Suicide Isn’t Selfish, But Centering Yourself in Suicide Narratives Is

Image: Indian Ruminations

Content warning: suicide, depression, self-harm

In 2016, I attempted suicide. Not just once or twice, but it became an ongoing struggle. I would stand in the shower, right under the shower head, and hold my breath for as long as I could as water poured over me. For me, suicide wasn’t a gun or a knife or jumping off a building. It was a slow, never-ending pain that, when I eventually pulled away and struggled for breath, was worse than death could ever be. Because I was still alive and had to deal with the eternal torture I was experiencing.

I’m in a place now where I haven’t attempted for a long time, and I’m generally in a positive state of mind. But towards the end of 2016, as I simply broke as a person, I wasn’t able to reach out to anyone. Suicidal thoughts are dark and hopeless, and they absolutely and utterly consume you. You’re trapped in your own despair and you don’t know which way is up. Every day, you reach a new low, and little by little, you lose a piece of who you are.

I’m very fortunate that I ended up getting help. It started with my school counselor, who led me to Headspace, and I slowly stopped self-harming and attempting suicide. My depression became more manageable as if someone had pulled the plug and the pool of darkness that was my depression slowly went down the drain.

To anybody who hasn’t experienced suicidal thoughts, or attempted suicide, what you need to understand is that none of this is our fault. We’re not to blame for any of the pain we experience, nor did we cause it. We’re not selfish for being depressed, contemplating or even attempting suicide.

What we experience and how we respond to our trauma has nothing to do with you.

Whenever I bring up my experience with suicide, I’m always told that I should have “thought of my parent” or “imagined how sad everyone would’ve been” had I gone through with it. But what you need to realize is that was about me, and me only. How selfish are you to suggest that I place others’ feelings and wellbeing before my own? They don’t know what I went through, the self-hate I would have for myself every time I pulled away and continued living, continued suffering. If I tell you about my agonizing experience with suicide, and you tell me to think about how others feel, you’re the one being selfish. Why should anyone else be the center of my suicide narrative, when I’m the only one experiencing it? Tell me why I should be caring for others when you’re not even caring for me.

Additionally, if we tell you that we’re suicidal or that we’ve attempted suicide, you’re not actually helping by telling us that we’re selfish. It only adds to the unfathomable shame, guilt and fear we’re constantly experiencing. When I reached out for help, it wasn’t because some random person on Twitter told me I was being selfish. It wasn’t a message from a someone who had never dealt with mental illness telling me how easy it was to get help. When I sought help, it was because I was finally comfortable and ready to talk to someone about something I had no words to explain. It was because I decided for myself that I would try and stop the constant state of agony I was in. I did it for myself, and for myself only.

The bottom line is this: those of us dealing with mental illness, self-harm and/or suicidal thoughts need to be encouraged to seek help, with our consent and if we are safe to do so. However, don’t shame us if we aren’t yet comfortable with reaching out for help. Don’t attack us and then be surprised when it does more harm than good. Instead of blaming mentally ill people for our mental illnesses, you need to create an environment that encouragingly provides the services we need, when we wish to seek it. You need to listen to and believe our experiences and what we’ve dealt with, and trust that we have autonomy over our own bodies and that you’re not entitled to our lives.

And if you blame us for contemplating/attempting suicide, while not actively putting in the work to help us and create a safe and supportive environment, we’re not selfish. You are.

 

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