I’ve wanted to write this article forever. To show that it might not be that uncommon to have suicidal thoughts and that it’s okay to talk about it in public. But I never figured out how I wanted to approach the subject, not until today.
Disclaimer: You don’t have to worry about me at the moment, I’m okay, I’m even much better than okay at the moment. Today, I have people to talk to when things are bad, and I haven’t felt there is any risk that I’d take my life. There might, however, be someone close to you that isn’t okay. So instead of reaching out to me, please reach out to a person that might need some compassion.
The first time suicide was an option
As I child, I used to get bullied a lot in school. I wasn’t all alone, I even had lots of friends, and sometimes I even played with my bullies. Still, I got bullied, and as a child, I was susceptible to any critique.
But it wasn’t only the bullying; it was a lot of other things too that pushed me over the edge.
When I was ten, I started playing the piano at school. In the beginning, I liked playing the piano. But after half a year I got a new teacher, a teacher that was very stern.
I started to hate the homework; thus I didn’t practice enough, which led me to get even more feedback like “You need to practice to get better, you know that right?”.
But it was how the teacher acted towards me that was the worst. I could tell they didn’t like teaching or at least didn’t like teaching me since I wasn’t good. The piano lessons led me to call in that I’m sick and stay home from school almost every Wednesday.
The welfare officer
My parents started to notice things that things weren’t alright with me as I skipped school nearly every week. They tried to talk to me, but I couldn’t tell them anything. I was supposed to be strong and not show any negative emotions, and I would do whatever it took to uphold that personality. Because they couldn’t get me to talk, they asked me if I wanted to speak to a welfare officer at my school. That way I could talk to anyone I didn’t know personally.
I went there, reluctantly. Because I knew that almost all the troublesome children went to the welfare officer, and I didn’t have any troubles, I wasn’t like them; I was strong. And so I only went to one or two meetings before I started skipping school because I didn’t want to go to the welfare officer because I was so ashamed of going there.
I didn’t want my classmates to know, but how could they not know since I had to leave in the middle of the class for those meetings. Besides, I didn’t open up and talk about my troubles since I wanted to stay strong.
A razor blade
After a few months, I was so tired of taking piano classes; I was so tired of being bullied all the time, I was tired of being ashamed of who I was, I was tired putting up with the act of being strong, not being able to talk to anyone about it. I just couldn’t put up with it.
I still remember that I often came home after school, went into the bathroom and started to cry, and cry, and cry before my mom or my 10-year older sister would come home. Sometimes I cried in silence during the night, or in the bathroom before going to bed. (My mom and father separated when I was 9, but I don’t think that had anything to do since they and I still had a good relationship)
After school one day, I again locked myself into the bathroom. I thought of taking my life. It would be so easy; I knew where we had the razor blade, I had seen it when I had been curious to explore the bathroom. I knew that taking once life was an option, I had seen it in the movies. I also knew, somehow, that I was supposed to slit my wrists along the arm and not across it.
I didn’t want to die, but the situation was unbearable.
What saved me
The idea to commit suicide came up almost daily during that time, but I never did try to take my life. I might’ve gotten as far as taking out the razor blade; I don’t remember. What I do remember is why I didn’t commit suicide. It all boiled down to one thing.
I knew that my mom would be incredibly sad if I decided to commit suicide, and I didn’t want to make my mom sad. She was the only person I knew with 100 percent certainty loved me, and I didn’t want to make her sad.
In a way, my mom was and has been my life-saver multiple times since then. If she hadn’t loved me so much as she did, I wouldn’t be living here today. I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for her. I wouldn’t have had all the awesome experiences I’ve had if it weren’t for her.
But I also think that while the movies helped me see that suicide was an option; they also helped me see that the people around you would be sad if you took your life. Otherwise, I might’ve taken my life even though my mom loved me because I thought she would be better without me in her life.
But I’m good at spotting patterns, and in every movie, they got sad around the person who did commit suicide. As naïve as I was, I thought the movies modeled reality, and in some way, it does in other ways it doesn’t.
That led me to put myself into her situation and feel what she would feel, and that’s how I came to see that she would be devastated if I did take my life.
After a few months, my parents asked me if I wanted to quit taking piano lessons. I was so relieved by that. I still had trouble going to school every now and again, but my life became a lot better, and eventually, I forgot about the whole idea of suicide.
Life was good, or at least okay, for a year and a half, until I started junior high school. There I began to get bullied again, and now there were more bullies. But I was used to the bullying, except the new kind of bully that stumbled upon me. He was very persistent and I think he only bullied me, or at least it felt like it. The others didn’t bully all the time and not only me.
But every time he saw me he would approach and bully me. It was like he had seen me and just decided to direct all his anger and disgust at me. I was too inexperienced to see that he was projecting all his emotions onto me. I started to think there really was something wrong with me.
