To be perfectly honest, I dread and resent this day. I know that’s a very unpopular opinion, but I’m not sorry. I just can’t embrace it and write a tearjerker post about my close calls with suicide and how glad I am that I didn’t succeed.
I’m not glad I didn’t succeed. I’m not actively suicidal right now, but my life is difficult and painful every day. If any one of my suicide attempts had succeeded, I wouldn’t have to drag myself through that every day. I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I can find a doctor who will give me medication to manage my chronic pain. I wouldn’t have to worry about becoming homeless because my disability check isn’t enough for anyone to survive on. I wouldn’t have to worry about how to get therapy when no one thinks I need help. I wouldn’t have to worry about how I’m going to get to the grocery store now that there’s no bus accessible to me. I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I’m going to crap my pants in public. I wouldn’t have to worry about how I’m going to afford heat this winter. I wouldn’t have to worry about any of it.
My problem with Suicide Prevention Day–and suicide prevention in general–is that it focuses only on keeping you alive. Call this hotline, go to the ER, spend a week or two in the hospital, take your antidepressants. Be grateful you’re alive because otherwise you’re a bad, selfish person for being unable to tolerate any more of your own pain to spare others from being hurt.
It never focuses on making your life survivable. It doesn’t help you get therapy when you’ve been told you don’t matter enough to get help. It doesn’t provide you with a support system to help you when none of the antidepressants help. It doesn’t make sure you have enough money to meet your basic needs. It doesn’t give you dignity or a sense of purpose.
It just keeps you alive, and way too often, the method employed is guilt. “How could you do that to your family/friends?” “Think of what it would do to _____ if you killed yourself.” “If you kill yourself, other people might think it’s a good solution to their problems, too.” And if you’re not grateful to be alive, not contrite about ever having wanted to kill yourself, you’re shamed as a bad patient. You’re told you need to try harder or be more willing. No matter how hard you’ve already tried, it’s not good enough.
Then you’re left with a whole mess of guilt and shame on top of the overwhelming circumstances you were already dealing with. And you’re isolated–it’s dangerous to tell anyone how you really feel–so you hide or you lie. You grow more and more alone, more and more hopeless.
Keeping people alive is not enough.