital in a bigger town that could perform the surgery I managed to stick my foot up in the air knowing mum was driving right behind the ambulance. I was bleeding massively from a ruptured spleen and damaged left kidney, probably close to death, and in further pain from a broken wrist and a cut on my head, yet I still managed to let my terrified mother behind us know that I was still there.
Obviously I made it because here I am writing about it 26 years later. I was able to get the splenectomy and blood transfusions I needed and once I had them I was on the side of life, no longer on the side of death. The doctor told me once I was out of ER after a week that the thing that saved me was my youth and my fight.
In those ensuing 26 years I became dangerously ill with conditions of a different kind but no less deadly, that of depression and borderline personality disorder (BPD). I would need to summon the same calibre of fight that my 16-year-old self had mustered.
The urge to die, which was really a desire to escape the pain, began in my early 20s after I’d had career and dream rejections. The all or nothing, black and white catastrophized thinking came out of unrelenting standards, revealing a punitive self-critic which condemned myself as defective. That connection was easy to make because I was realizing that I was gay, but was in a denomination that did not allow a Christian to be gay in active relationships, which triggered an identity disturbance. A doctor and a psychiatrist diagnosed me with depression only even though it is clear that most of the criteria were met by my early 20s self. Most likely I didn’t fit the stigmatized image of what a male with BPD should be. My suicidal thoughts were there, but with support I was able to fight through them.
I fought through the four years of wilderness of my 20s and then suddenly I began to pick up. In my early 30s, triggered by a series of devastating griefs and especially feelings of abandonment, my suicidal ideation and more returned. Both my grief and my feelings of abandonment from an unrequited love felt like they built on each other, until suddenly I found myself sitting and contemplating at a suicide hotspot. The love of friends and some family helped me through, and even more so was finding an astute psychiatrist who finally diagnosed me with BPD: a diagnosis that made all the pieces fit.
It had been five years since I experienced any suicidal feelings, but they came for me again late last year and this is where I was able to draw on my experiences of fighting for my life on that mountain. Last year unfolded with shit upon shit; a falling out of a dear and enduring friendship, a full relapse of my mental illness leading to hospitalization and while in hospital the breakup of my first ever relationship.
All of those things interconnected and happened in the context of living in the world’s most locked down city (Melbourne). On top of these events, add constant headaches, stomach problems and then back spasms, which made me feel suicidal. I wrote in my journal that on the eve of my 42nd birthday I had more reasons to not go on than to go on.
But then I summoned that resilient 16-year-old boy. And I tried to listen to his voice. I tried to hear what he would say to me now feeling that I have no real reason to go on. And he said clearly;
Remember I bled out from my spleen sheltering in a cave, and on the stretcher, and in the ambulance, and in hospital. I fought stubbornly. I lived when probably I shouldn’t have. I fought with everything I had for life and in my honor I wish you to live, not to die. I fought to give you that very life. I fought so you must continue to fight. To live is to fight. To fight is to live. You love me and even sort of idealize me but your strength is just as strong, your resilience just as impressive and reasons to live just as many.
To end, I reveal that this battle is still present. Last weekend I was back down in the suicidal pit. This time the trigger was another unrequited love from a dating app. But even from the belly of the beast I could hear the voice of the 16-year-old again urging me on to fight another fight for life.