Again the thoughts of taking my life began to emerge, but they weren’t as bad as a couple of years earlier. And even though I could see it as an option, it was never a compelling one. When I started ninth grade (still junior high here in Sweden) most of my bullies had begun high school, so things did get better until the…
Death of my father
When I was 16, my father died quite suddenly from pneumonia. He had cancer twice before and survived both times, but was quite weak after the second treatment. When he got pneumonia, I wasn’t that worried initially because I had survived it easily twice. But since he was in a weak state he didn’t have the power to make it. I think he was in the hospital for a week or two; I can’t remember exactly.
I visited him with my mother on a Friday as he was getting worse, because of that my mom decided to stay there over the night. I don’t remember how I got home if someone drove to pick me up at the hospital which was an hour away from where we lived.
The rest of my family decided to visit my dad the next day. So we went around 9 or 10 am in two cars. Twenty minutes from the hospital we get a call from my mom saying he had passed away. I remember the radio playing R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts when we got the call.
During this weekend I had been on a LAN-party at my friend’s place. So when I came home that Saturday, I decided to go there and continue to play games. I couldn’t do much at home anyway since my computer was at my friend’s place. I went there, a friend asked me how my father was doing, and I mentioned that he was gone. Another friend asked me if I were kidding, and a third friend said that’s not something you joke about.
Another lesson from the movies
Of course, I decided to take a lesson from the movies again. I knew that my father wouldn’t want me to brood and be unhappy for the rest of my life, so I quickly decided to accept his death. And I think I did, at least partly. I sure did miss my father, and I still do.
But what was hardest was being normal around other people. When I came back to school on Tuesday (I took a day off) I dreaded going back. I wasn’t miserable really; I had accepted the death. But I knew that wasn’t okay in the society; you were supposed to be unhappy and sad all the time. Or that was what I thought.
A Matteus without many emotions
So what I dreaded was making everyone else uncomfortable with me around because they probably didn’t know how to act around me. I didn’t want to be a bother to other people. So I decided to put a lid on my emotions, both the happy and sad feelings. I became this dull person without any feelings, being logical all the time.
In general, I did feel happier and more satisfied as time passed. And I never thought of taking my life, not until two years ago.
Learning to open up again
As I learned to open up, share my emotions, even the sad feelings for the first time in my life I got both happier and sadder. When I was happy, I was extremely happy, when I was sad, I was extremely sad.
Seeing suicide as an option again
From October 2015 to November 2016 I had some of my worst days, but also the best days of my life. And so, taking my life was once again an option. It was only an option though, and I was never close to taking my life. I now had both my mother and my girlfriend that I knew deeply loved me. And while I can be very emotional I can still be logical and follow decisions I’ve set in the past.
While it still pops up now and again as an option, its almost always discarded within a second as a non-option. Sometimes it takes a while longer, but I’m very self-aware, and I know if my life is in danger or not because was close to taking my life when I was a child.
If I’m ever in a life-threatening situation I know there’s a hotline to call, and before that, I would call my girlfriend because I can talk to her about these things. Besides, I have lots of friends I feel I can talk about this, so I’m not scared anymore.
Today I know that it’s courageous to open up and talk about these things, it’s not a sign of weakness as I thought when I was a child.
What you can do
If you’re thinking of taking your life click here for a suicidal hotline, please call it before you continue with your plan. Know that many people have tried to take their lives and are glad that they didn’t. Know that it’s not that uncommon to have suicidal thoughts as you might think. You’re not alone in this.
If you don’t have any suicidal thoughts; take a minute, change a life. Reach out to a friend or family members.
Here are a few good snippets from International Association for Suicidal Prevention how easy it can be to prevent a suicide.
People who have lived through a suicide attempt have much to teach us about how the words and actions of others are important. They often talk movingly about reaching the point where they could see no alternative but to take their own life, and about the days, hours and minutes leading up to this. They often describe realising that they did not want to die but instead wanted someone to intervene and stop them. Many say that they actively sought someone who would sense their despair and ask them whether they were okay.
Sometimes they say that they made a pact with themselves that if someone did ask if they were okay, they would tell them everything and allow them to intervene. Sadly, they often reflect that no one asked.
Afraid to reach out?
Are you scared to reach out because you don’t have all the answers and maybe you could make things worse? Here are a few more snippets from International Association for Suicidal Prevention that dismantles these fears.
People are often reluctant to intervene, even if they are quite concerned about someone. There are many reasons for this, not least that they fear they will not know what to say. It is important to remember, however, that there is no hard and fast formula. Individuals who have come through an episode of severe suicidal thinking often say that they were not looking for specific advice, but that compassion and empathy from others helped to turn things around for them and point them towards recovery.
Another factor that deters people from starting the conversation is that they worry that they may make the situation worse. Again, this hesitation is understandable; broaching the topic of suicide is difficult and there is a myth that talking about suicide with someone can put the idea into their head or trigger the act.
The evidence suggests that this is not the case. Being caring and listening with a non-judgemental ear are far more likely to reduce distress than exacerbate it.
Warning signs of suicide
You might want to help, but you might not know who might be in the risk zone. Here are a few warning signs from mentalhealth.gov to help you pin down those most likely to be in the risk zone.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
Even though these are warning signs, a few people show no warning signs at all.
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