I was eleven the very first time I tried to take myself out of this world. It was winter, and the year was 1991. Opposite our home was a vast rugby field, our childhood playground, where me and my cousins, in younger days, would often frolic and run a muck, playing rugby and tiggy, but mostly bull rush. Splayed beyond this field were lush green hills that rolled on endlessly. Over these hills was a river which had these magnificently huge willow trees jutting over the water. One day, I found myself down there, sitting under one of those willow trees, hugging my knees as I looked out at the water, and wanting nothing more than end it all. I held a long rope in my hand that I’d found in our shed, and I remember, so clearly, that feeling of utter hopelessness – like a tonne of lead weighing down heavily on my mind, my heart and my soul.
I was only eleven at the time, but had the mind and maturity of an adult. Life, circumstances and events had made me that way. You may think that, being only eleven years old, there was possibly no reason for me to want to knock myself off. After all, I was at an age where life hadn’t even begun to mess with me yet, right? Maybe so, maybe not. There’s no way I can pinpoint exactly why it was that I no longer wanted to exist, except, perhaps to say that I had always had a very strong, heightened sense of awareness, which opened my eyes to seeing things that no child should ever have to see until they have matured enough to handle it. The other thing would have been having this in-built sense of sadness, even from a young age. A melancholy, which was seemingly as much a part of me as my arms and legs. Later on, I came to realize this melancholy was, in fact depression. And it has visited me often throughout my life, like a faithful dog that always comes back, and never really forgets its Master.
You may think that someone intent, and on the verge of knocking themselves off, to be an intense, overwhelming experience. Where maybe thoughts are racing through your head like cars on an expressway, the heart is beating away madly, like a bongo drum in your chest, and your convulsing and on the verge of an epileptic fit or something. That was definitely not the case with me. When I stood up and forced myself out onto one of those thick branches, intending to tie a rope around the branch, then around my neck, all was just black, and quiet, and oh so very still. Like the world was on pause, waiting, with breathless anticipation, for me to make the move. I lowered myself carefully so I could saddle the branch, then set to work tying a knot as tightly as I possibly could. Dark, dark thoughts in my head. Tears falling freely down my face. Wrapped in a blanket of hopelessness so tight, that death seemed a relief from it all. Ironically, you don’t even think about pain of the rope squeezing the life out of you, because the pain within simply just overpowers it all.
The universe decided to intervene that day. As it has intervened many times since. Being as overweight as I was, the branch suddenly snapped before I even had the chance to get the noose around my neck, and I went tumbling into the water with an almighty splash. I remember trying to let myself drift under, spreading my arms and legs like a starfish, eyes upward to the grey sky, teeth chattering as I begged the river to claim me as its own, surrendering myself, even as my body was going all spastic from the freezing cold. But it isn’t as simple to drown yourself as it is to hang yourself. I’m sure I wouldn’t be here today if that were the case.
I remember reading this article not so long ago. It outlined the statistics of suicide in my homeland, New Zealand, and it’s been popping up randomly in my mind ever since. It hurts whenever I think about it. It hurts because I know exactly what it’s like to be in that mind frame. And it hurts because there are far, far too many people out there, going through the motions, wanting to die, wanting to give up on a life that can be so beautiful, if you just hang on to it.
Perceptions and attitudes towards those contemplating suicide are disturbing. Although I understand how difficult it must be for family members to deal with someone who can’t see the point in anything anymore, some of the judgements out there are quite outrageous and even angers me. It is attention-seeking. It is a coward way out. Those who succeed are selfish, and never think of the pain and discord they leave in their wake. In a way, this is all true, to an extent. But you can never hope to understand, let alone prevent the inevitable from happening, if you don’t open your mind to the struggle that goes on inside the head of a loved one contemplating suicide. It is all inner conflict. Wanting to cease existing, is like being in a sort of state. Like how one gets into a state of ecstasy when making love, or a state of equilibrium when meditating, so wanting to kill yourself off I will describe as being in a state of despair. You cannot see a way out. You cannot feel anything but the deep-seated pain that is causing you to want to shut your own lights out. You feel worthless, and feel your loved ones will be better off without you anyway. It hurts to smile, and it hurts to pretend. It hurts more than you will ever know. Most times, this state takes you to a place where you are so far gone that nobody can reach you.
