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41 Secrets of Suicide Attempt Survivors

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It’s a heartbreaking and complex phenomena: the only way to truly understand why someone would take his or her own life is to also be suicidal or experience suicide ideation. While suicide attempt survivors crave understanding and empathy, they by no means wish their feelings of hopelessness on anyone else.

But they need to be able to talk about them.

A stigma of its own exists around someone who has attempted to take his or her own life, but survived. “How selfish!” “How could you do that to us?” “What is wrong with you?” But if others were able to genuinely understand the mindset one has when attempting suicide, the judgments may not come so quickly. The criticism may lessen. And by spreading real understanding, we may be able to take steps to help those still struggling.

We asked suicide attempt survivors what they wish others understood about their experiences. Their answers are heartfelt and difficult to read, but so, so important. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are so important. Please stay.

Here is what our community had to say:

1. “In the mind of the person thinking about the act, it is the complete opposite of a selfish decision. In that moment, we truly feel the world would be a better place without us. It’s a situation I’m glad some people don’t understand because it means they’ve never felt those feelings, but one which people who have never experienced themselves shouldn’t be so quick to judge.” — Jen D.

2. “For me, it’s less about death and more about ceasing the pain. It’s difficult to explain how death would make you feel more alive than ever. I wasn’t running from my problems. I was desperately searching for a way to conquer them.” — Kacie S.

3. “It will never leave the back of your deepest thoughts. And on days of depression it will fly into the foreground in an instant. It has its own eyes, ears and voice. It will try to lure you back. You have to be strong enough to acknowledge it’s [sometimes] a companion for life. It will stick with you through thick and thin. Don’t let it fulfill its quest to destroy.” — Andrew G.

4. “It wasn’t really about dying. It was about escaping unbearable pain when I couldn’t see any other option. And I was convinced everyone would be happier if I was gone, that I was doing them a favor by unburdening them. This is why guilt trips like ‘think of what you’re doing to your loved ones’ don’t work for me… I’m so grateful to still be alive today. The pain did fade. I found other options. And I want to stick around, to see how this life of mine will play out.” — Erin L.

5. “Do you understand how much it hurts to be criticized for having this in our past? Do you know how much it hurts to be called ‘selfish,’ ‘stupid’ and ‘crazy?’ If you have never had suicidal ideation, please do not place judgment on those of us who have, because of course it doesn’t make sense to you… it doesn’t make sense to most of us either. Unfortunately it still happens, and we deserve help, not hate.” — Kerri S.

6. “My attempt had nothing to do with how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ my life is. It came from being tired. Tired of being me, tired of pretending, tired of being depressed.” — Valerie S.

7. “We each live with our own reality. The emotional pain we feel becomes physical and it feels like there is no light at the end of our tunnel.” — Christine G.

8. “I have [attempted suicide] numerous times and am not ashamed to admit it anymore because yes, sometimes I feel like I don’t want to be here or that people are better off without me.” — Simon H.

9.I shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for what I did. I tried the pills, exercise, getting out more, I worked through the lists of the ‘acceptable’ courses of action. It felt like my last resort.” — Lindsey G.

10. “Sometimes it is not just trauma that causes the thoughts or actions. Sometimes it is a medication that causes it too. Don’t make judgment calls on others who are going through it. Ask what you can do to help. Try to understand that they may not know why the thoughts are coming into their heads. Just be there for them to support them when needed.” — Solana C.

11. “When I tell my story, it’s not for attention. It’s a way for me to reach out and make others realize they’re not alone. I want my story to inspire others to keep going, to continue to fight, and to take the steps towards a happier and healthier life.” — Megan D.

12. “I wish people knew that it didn’t mean I didn’t love them. At the time, I honestly believed I was doing everyone a favor. I wish people knew the thoughts will always be there for some, and we deal with it day by day. It can be a lifelong process, almost like a recovering addict. I don’t think I’ll ever fully heal.  I wish people would stop calling it selfish. Stop acting like it is something we’re doing to smite you. It’s. Not. About. You.” — Moranda J.

13. “I don’t really want to die. I just want to kill the way I feel, shut up the incessant chatter in my brain, have a break from feeling like the worst most unworthy and unlovable creature on earth. It is not selfish nor cowardly. It is not to hurt you. It is pure unadulterated desperation.” — Andrea T.

