Guest Opinion: Why Suicide? Finding a way to replace hopelessness with hopefulness
Thursday, Sept. 10, is National Suicide Day. It is not a day of celebration, but a day to make people aware that this is an ever-increasing problem in our society. It seems more important this year with the COVID-19 mandates in place by our government. Because of this, I’ve decided to come out of my self-imposed closet to speak to those who are contemplating suicide, and to the mourners of those who have died at their own hands.
Why do people commit suicide? I can only speak from my own personal experience, but I know I’m not alone in my reasoning. I attempted suicide because I felt totally worthless and ashamed; that I wasn’t good enough, and that no one really loved me. Yes, I knew I was loved. I had three young sons who I knew loved me, but knowing that didn’t stop the feelings that were raging within me.
For years I battled the demons inside my head telling me that I was better off dead; that all the pain would be gone if I didn’t exist anymore. For more years than I care to count I went through hospitalizations, many therapists and psychiatrists, and all the different medications they prescribed for me. The pills didn’t help for long; they made me numb to all feelings. I couldn’t feel happiness or true sadness – they flat-lined me emotionally, and that gave me even more reason to want to be dead. Pills were not the answer, so what was? Ultimately that answer to that question was “self-love” achieved after many years and tears.
A dear friend in California invited me to come live with her and her husband. The timing was perfect since my current living situation was changing. Me and my emotional and physical baggage arrived at her doorstep and she proceeded to love and care for me in a way that couldn’t be achieved in a hospital. She never “should-ed” me. She took me off all the medications I was taking, fed me healthy food, encouraged me to take regular walks, and listened to me without judging. It took a while, but I was finally able to laugh again, and cry again. Her actions made me feel wanted and unashamed. She told me that God loved me just the way I am, and I finally realized that if Jesus could love me the way I was, then I must not be worthless. Hopelessness was replaced with hopefulness, and the longing to be dead was gone. After six months I returned to my family in Minnesota and began the path to self-love.
It took a few more years to overcome the feelings of self-loathing that remained, but I can honestly say that I learned to love myself. Twenty years ago I thought that was impossible. I realize now that killing me would have been a lethal legacy to leave to my children and grandchildren even though it had nothing to do with them. Then, when I learned that a friend of mine lost her son to suicide, I wanted to reach out to let her know that it was not her fault, or any else’s fault for that matter. I wanted her to know that she was not responsible for her son’s inner turmoil. It was a pain that he felt he could no longer deal with. Nothing she could have said or done could take away the pain he was feeling. Each individual chooses what steps to take on this path of life. There are doors that are open to them for help, but they have to choose to accept that help. Sometimes the inner demons are speaking so loud that it’s hard to hear those that love and care for them.
If you are someone who is contemplating suicide, your will to survive is much stronger than you think. Find a friend/therapist who can help you discover your inner strength. If you are someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one who committed suicide, blaming yourself will serve no purpose. “Coulda, shoulda, woulda thoughts” only take you down a road of despair that leads to nowhere. Instead, choose a path to ease the burden of another human being.
Suicidal feelings are invisible. Anyone you meet on the street or in a store could be contemplating suicide and you would never know it. One kind word or gesture from you could be enough to help a person survive one more day. Each day brings another chance of finding the Will to live. As the old song says, “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand; make this world a better place if you can.” Reaching outside my comfort zone to help others was what helped me overcome my feelings of worthlessness. If you are suffering from those same feelings, please reach out and touch. Someone will be there to see you through to the other side.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255 or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
Sue Sterling is a Brainerd resident