This piece carries a heavy trigger warning. Please be careful.
My suicide attempt story is like many other suicide attempt stories, I’d imagine. It beings with an unrelenting mental illness (bipolar disorder), goes on to include painful events outside of my control and ends in an attempt on my life. But I like to think of my suicide attempt story as a story of survival – even when my own brain was trying to kill me.
Have you ever attempted suicide because of a mental illness? Have you ever gone to the emergency room (ER) because of a suicide attempt related to a mental illness? If you have, then you probably know, the mentally ill who attempt suicide are second-class patients in the ER. Doctors seem to, distinctly, not like people who attempt suicide. The same goes with people who self-harm. These people are second-class patients as well. But why are the mentally ill who attempt suicide second-class patients?
I was having breakfast with a friend of mine the other day and the topic of her suicide attempt came up. She attempted suicide years ago at a very low point in her bipolar disorder. And what she said was, she found herself very upset about it presently, even though it was years ago. She said she never dealt with her suicide attempt and now that was hurting her.
I understand. I think many of us don’t deal with the realities of a suicide attempt. I think many of us what to put our suicide attempts behind us so badly, that we just push them away without ever considering how deeply something like that scars us.
For my own part, I know what I’ve done with my suicide attempt. I’ve rationalized it. I’ve intellectualized my suicide attempt as “passive” and “not a real attempt” (since my chances of truly dying were low) and this has allowed me to, well, pretty much ignore it. But will that technique come to haunt me one day?
I have attempted suicide. This is not a fact that I wish to wear on my sleeve. This is not a fact a want on my resume. This is a fact that I wish was shoved in a trunk, thrown in a closet and locked away for all eternity.
And I think that most people who have attempted suicide feel the same way. There are many reasons you might want to forget but one of them is the shame associated with a suicide attempt. Many people around you and you, yourself, might consider attempting suicide shameful.
We get the notion of shame from those around us. Imagine looks of scorn if someone happens to belong to a religious community that considers suicide a sin and has no compassion for those who have attempted it. Imagine embarrassed parents forbidding their children to wear short sleeves so that the scars on their wrists are never seen. Imagine the person arriving home from the hospital, after a suicide attempt, not to a welcome home party but to pained silences and looks of pity and contempt. These are the realities that people who have attempted suicide face. And do we feel shame about what we’ve done? Many of us do.
- I started on half a dose – that’s two pills in the morning and two in the evening.
- Pretty much as soon as I started taking the EMPowerplus I started feeling giddy. Not quite hypomanic but notably elevated and different, although not better.
- On day five I experienced an official rapid cycle from hypomania one day to serious debilitating depression the next day.
In short: yes, you can die from bipolar disorder.
Now, I know, many people would disagree with me on this, after all, bipolar disorder doesn’t produce a tumour in your body that will eventually kill you, it doesn’t create plaque in your arteries to eventually kill you and it doesn’t spread a virus through your cells to eventually kill you. I know, bipolar is not like that.
But, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide takes over 35,000 lives a year in the United States and many of these are our brothers and sisters with bipolar disorder. You think that suicide isn’t the same thing as death by bipolar disorder? Think again.
About three years ago I attempted suicide. It’s a long story but it involves a doctor denying me access to healthcare. I’m still alive; so I guess I got lucky.
But the question is, now, three years and many treatments later, am I still suicidal?
I’m sorry to say, the answer is, “yes.”
And, of course, one of the big things I say in bold, underlined letters is that if you’re feeling suicidal you need to tell someone. You absolutely, positively need to reach out for help.
Recently I wrote about why people with a mental illness shouldn’t be denied access to guns. My argument is, essentially, that it is a violation of their rights to judge the mentally ill based on a medical diagnosis and, in this society, we judge people based on what they do and not their medical conditions.
Some of the commenters on this post brought up the fact that with access to weapons, a person with a mental illness may be more likely to commit suicide. For example, about half of all people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide and certainly, an attempted suicide with a gun is very likely to be a completed suicide.
However, this doesn’t change my opinion one bit. While I have written and written about suicide and suicide attempts and I have said that, as a society, we should aim for zero suicides, that does not mean that we should violate people’s rights to do it.
Why Depressed People Don’t Kill Themselves
Many people with bipolar depression are suicidal. Not all, of course, but many. Most people with bipolar depression, in fact, most people who are suicidal, do not kill themselves though. In fact, you can live with suicidality for years without ever killing yourself or even attempting to kill yourself.
And while people stay alive for many reasons, I have my own reasons for not killing myself.
Over the last couple of years I have written a lot about suicide. It’s a big topic and one of great importance to the mental illness community and, I believe, society at large. As today is World Suicide Prevention Day I wanted to present a round-up of all the suicide and suicide attempt resources I have written over the years.
Please use these to help others or help yourself. Not one more person ever needs to die of suicide.
- Why Should I Continue to Fight the Pain of Depression?
- Suicide Warning Signs You Should Know – Part One and Part Two
- What to Do if You Start to Feel Suicidal
- Some People Will Commit Suicide No Matter What You Do?