14. “My depression, my anxiety, my PTSD are just as serious and devastating as a physical disability. Suicide is not the coward’s way out. It is real. The pain, the emotions, the devastation. I’m blessed to have survived my attempt, but I still battle with the demons in my head. I don’t think there may be anything more devastating than having two beautiful amazing kids and still feeling like suicide is the only answer. The pain is so real, and it’s something I deal with on a daily basis.” — Lindsey J.

15. “When I attempted suicide, it was because I was so engulfed and overwhelmed with something I had absolutely zero control over. It felt like I was being controlled by a source and that’s what it wanted me to do. Fortunately, I [survived]. Fortunately, I live to tell the tale. And to whoever is reading this, even if you don’t believe it gets better, at least you’re not alone.” — Marlene J.

16. “I truly believed I was doing what was best for my family. When people say that suicide is selfish it bothers me. I can honestly say I wasn’t thinking at all about myself.” — Jessica M.

17. “It’s not a cry for attention. It is the never-ending pain of trying to live in a world you believe you don’t belong in.” — Abbie M.

18. “I can honestly say it was never because I couldn’t speak to anyone or because people weren’t saying the right things. It was by far my anxiety attacks that would drive me over the edge. The pain that goes with anxiety it wicked and debilitating. I just wanted to feel normal again. I wanted the anxiety to go away. I tried everything to fix it. Eventually I felt hopeless and felt the only way to stop it was by taking my own life… There is hope and there is help. Reach out.” — Lisa B.

19. “The mind totally shuts down in the act of self-harm or attempted suicide. I wish people understood that saying, ‘Think of your family/friends” doesn’t work because there is no thinking going on. I was a zombie. All I knew was I wanted everything to stop. I didn’t want to be lonely or ‘in the way’ anymore. I wanted everything I was and had become to just stop. I just wish people understood that depression and suicide go far, far deeper than ‘it gets better.’” — Ida M.

20. “You never forget about it, and you’re never quite the same as before the attempt. You carry it around like a weight on your shoulders. Some days are harder than others, and some days you don’t have to carry the weight alone. Many are quick to judge, but if we don’t speak out about our experiences, how are we able to expect others to understand? Education is the only thing that can combat ignorance.” — Rebecca R.

21. “It becomes additional trauma to deal with.” — Beth W.

22. “I desperately wanted the soul-crushing pain to cease, and in that moment I was only focused on stopping the pain. I was not thinking of the consequences of my suicide.” — Mary Z.

23. “I have felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest. I have fallen to the floor crying uncontrollably. I felt like I was drowning and like no one could save me. At that moment, all I felt was anguish.” — Helen Z.

24. “It’s not something to be joked about or looked over. I wanted to stop being a burden to those around me and to silence the pain within me. I felt tired of feeling like a failure or a pest to others, even though I wasn’t. It’s a serious thing. Do not joke or roll your eyes at those who’ve attempted. You don’t know the constant battles we endure on a day to day basis.” — Liza G.

25. “Some people ask, “how could you ever give up on life?” They don’t understand the fact that the will of a suicide is more than just a simple desire. Even though you try not to think about it, even though you don’t want to do it, there is this strong and hopeless feeling of just… doing it.” — Daniel S.

26. “Attempting suicide is not weakness. It can be a cry for help, which takes much strength to ask for when your mind does not want you to. It is a lack of understanding within yourself and from others. It is confusion when you constantly feel like a failure. It is a permanent solution to a temporary feeling that doesn’t feel temporary at all. It is so much more than a mere escape from suffering, and it is sometimes the only conclusion our brains with illnesses can make for ourselves when we don’t know what else to do.” — Sami S.

27. “Honestly? I was angry. Angry [I survived]. Embarrassed that my family would learn of my ‘failure.’ Terrified to talk to my friends because I didn’t trust them enough with the full depths of my disease. I felt like a fraud. And even though I fight it, every single day a part of my hates myself. And sure… sometimes it gets better. In fact, it can be amazing. You just have to be patient through the pain and wait for the good to come again.” — Jailyn M.

28. “For me it was about wanting the voices to stop. I felt like I didn’t belong. I still feel like that most days. It was about wanting the pain to dull just for a moment so I could breathe long enough to catch up. It wasn’t about being selfish in that way. I always thought my family and friends would be better without me. I still struggle every day, and my scars are proof I survived. I don’t want people to understand. Just listen and respect.” — Cassandra R.

