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The Line From 'Law & Order: SVU' That Stuck With Me as a Suicide Attempt Survivor

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Last night, I was watching “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” a series I’ve known and loved for probably half my life. It is an emotional show dealing with tough topics, so it’s not unusual for a scene or a quote to strike me. However, this time was different. Usually, the words that stick with me are pertaining to assault or trauma, which is what the show is centered around. This time, the quote shook me where I wasn’t expecting it — touching an emotion deep within me in regards to being a suicide attempt survivor.

In the scene, Sergeant Olivia Benson is meeting with her therapist as she grieves the death of a friend and coworker. The colleague died on the job, and Olivia was there. She felt guilty over the fact that it could have — or should have — been her, and not her coworker who was killed. As she’s tearing up, her therapist says:

“You’ve got to mourn this loss, but you cannot judge yourself for feeling relieved that you’re alive.”

I lost my breath for a moment as my mind raced back to 17-year-old me waking up in the ICU, waiting to hear back about the extent of damage my own hand had done to my own body. I had tried to make myself stop breathing, to take myself off this Earth, because I was convinced I was a burden and that life just was not for me.

But I woke up.

At the time, everyone was asking me if I was happy I was still alive. I remember giving a half-assed shrug and smile — I didn’t know what to think. Less than 24 hours ago I had intended to die, and now I’m supposed to feel happy I didn’t? A part of me was grateful, but I was mostly just confused. I did not have time to process it yet. The biggest thing racing through my mind as my attempt was being reversed and I was deemed medically stable was, “Why?”

Why me?

Why did I survive?

If 105 people die by suicide in the U.S. every day, how come I was not one of them?

I was overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of all the people who didn’t get to wake up alive. I felt guilty I was saved in time — that others were not as fortunate to have made it, but I was. What made me so special that God or Fate or whoever spared me? Today, I am grateful I lived, but every time I hear of another suicide, that pang of guilt comes flooding back.

“You’ve got to mourn this loss, but you cannot judge yourself for feeling relieved that you’re alive.”

I am allowed to be happy I am alive.

I am allowed to feel grateful for the fact I was not one of the 105 that day.

I am also allowed to mourn all the ones who didn’t get that second chance. But I should not feel guilt over things out of my control — of the suicides that were not prevented in time.

Now, instead of feeling guilty, I take action. The fact I’m still here has solidified my passion for advocacy and healing. I feel as though I can’t let my lived experience “go to waste.” I use my voice and my life in honor of those who don’t have theirs anymore — those who didn’t get a chance to see things get better.

I am alive, and I will always remember I’m lucky to say that.

Follow this journey on Alyse Ruriani‘s blog. 

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie, show, or song that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Originally published: May 26, 2016
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