TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about SELF-HARM and SUICIDAL THOUGHTS/ ATTEMPTS which may be triggering to those who struggle with suicidal ideation, cutting and other forms of self-harm.
September 2, 2015. The suicide attempt where I would have been successful without the intervention of the police. There’s a wide variety of topics on suicide that you’ll encounter on the internet: warning signs, what to do when your friend is suicidal, statistics and the impact of suicide, etc. What you don’t often hear about is what it’s like to survive an attempt, and how life changes in the immediate and far futures. And when you do, it’s about how friends and family surround the person with Hollywood like gestures of love and support. I’m here to share my story of life after my big attempt and dispell the misconceptions about life after an attempt.
I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts for years. I’ve attempted suicide more times than I’m comfortable admitting. On the day before the big attempt, I was caught in a pretty big lie, and my whole support system was pretty upset about it. The night before, I stayed the night at a friend’s parent’s house because I was feeling unsafe after I had been caught. In the morning I woke up with this giant pit in my stomach. After trying to talk with my at-the-time boyfriend, we’ll call him M, I wasn’t feeling any better. While he said he’d still date me, it was going to take a long time to build his trust back. Since I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, I struggle with abandonment issues, and took his comments as a way to let me down easy and that he was really going to leave me. So upon hanging up, I drove to the local hardware store, and went to go look at the ropes. An employee came over and asked if I needed any help. I was lost trying to find a rope strong enough to hold my weight, so I disguised it as wanting to buy a rope to tie things to the back of my moped. I rode back to my apartment and… well you can imagine what happened next.
I called M’s mom, sobbing, and telling her that my life was over no matter what: if I lived or died. I then hung myself. I won’t go into detail. M’s mom had called an ambulance and the police. The police forced entry and saved me. They took photos of the scene and then threw away the rope. I was put in a neck brace and rushed to the hospital and went through nearly 24 hours of tests. At the end of it all, I was told there was swelling in my c-spine, and I’d have to wear the cervical collar for a month and a half. It was the most traumatic day of my life, and even 2 years later I haven’t told anyone what it was like, but I still have nightmares. Once I was medically cleared I was taken to the psych ward. I’ve blocked most of the following days out, so it’s all a blur, but in the days following I had a lot of phone calls. The first one was M’s mom checking up on me. She had brought me some toiletries and a journal when I had been transferred up to the psych ward, and wanted to know how things we going. I tried to ask about M and how he was doing, but she declined to answer, saying that he’d call me when he was ready. A few days later he called, and broke up with me. I reacted quite violently out of a place of hurt. I was crying and screaming at him, calling him a liar and saying that he was breaking his promises to me. It got to the point where he had to hang up on me. After talking to a nurse, I called his mom back and asked if he was willing to talk to me again, this time there’d be no screaming, and I’d be using my new skills I had been learning. Thankfully he agreed, and we had a mature conversation. I had now lost M and his family, which made up almost my entire support system back then. All I had left were my friends B and F. That didn’t last long… the next day I got a three-way call from B and F saying that they needed a break from me. The deal was no contact for two weeks – every message, DM or voicemail I tried to send would not be read and promptly deleted. After two weeks, they’d call me again, and we’d discuss if we’d stay friends and if so, what that will look like. So when I released to go home, my support system was gone. If I thought that was hard, I had another thing coming.
I was returning to an empty apartment. I had no central support. How do you return to a life you thought you were never supposed to live? I had heard stories about friends waiting at the patient’s home with letters about how much they love them or the patient gets a fresh and renewed outlook on life and everything is magically easy. NOT TRUE! Not only was I still in an unstable state of mind, but I had a cervical collar that screamed: “LOOK I WAS IN SOMETHING TRAUMATIC, PLEASE ASK ME ABOUT IT SO I CAN BLUSH, CRY AND RUN AWAY!” Furthermore, I when I did open up and tell someone what happened, many people had the audacity to tell me that I didn’t really try to kill myself and it was all fake. Those really got me. What was the cervical collar THAT THE HOSPITAL GAVE ME for then, huh? Just a prop I stole for my big lie? REALLY? I know my credibility wasn’t the best at that moment in time, but still. Whenever someone told me my suicide attempt was faked, it drove me to want to kill myself even more. I was so hurt and mad that I’d want to prove them wrong, to show them that I was capable of ending my life.
The whole time I had my cervical collar on, I just wanted to hide. I returned to work during that period, and was flooded with questions from coworkers and clients. Because of the collar, it was difficult for me to do the back work, so I spent most of my time at the front desk, checking in and out clients and managing emails and phone calls. Believe me when I say that you don’t realize how much you use your neck until you can’t use it at all. Especially when it comes to riding a moped. Talking on the phone was rough too, so I felt like I was pretty useless during work. Which didn’t help my mental health. For our September monthly work meeting, we went rock climbing as a team building exercise. Everyone doubted my ability to actually climb the wall, but I made it to the top! It was the first time I felt good about something since my attempt.
Returning to life after an attempt is difficult. It’s hard to know what to say to people who know what happened, but even harder to come up with excuses when you don’t want people to know what happened. Because I attempted in my home, it was hard to walk past the spot every time I had to walk past it. It was hard to restart without any sufficient support. I had to learn my triggers, and if you think about it, to learn your triggers, you have to be triggered (more often than not) and dealing with those triggers can be a challenge. It’s more than tempting to relapse into self-harm, or to attempt suicide again. In my case, I had attempted suicide WITH my support system around me, so when I was triggered after my attempt I felt like there was nothing emotionally keeping me here anymore. My self-harm increased during this time. On social media, I came out as having Borderline Personality Disorder, but I mostly tried to portray having a perfect life and that I was entirely happy. I overcompensated for my “failure” by faking happiness. There’s no magical change where things get better, there’s no party where everyone in your life tells you how much you are loved and then you suddenly are healed.
If you were wondering, I was given a clean bill of health.
What’s important in life after an attempt is that you DO continue to seek professional support once you are released from the hospital – a therapist, psychiatrist, even your primary care doctor works in a pinch. It’s also important that you increase your self-care, and give yourself leeway in your recovery because things will not go perfectly. If you have a support system, give them space to process how they need, but don’t be afraid to ask for help if they’re in a headspace to do so. You’re not alone, and you’ve got this.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts:
Call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
or text HELP to the Crisis Text Line at 741741