I see the calls at this time of year for words on suicide—asking for stories and experiences and prevention advocacy and advice.
Before now I felt that I had nothing to add to the conversation.
I thought, “my story isn’t as worthy as theirs,” or “I’ve never attempted suicide, so the suicidal feelings I experience surely don’t cut it,” or “I don’t have any helpful advice to give anyone.”
Yet here I am today, flooded with thoughts about my own battles with suicide, and suddenly I am compelled to share them.
The truth is that over the last 12 months I don’t think there has been a single day when I haven’t thought about suicide—thoughts and feelings around it lurk in my day-to-day as a dark but real possibility…or memory.
The truth is that suicidal feeling has been a part of my life for years—decades even—and this year it has been more frequent than ever before.
Sometimes it’s been obvious, in the referrals to crisis teams and the hysterical 3 a.m. phone calls to loved ones for help and support.
Other times it has been quietly sitting in the almost numb, depressed feeling of unworthiness and hopelessness.
There are times when, all alone, I have cried into the night—searching for an answer, desperately screaming into the void and hearing nothing back but echoes of “this is where it ends.”
And yet it didn’t end.
The word suicide hasn’t always been on the tip of my tongue, but its shape has lingered in the background, always there.
Somehow though, each time, I’ve moved into the next moment—the moment where I am still here, alive, not having acted on these thoughts of ending my life. The world keeps on turning and I am alive.
I move into the next moment and then the next, and sometimes days or weeks pass without the weight of suicide pressing down on me as firmly as it had done in those moments before.
The crisis team stands down, friends don’t worry so acutely about the word I never say, I manage to get through a night or two or three or four without the feeling that maybe I won’t wake up tomorrow.
But for as many days as I have remained here, in this life, suicide has also remained close to me.
Sometimes it is in the memory of feelings that seem like eerie deja vu.
Other times it is in the eyes of those I love and have focused on in photographs and in life when I have been desperately searching for my reason to stay.
It is there in the moments when I suddenly realise I’ve made it through more time than I have in a long while without wanting to end it all.
Suicide isn’t a glamorous word, nor should it be. It is filled with darkness and loss and at its most raw it means a reality far more painful than I could adequately express.
And yet it is a word that represents a reality in many of our lives—in the lives of those feeling like there is no way into the next moment, those who attempt to end their lives, those who succeed in doing so, and in the lives of those who support others through these dark days or have lost someone to it.
I can’t tell you the hows or whats or whys of prevention for me. I cannot tell you exactly how I’ve moved from the inside to the outside (and back in again, and out, again) of this word that lives with me daily. I cannot give advice on recovery or healing, nor should I. Everyone moves through this differently.
But I have a feeling some of it, a big part of it, comes down to love and listening and connection—to knowing that we are not alone.
I am not alone in this. I am not alone with this word we hardly dare to speak, and all the weight it carries with it.
And neither are you.
You are not alone.
You reading this.
You with your own reality—feelings, experiences and memories of suicide in your life, or in the life of someone you love.
The words suicide and love cannot and should not be mutually exclusive.
Because I think it’s somewhere within our connection, and the connection of these two that prevention and healing lives.