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5 Lessons From My (Hidden) Suicide Attempt at 13 Years Old

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I’ve never talked about my suicide attempt. It brings back shameful memories for me. I was 13 and my method should have killed me. Recently, I was in the emergency room being evaluated for a psych ward intake because I was suicidal, and I finally had to admit the event. I always pushed it off until the doctor asked what did, and when I told him he gave me a wide-eyed expression and said: “Honey, you should have on all accounts died that day; let’s finally get you the help you need.”

I was home alone, and no one knew about the attempt. There was no one there to drive me to the hospital and it made me terribly sick. I was afraid of calling 911 and them telling my parents. I was only 13, barely a teenager. I was in my first depressive episode, the first of many more to come. To add fuel to the fire, I was struggling with being bullied and felt isolated at school. There is something about a bully that can make you feel an inch tall and worthless. After the attempt, I felt a deep sense of shame toward the event.

I rarely hear anyone talk about the shame and isolation you feel when you survive a suicide attempt. Being 13, I didn’t know how to process the shame and I withdrew even more into myself afterward. I wasn’t prepared to handle those feelings. I felt a lot of guilt though I was upset to still be alive. It wasn’t until years later that I was thankful to survive.

The attempt taught me a few things:

1. Shame is a natural reaction toward a traumatic event like an uncompleted suicide attempt.

The deep sense of shame I felt was overwhelming. I still, to this day, feel ill-equipped to handle the feelings associated with it. The shame ran deep and all I wanted to do afterward was hide from the world.

2. Reach out to someone.

I was too afraid to reach out to anyone. I felt like no one could understand what I was going through. I was afraid of what my parents would think, and I had no friends to tell. If I had only known about a crisis hotline, the whole event may have never happened.

3. You can feel both relieved and upset to be alive.

I felt such a rush of mixed emotions. At first, I was relieved I survived. Then, I felt upset to be alive. Then, back to relieved and I played this game of back and forth for months afterward. I was still horribly depressed and because I never got the help I needed, I was still unmedicated afterward.

4. Parents: be involved in your child’s life.

I struggled because I had two parents who were more worried about their businesses than what was going on in their child’s life. I constantly felt pushed aside and my emotions were never validated. My parents refused to acknowledge negative emotions, and would just send me to my room. If they had been involved, they would have more likely seen the signs that I was spiraling down. Parents, you can save your child’s life by working toward understanding what they are going through and with care and compassion. helping them process the big emotions they are learning to deal with. It is also OK to talk about suicidal thoughts with them. Keeping the lines of communication open is vital.

5. Finally, I learned I had a purpose.

It has taken years to begin to process the whole event, the feelings of being overwhelmed and wanting to end it all. It also took time for me to see that I had been dealing with what I didn’t know were passive suicidal thoughts most of my childhood. Now that I started processing the event, I have begun to be grateful that I didn’t die by suicide. I was thankful I lived, and I found a hope that I have a purpose in life. I may not know what that purpose is, but I have hope that I have one. I finally want to take the journey to find that purpose.

Finding your purpose doesn’t happen overnight, just like suicidal thoughts don’t just disappear after you attempt suicide. Just like it’s a process of healing. Finding purpose in life takes time. If there is one thing you take away from this story, it is that it is worth it to stay and find your purpose. Every single one of us has one.

Photo by Maria Lysenko on Unsplash

Originally published: September 13, 2020
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