Nobody wants to kill themselves. I honestly believe that, with one hundred percent certainty. They just want whatever is causing the inner pain to stop.
If you are struggling to bring someone you love out of their state of despair, I really don’t know how you’re supposed to do that. I myself have dealt with a few teens who have come to me, crying that they just don’t want to live anymore. And even as a fellow suicidal sufferer myself, with the shoe on the other foot, I had no advice to give because, as I have mentioned before in some of my other posts, saying the wrong thing seems to be my forte, and when dealing with a suicidal loved one, that’s the worst thing you can do. So I just sat there – and listened. Because words, no matter how good the intentions, can be quite useless and have zero effect whatsoever. When I swallowed a whole bottle of pills at age fourteen, and ended up in hospital because of it, my mum spoke with me about it for the first time, I suppose, and asked me why I done it. And I couldn’t tell her. Even though she cried and said she loved me, and wanted more than anything for me to just be happy, and even did her best thereafter to help me, her words basically rebounded off me and disappeared somewhere into the air. That’s how out of reach people get. Yes, it is selfish. But more than anything, it is a nightmare, and one where you really just want to wake up and start living, but just don’t know how to.
To those with a loved one who is contemplating suicide, all I ask is that you please, be kind. Open your mind to their struggle, without judgement, without prejudice, and maybe they will open their mouths and spill their guts about what is wrong. Because it is always something. It is never just nothing. Most often, it is deep-seated pain and even mental illnesses that take people to that dark place of not wanting to exist anymore, and this is what I feel needs to be addressed. A majority of people, they don’t like to go there, you know, because that is where all the ugliness and the heavy issues dwell, and facing them can be too much for some to handle. Sometimes, I feel that, if only someone had come to me while I was down there, and they had stayed, and talked, and wrestled with me about what was causing the pain, I would have come out of that suicidal buzz sooner, rather than later. If you’re loved ones are dwelling in these realms, then maybe that’s where you need to go, too? Actually, now that I am thinking along those lines, I am absolutely certain, that that is where your best shot at saving them lies.
Struggling with suicide is a heavy business, and one that’s going to be a long, arduous journey, for those suffering from it as well as for those who are trying to help a friend or loved one through it. There are days I feel so proud, you know, because I have survived so many attempts, and yet have finally emerged out the other side, stronger, with a heart and eyes that now see the best in life rather than the worst. I always try not to judge people by their surface actions, you know, because going through so much inner conflict has allowed me to be keyed, almost automatically, into other people’s pain, pain that I can see as clear as day, even if it’s not so obvious to others.
So to my fellow friends and readers, wherever you are in the world, if you are reading this, and it hits some kind of nerve, I just want to say this. You are worth it. You are. You, reading this, are worthy of life. Of living. Of enjoyment, laughter and mostly of giving and receiving love. You are a bad-ass survivor. A fighter. And somebody who is going to, one day, be able to see that this gift of life that you have been given is so worth holding onto. Next time life tells you that you ain’t worth shit, turn around and give it a big, fat karate chop, and say ‘YES I AM.’ And say it like you mean it, because you are. And when you truly, truly start believing that, I promise you, everything will fall into place.
There’s going to come a day where you’re going to rise up. You will find your feet, and you will find your niche, and when the storm is over, and you have evolved and grown, just as I have, you will look back on that part of your life and laugh, just as I laugh now when I think about the day I went tumbling into the freezing cold water during my first suicide attempt.
Hold onto HOPE. Hope will get you through it, and eventually, it will set you free. It will. You know what HOPE stands for? It stands for Hold On, Pain Ends. And it will. Maybe not tomorrow, or next week, but one day.