I know it sounds weird, probably a little selfish, and it may come off as self-centered or egotistical. But before you write me off, just hear me out.
One of the most common responses to hearing about a death by suicide or a suicide attempt is to immediately make the situation about other people:
Didn’t they love their family enough not to put them through this pain?
Don’t you understand what your death would do to me?
Don’t be so selfish, look how your actions have affected those around you.
These are natural reactions, and most of the time they’re well-intentioned. But at least for me, they aren’t helpful.
When I attempted suicide, yes, I thought about everyone in my life who may be affected. Yes, I knew it would cause people pain. I knew it wasn’t going to be good news to people. But I still went through with my attempt, even after keeping all that in mind. And for those of you contemplating ending your life, it is important to remember there are those out there who love and care about you, and that your death would not make their lives better.
But here’s the thing.
If I tell you my story, please don’t jump immediately to tell me about how my death would’ve made you or those around me feel. This story is obviously very personal. I’m not looking for a spotlight when I tell it. But I want you to hear me tell my story; I don’t want you to write the hypothetical sequel right in front of me. So why don’t I want you to tell me about how my death would’ve affected you? Because that’s not what the story is about.
When I tell someone my story, the goal is not to garner sympathy or pity. I don’t need people feeling sorry for me or looking down on me. I want them to recognize that I — just like many, many others — clearly struggled with internal and external struggles and pain that became too much to carry any longer (or at least I thought). Yes, I know my death would’ve upset people, but why are my feelings lower than others’? Why was my desire to see my pain go away automatically less important than how it would’ve affected other people? Clearly I did not go about it correctly, but by saying that my attempt was bad because of how it would’ve affected others devalues me inherently.
If the only reason you can come up with for me not to die by suicide is that it would affect other people, that suggests my only value as a human is based on my relationships. I, just like everyone, am valuable simply because I am alive. My life is valuable and is deserving of the same chance to keep going like everyone who isn’t suicidal. My death would’ve been painful for many. But my suicide attempt was wrong, primarily because it would have snuffed out another life that had a long future ahead of it.
So if you hear me talk about my suicide attempt, please keep a few things in mind. One, remember I was not in a vacuum when considering my life. I did know that my death would negatively impact people, but clearly I thought that pain was worth escaping the pain I was in.
Two, remember that my story is not a unique one, at least not in substance. Too many people have suicide attempt stories, and too many have stories of loved ones who died by suicide. Let the fact that I am alive to tell my story speak volumes about the hope many carry with them.
Three, do not judge those who have died by suicide. They were not “selfish,” they were not “weak,” they were not “dumb.” They were in pain, deep, deep pain, and they fought their fight as best they could. Their deaths are tragic, and if they had held on longer, they would have seen that life does get better.
But also remember, their death is not tragic only because of how it made their loved ones feel, it was tragic because their lives had so much potential for greatness. They were valuable, and remain loved.
So if you hear a story of a suicide attempt, please don’t make it about you. Make it about that person; it’s their story.