29. “I wish others understood I am not a danger to them. After my attempt, my friends kept me at arm’s length rather than drawing close to me because they were afraid I would hurt them too. It left me feeling more isolated and rejected than ever. I also wish people understood the power of what seems like a simple little thing. A hug. A text. A phone call, even if I can’t bear to answer and you get my voice mail. Tiny little things that are actually huge things because they say, ‘I want you here, I want to help you fight.’” — Jennifer K.

30. “It’s wrong to presume I had a precise handle on my thoughts and knew exactly what I was doing. I didn’t. I still don’t. Every time I recollect it, there’s a new explanation, a new piece. There will always be new pieces, and that makes you so tired. But when you try to forget, it comes back to you some other way, always, every day. Nothing and nobody else can stop it, so you need to learn to quell it… It’s the hardest, most confounding thing I’ve ever done.” — Keisha F.

31. “By the time you get to that point, you’ve been exhausted for what feels like your entire life. Sisyphus with the boulder. Just getting out of bed to pee is so f*cking difficult. You can’t be convinced life is ever going to get better, and you’re so certain that your very existence is only dragging everything down with you as you continue on.” — Myrlyn B.

32. “It was an instant regret. I was in so much pain I wanted it to stop, but as soon as I took too many pills, after I thought, ‘Oh my God what have I done?’ I want people to know it’s not all about dying. We are all just trying to end our emotional pain.” — Teresa A.

33. “It’s hard for people who have not felt those depths to understand how someone could possibly think taking your own life is the answer, especially when [that person is a] parent. ‘How could you do that to your son?’ ‘Your son needs you!’ and so on. In those moments, when my depression has control… I truly believe my son would be safer, healthier and happier with out me.” — Samantha L.

34. “It’s not cowardice. I didn’t want to put [my family] through all the badness and turmoil I was and still am going through inside my head. It’s been a long, hard road for me to realize that suicide is not the best option.” — Chris M.

35. “Nothing about suicide is selfish. All of life seems to be selfish. We all have to take care of ourselves. And suicide is the only option I knew to fully and completely take away the pain I feel every moment of every day… We need compassion, understanding, caring and nurturing.” — Marco O.

36. “Suicide is not the ‘easy way out.’ It’s about being in a moment where I cannot think clearly and where I see suicide as my only way out of whatever I am dealing with. I am not weak. I am stronger than you ever could imagine for having lived as long as I have with my own demons and as my own personal enemy.” — Yael G.

37. “I am not fragile! Not in the least bit! I have weak moments, as does everyone. My attempt does not mean you need to be careful around me or coddle me or walk on eggshells around me. I am not going to ‘crack’ if you hurt my feelings or have a differing opinion. I have spent every moment since my last attempt growing stronger and stronger, and the idea that I am delicate and breakable couldn’t be farther from the truth.” — Jessica J.

38. “I wish my friends and family could understand that it’s not their fault. It wasn’t that I didn’t know they loved me; it was because I was buried so deep. It was too dark for me to see or feel their love. It’s a totally different reality. I just wanted all my struggles and their feelings of helplessness to end. I didn’t want to leave them. I just didn’t have it in me to keep fighting my monsters.” — Artie K.

39. “People think it’s all about wanting to die. No, it isn’t. I’m quite scared of death, if I’m totally honest, but I faced that fear because it [felt] easier than living a lifetime full of pain and exhaustion. It seems like the best and only way out at the time.” — Alex H.

40. “I believed my existence was doing more harm to those around me than good. I believed the pain of dealing with my death would be temporary, but if I stayed I would cause more harm to those I loved. It was not a cry for attention. I just saw no other way.” — Carl S.

41. “I carry the guilt of attempting to leave my loved ones with me every day. When they say, ‘you tried to leave’ — that hurts me more than anything because it wasn’t ‘me.’ It was my illness overtaking my being… I wish others would understand that they might not understand. And that’s perfectly OK. I wish others would understand I still have as much excellence and potential within me than before the attempt. After all, the illness was there before as well. I am the same.  Living is hard. But it is making me stronger. I wish others would understand that I am still a person. Not a monster.” — Alexis B.

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

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

 41 Secrets of Suicide Attempt Survivors

Originally published: September 6, 2016
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