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10 Lessons I Learned After My Last Suicide Attempt

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It has been suggested to me many times by friends and professionals alike to write down my feelings. I have tried to do this throughout my life, but it usually results in maybe a week of commitment. I definitely benefit from expressing my thoughts and emotions, but overall, I find it to be an uncomfortable experience. Add this with a forgetful brain and a hatred for handwriting, and that pretty much sums up why I am not inclined to keep a diary.

Even now, I am writing this as though speaking to an audience. This method allows me to remain detached from my emotions as if I were telling a story or writing a factual assignment. I am also able to give a broad overview of my feelings opposed to going in depth. Perhaps, this defeats the entire purpose, but at least it is a start, right?

Depending on what I write, I may let a few people in my life read this (or most likely a version of this with things edited out) so they can understand where I’m at right now. Also, note I am typing instead of writing by hand. I’m such a millennial. Now on to all that emotional mumbo jumbo.

It has been just over two months since I survived my most significant suicide attempt. As someone who spends a lot of time “over-thinking,” I find myself self-reflecting on my experiences a lot. This usually can be detrimental for me, spending most of my time analyzing every detail of a situation or simply picking apart my flaws.

Although this trait can be debilitating, I have recently found it to not always be a negative thing. Over the past couple months, reliving my thoughts and choices has enabled me to grow as a person. Super cheesy but true. Maybe that’s what I will make this weird journal/diary/letter/random document about: what I have learned from this experience.

1. A lot of people care about me.

Seriously. As someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts since age 16, I have spent a fair amount of time thinking I am a waste of space, and no one cares about me. This is simply not true. When I was in the hospital (after I became coherent, I might add), I was expecting a lot of judgment, blame and anger. Again, not the case. I was greeted with so much love and empathy, it was unreal. Of course, people were upset, but not in the way I had anticipated.

I have actually received a lot of support and offers of support over the last couple of years. (I’m stubborn and don’t like accepting help.) At the time, it felt like I was a burden, and I viewed the support as people feeling morally obligated to help a girl who they took pity on. In hindsight, I see it for what it truly was. Concern, and most importantly, love.

2. My death would affect other people.

This lesson ties in a lot with the first one. If people care about you, then they do not want you to die. This actually reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend last year. It was shortly after one of my “less significant” suicide attempts. We were driving back from Toronto, which provided ample time for a heart-to-heart. At the end of the drive, I was getting out of her car and said, “You don’t want me to do die, do you?” She replied, “The only one who wants you to die is you.” How right she was.

I had no idea the amount of people my death would impact. It would have went far beyond my family and closest friends. The people I would have least expected stepped up to help me the most. Even the people I support missed me in my absence.

One of my fondest memories of returning to work started off as a terrible day. I was about to start my second shift back, and I was feeling incompetent and insecure in my abilities to perform my job. I was waiting for one of the girls I supported that evening to get off her school bus. I could see her frantically waving to me out the window. She was beyond excited to see me. As soon as she stepped off the bus, her face lit up as she screamed out my name, followed by a loud, “I missed you.” Best feeling ever. If I was that horrible at my job, then I wouldn’t have received that reaction.

3. Returning to life is hard.

Step 1: The hospital

During my stay in the hospital, I struggled a lot. I was going through so many emotions, and there were a million thoughts racing through my brain. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. I absolutely despised being there, but that being said, it still sheltered me from the real world. I had little responsibilities or stressors to deal with.

Step 2: Returning home

When I first got home from the hospital, I had two weeks before I had to return to work. This is when I really started to process what had just happened. At this point, my main focus was scheduling appointments (which was terrible because I hate phone calls), attempting to manage my anxiety and overall, just trying to stay alive. My responsibilities were returning, but I was able to avoid most of them.

I also had so many well-wishers (many who had no idea I tried to kill myself) who wanted to see me. Understandably, my mom also wanted to spend a few nights at my apartment. Unfortunately, neither the visitors or the house guest appealed to me. I was too emotionally drained to deal with too many people or to be over coddled and closely watched. My solution to this was coming up with excuses and/or avoiding people all together. That’s not to say I didn’t speak to anyone during this period. I was just selective. I definitely needed support.

Step 3: Back to work and now (This step sucked.)

First was the anxiety about returning to work and what that process entailed. I was supposed to return to work after two weeks, but it ended up being three and half. Not so fun when you are beyond broke. I am including that extra week and half in this “step.” I also had a bad period of not being able to get out of bed. Then, I actually had to start going to the appointments I scheduled. Therapy appointments induce lots of annoying emotions I now have to balance with functioning at work. Oh, and those responsibilities I avoided in the second step? They get worse when you don’t deal with them. Naturally, I’ve dealt with some of them and avoided the rest.

The hardest part about this step has been having to return to work, social obligations and responsibilities, as if nothing had ever happened. Now, people are starting to fade away a bit, and I have had to stand on my own two feet. To them, I survived, and it’s over. To me, the journey of recovery has barely begun. It’s not that people completely stopped helping me, just not as much and in a different way. Starting to deal with life independently again has been tremendously scary, but it needed to happen. It has taken me awhile, but I am starting to function somewhat normally now.

I continue to deal with what I call “phases” of emotion I go through. They include things like feeling numb, depressed, too happy, normal and anxious. My suicidal thoughts are persistent if nothing else. They have continued, but generally, they have been passing thoughts I would not act on. Although in all honesty, the last week they have been a little tougher to deal with again. However, I think I have been managing quite well considering. Thankfully, I have not gone through a “suicidal phase” since I tried to kill myself. I would say that’s progress!

4. It’s OK not to be OK.

So cliche but so true. If you don’t admit you’re not OK, you can’t (and won’t) get the help you need. I have learned so many people are not OK, and that, well, that’s OK!

5. I have to want to recover.

This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over again in the past few years. Thankfully, I think it has finally clicked. I now make the choice to live every day. I actually put effort into my therapy and listen to what they are saying. I seek help opposed to being dragged to it. I practice coping techniques at home, and I research ways to deal with what I struggle with. I have even joined online support groups. Some days wanting to recover is easier than others, but it is a must!

6. Recovering is going to be long and terrible, but thankfully…

7. I am stronger than I ever could have imagined.

8. I prefer to keep my diagnosis to myself.

This lesson did not take me long to learn. Initially, I was so happy to have a diagnosis. It enabled me to have better understanding of what is going on with me. However, people assume the decisions I make and thoughts I have all revolve around the diagnosis. For example, yes, being impulsive is part of my diagnosis, but no I did not go out to dinner because of it. Last time I checked, I am not the only person in the world to decide to go out for dinner last minute. What actually motivated me was not wanting to cook, not my diagnosis. So as helpful as a diagnosis is, for the most part I’ll keep it to myself.

9. Fake it until you make it still works.

This a coping mechanism that has always worked for me when I’m feeling down. For example, if I don’t want to go out with my friend, then I should do it anyway. Faking it gets me out of the house and sometimes I even end up enjoying myself. Other times, I go home overwhelmed and recluse to my bed. It’s certainly worth the try.

10. God didn’t forget about me. He’s the reason I’m still alive.

For a long time, I was angry at God. Why was he letting these things happen to me? Where was he? As I look back, I realize he was always there. There are so many times I could not have made it without him. Lately, I have been spending time thinking about the people he has put in my life. There are certain people in particular who appeared at just the right moment. I have also been reflecting on specific events or thoughts that have literally redirected the course of my life. I am so blessed and thankful.

This post originally appeared on Surviving 2 Thriving.

Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: October 27, 2016
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