My name is Beth and I am a volunteer for Common Ground’s Resource and Crisis Helpline. National Suicide Awareness week has a special place in my heart as I am a survivor of several suicide attempts. I wanted to write this in hopes that if you are struggling, you might see my story and know that there is at least one other person on your team, who has been through the mud and came out on the other side.
Before I get into it, I wanted to address some fears on my mind in telling the more vulnerable parts of my story. First, if my parents see this, know that you had a hand in making me the woman I am today. I love you. Next, I’m planning to have kids someday and if they read this, I want them to know that it’s okay if they struggle, I will support them through all of their hardships. Lastly, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about future job prospects or grad school admissions in writing this blog. Suicide is still so stigmatized that sometimes even those who have the power to change the way it is viewed choose to stay silent. I don’t presume to know why; all I want to say on the matter is that I am committed to changing suicide conversations from depressing, terrifying, awful things into those of hope, light, and love.
When I think about why I tried killing myself there’s not an easy answer. My adoption lead me to feel like I was rejected, my parents’ divorce felt like a never ending battle for me, my socioeconomic status told me there were worse problems in the world, and the list goes on. What I want to make abundantly clear here is that there is no specific reason for my attempts, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for others. Suicide is not normal, or what people first consider in dealing with their problems. However, over time your brain can normalize and rationalize just about anything. You can even start to believe that it is the best option in your head, especially if you don’t tell anyone about your thoughts. For me suicidal thoughts came as early as middle school. I didn’t talk to anyone about them for years, and when I finally acted on my thoughts it seemed like a pretty acceptable answer to my hardships.
I had two suicide attempts in my late teens and after the second, I landed in a psychiatric hospital; it was the last place where I wanted to be. Honestly, though I cringe thinking about it now, I thought I was better than the other patients. While most of my teenaged peers had gotten 51/50’d (police and doctor lingo meaning a mandatory hold) from abusing drugs, I hadn’t gotten in there because I drank or did drugs; I was in there because I wanted to die. Consequently, I didn’t get close to anyone the first week because I didn’t trust anyone to understand where I was coming from. Since I wasn’t really talking or getting out my head, the doctors and nurses held me another week. I was furious and I had to talk to someone. I thought about talking to my roommate, but I didn’t think she would care about what was going on. But, when I came back to the room visibly upset she asked if I was okay.
I broke down.
I told this person everything, and afterwards, to my astonishment I felt… better. But nothing was different… at the time I was very confused.
I thought if I talked about the lousy parts of life, it would make them worse and at the very least nothing would change. Looking back now I understand, that I was partially right. Sometimes things don’t change after talking to someone and trusting someone with your feelings is terrifying. However, talking to someone about what you’re going through can empower you to change the situation, or to accept it and be okay for a little bit. You’ve shared your experience with someone else and can go on about your day lighter because you are a little less encumbered. Or you feel better because you have someone keeping you accountable. You have someone in your court and you are now a team.
If I had known about the Resource and Crisis Helpline as a young person, I believe my life would have taken a different direction. Although I am grateful for my experiences, I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the suffering I had to endure. A lot of people don’t make it through that pain, and I just want you to know that I am on your team and I want you to make it through. The Resource and Crisis Helpline isn’t an end all to the struggles of suicide, but it can be such a powerful start in getting you on a track that is more helpful. I know that it is terrifying to reach out in the midst of hurt and moreover can feel downright impossible when you can barely brush your teeth and shower. However, I can wholly vouch that you will get something out of a conversation with us. We’re here to listen and sometimes that’s the best medicine.
Common Ground is available 24/7/365 at (800)231-1127.
Author: Beth Gibbons, Resource and Crisis Helpline Volunteer at Common Ground