Understanding Suicide

I have a very dear friend, whose husband committed suicide a couple years ago.  This was a tragedy for me, particularly because I was very deeply and silently struggling with depression at the time, and I had experienced my own times of deep darkness when it seemed that suicide might be the only option for me.  But seeing how this tragedy has very tenderly affected his sweet family, I have been able to realize time and time again why I need to hold on through the darkest of dark times for my husband and daughter.

This man is one of the inspirations for this blog, and I continue to think of him often when I write.  What if he could have known he wasn't alone?  What if he could have read someone's story, maybe even my story, and known that there was hope?  Would things have turned out differently?  Of course, there is no way to know if there could have been an alternative outcome, but one of my greatest hopes is that maybe what I write could help a family avoid such a devastating tragedy in the future.

One day, I was talking to my remarkable friend (seriously I wish everyone could know her because her faith and strength inspire me every time I get the chance to talk to her), and I told her about some of the thoughts I have had during my dark times.  She said that knowing these things brought her some comfort and peace in thinking about the darkness her husband must have been facing before taking his own life.

Soooo... I want to bravely, vulnerably, and fearfully share those same thoughts here with the hope that they can provide some comfort and peace to someone else facing the tragic suicide of a family member.  I know my experiences may be very different, so I'm not trying to make light of this at all or to say that I understand completely.  I'm just hoping my humble words can bring light and understanding to this dark and often unspoken subject.

There have been two specific times in my life when I thought all hope was lost, and I was sure that I would not and could not go on.  One of these times was in the fall of 2015 after we first moved to Iowa, and the other time was just over a month ago.  There have been other times of fairly deep darkness where I considered the possibility that I might not be able to continue on, but those times were less severe and less frightening.  Both of these more serious times, I had certain thoughts and feelings that continued to propel me further into the darkness, until it seemed that there was no reason to keep fighting.

(Side note for my own sake: I know it may seem appropriate to say, "You just have to stop thinking that way" or to ask, "Why didn't you do something to pull yourself out?" but I want to make it clear that I was not choosing to feel this way.  It was something very real and chemically wrong that was making me feel this way.  PLEASE recognize that, and please refrain from judging me based on something you don't understand.  I promise if I could have chosen to never have faced a darkness like this, I would most definitely have chosen that option.)

These thoughts included:
  • "It would be so much better for my family if I was gone."  I couldn't shake the thought I had that my husband and daughter deserved someone better than me, and I would only be doing them a service by taking my own life.
  • "My family would be so happy if I was gone."  I really thought this.  I pictured them being so happy and giddy about finding out that I was never coming back.  
  • "There is no way out."  I felt trapped and could not comprehend with my very broken mind that there was another way to escape the pervasive darkness that surrounded my heart.
  • "I don't want to feel better again."  I really thought that I didn't want to feel better, because feeling better would include feeling terrible again later, and I couldn't face the reality at that time that going back up would only mean crashing down sometime in the future.  It seemed like it would be better to stay low forever or to end things altogether, so I wouldn't have to face that devastation ever again.
In my stable mind right now, I recognize that these are not valid thoughts in any way, but in my times of darkness, these thoughts were so real and so intrusive.  I was not thinking about how hurt and devastated and lost my family would be without me.  I couldn't comprehend that.  I was not thinking that I wanted to be selfish at all.  In fact, I thought I would be doing what was best for them.

If you have lost a family member to suicide, please know that there is a darkness so deep that there seems like no way out.  Suicide is not a selfish act; rather it is an act of hopelessness and confusion.  I'm positive that your family member could not comprehend in their dark moment that what they were doing would hurt you so much, and if they did, I'm sure they would have reached out and held on longer.  Don't feel that you are to blame for the decision they made.  It's not your fault at all.  You did everything you could, and what they were going through was something too great for them to comprehend that it was possible to see light again.

If you are in darkness and are contemplating taking your own life, PLEASE reach out for help, as terribly difficult as that is.  Please keep believing in future light and know that things will get better, no matter how dark they seem right now.  Don't believe the lie that your family doesn't need you or that they want you gone.  It's not true.  They need you and would be completely devastated without you in their lives, even with the darkness you continually face.

I don't know why such awful feelings exist as a part of this mortal life, but I know they are real and very serious.  I never thought I would be someone to face a darkness like this, but now that I have, I know that part of my life mission is to be a voice for others facing similar darkness.  This is my small way of using my difficult experiences to shed some light on the thick darkness that accompanies mental illness.

1 comment:

  1. I read a blog post once by an LDS author who had lost an uncle, (Jerry?) to suicide after years of battling very painful physical injury and illness. I can't find the post now but one of the things she explained that stuck with me for years was that suicide seems rash and selfish because they see the pain that it causes to those who are left behind but they don't understand the pain of the person who died. She said that for some, suicide doesn't feel like a desperate desire to die. It's actually an expression of the deepest desire to LIVE, which doesn't make sense to those on the outside.
    She remembered her thoughts as she watched the news of the 9-11 attacks. Seeing several people jump from the Twin Towers before they fell seemed rash or irrational to those who were on the outside because they couldn't see the fire raging on the inside of the building. The people on the inside could see the fire and the suffocating smoke and feel the heat. They had an impossible decision to make and probably picked the one that they felt had the greatest chances of survival.
    Mental illness is similar in that sometimes it doesn't *feel* survivable. We never know what kind of fires are raging inside an individual who is considering suicide. We don't know the pain they've already survived that would lead them to that decision. What we do know is that God has promised us that He loves us beyond our comprehension even if we don't feel it. We know that he has promised that He will send help when we need it and that He expects us to finish this race of life to the best of our abilities, whether we run our walk doesn't matter as long as we do our best. We also know that because of the love of our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ, in the end whatever heart ache and pain we suffer in this life will be more than compensated in the next life.