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What Guilt Feels Like as a Suicide Attempt Survivor

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I often feel guilty because of my anxiety and depression. But most of the time I should not.

Recently I felt guilt for a new, heartbreaking reason. I am a survivor of a suicide attempt. But not everyone is.

I remember the morning after vividly. The white walls of the shared hospital room. The stiffness in the blankets. The metallic taste in my mouth. The brightness of the lights intensifying my headache. My sweaty shirt stuck to my chest. I don’t remember the actual attempt, but I remember — no matter how hard I try to forget — the feelings that brought me to that crossroad. The immeasurable shame. The insurmountable anxiety. The darkness of feeling hopeless. The physical aches. The heaviness of believing I was a burden. The desire to make it all stop at any cost.

Something else I remember about the morning after was feeling grateful. Grateful for waking up. Grateful for the hard choices of my loved ones. Grateful for the confusion and lapses in memory. Grateful for the nausea that rendered me immobile. I was grateful because on the other side of my attempt, in the fog of the withdrawal, I was able to see I didn’t want to die.

I did not want to die.

I wanted to have a moment where my mind didn’t degrade me. A moment where I trusted my instinct. A moment where I saw a future and looked forward to it. A moment where I wasn’t debilitated by anxiety. A moment where I had energy. A moment where I smiled without wondering if my mask was fooling others. A moment to feel alive. I wanted to live.

I wanted to live.

I’m afraid those who die by suicide may have felt the same way I did the day following my attempt. I feel guilty I was blessed with another day, another chance, when others are not so lucky. I feel guilty my family gets to tell me they love me when other families would give anything to say it one more time.

Sometimes, on bad days, I picture it like a raffle. Everyone who attempts suicide gets a number, but there are only so many “winners.” If your number gets pulled, you get a second chance and if not, your story ends. Sometimes I don’t feel as if my number deserved to be picked. There are men who worked harder, women who loved deeper and children who grew stronger than I think I will ever work, love or grow. People who were heroes. People who bettered society. People who challenged others. People who were selfless. People who changed the world. People who could have continued to change the world. People who seem more deserving.

My heart aches for those who never got to feel grateful on the other end of their pain. I wish no one felt this pain and everyone’s number could be drawn so they too would have a second chance.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via alien 185.

Originally published: February 20, 2016
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