Recently, I heard the heartbreaking news that a man from my hometown shot himself. He left no note and, to my knowledge, gave no obvious warning signs that he was in distress or hurting. This left so many people with indescribable pain and many burning questions. As soon as I heard it, though I didn’t know him outside of meeting at a few social events, my heart broke. It broke for his family who may never get closure as to why he chose to take his life. It broke for his friends who don’t fully understand what happened. But mostly, it broke for him.
I understand firsthand what it’s like to be in a suicidal state of mind. There were several months where, from the time I woke up to the time I fell asleep (when I did sleep), it was all I could think about. It literally consumed my mind. Many people don’t understand why someone would just take their life without any warning or explanation.
Frankly, it’s not something anyone who has not dealt with it personally could fully understand. When someone is struggling with suicidal ideation and/or a mental illness, it colors their world very differently than how everyone else perceives it. People wonder why they don’t reach out or say something to someone. If they’re hurting, let someone know, right? At face value, that seems simple; but it’s not.
When someone is contemplating suicide, it’s very likely they’ve thought about it for a long time prior to them taking actions on those thoughts. From my research, very few people take their lives on a whim. This can be due to an undiagnosed/misdiagnosed mental illness, physical illness, or traumatic event. In my situation, it was a misdiagnosed mental illness.
For months I struggled with resisting the urge to follow through with my ever-changing (or improving, as I might have said during that time) plan. People ask me why I didn’t reach out in that time and my answer isn’t a simple one. I didn’t reach out because I felt like this was a personal issue and I should be able to handle it on my own. I didn’t reach out because I didn’t think anyone cared enough to listen or help. I didn’t reach out because I thought I was beyond help. I didn’t reach out because I didn’t think I deserved it, like I was being punished and needed to pay my dues. I didn’t feel worthy of recovery or help from anyone. I didn’t reach out because I knew how often I was struggling and thought I was being a burden. I didn’t reach out because I was afraid of what people would think. I didn’t reach out because I thought it was a sign of weakness or a personal flaw. I didn’t reach out because of the stigma around mental illness that our society has shoved down our throats.
I’m sure there are far more reasons why people keep things like suicidal ideation and mental illness to themselves. But what people don’t understand is how much our brain will trick us into believing those lies. People who don’t struggle with suicidal thoughts or a mental illness think that when those negative thoughts come around, we should just be able to push the thoughts away and be alright. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those negative thoughts may start out small in the beginning, but after time they will grow and get much darker. After hearing those things run around in your brain for so long, it becomes second nature. You believe all the things you think. Before too long, it literally consumes your mind. No matter what you do or where you go, those thoughts are right there and you’re constantly tortured by your own mind.
Dealing with mental illness or struggling with thoughts of suicide are not simple things that someone can just snap out of or be cured by positive thinking. Sure, for some things that may work, but for most, it takes a lot of work, help, and, in many cases, medications. The brains of people with a mental illness are malfunctioning. In many cases, they’re either producing too much of a chemical(s) or not enough. This imbalance or other defects can wreak havoc on a person both mentally and physically.
If you are dealing with a mental illness or contemplating suicide, please know that you are not alone. There are many people who have dealt with similar circumstances and have made a full recovery. There is hope. You are worth the help and you do not deserve what you’re going through. Please reach out to someone and seek help. It won’t be easy, but I promise it will be worth it. Don’t sit in silence.
*Disclaimer: I am obviously not a professional in this so if there are any errors or inaccuracies please forgive me. I’m still learning.