When I kicked the chair out from under my feet, the cord tightened around my neck as I swung from the rafters. I wasn’t looking for attention.
I just wanted out.
I had reached a point in my life where the accumulated fears, terrors, disappointments and traumas were too much for me to handle and I decided the only way out was death.
I didn’t succeed. I am still here. And I am very happy that I failed in my attempts to take my own life. I will tell you what drove me to the brink a little bit later, but first I’d like to bring up some thoughts and reflections about suicide.
The type of suicide I am going to talk about is what I call emotional suicide. I distinguish this from political suicide, in which one uses his body as a weapon to advance his cause, or assisted suicide, whereby a person dying of a terminal disease has decided out of his own freewill, after much reflection, that he/she wishes to be helped to die.
All healthy men have thought of their own suicide.
Very few people in this world have gone and go through life without having suicidal thoughts; it is almost part of the course. Life does not always deal us a good hand, and we can rightly feel so desperate, terrified and helpless in the face of our own ordeal, that suicide can appear to be the great escape from it all.
Emotionally driven suicide:
In my experience, I have found that suicide is often committed by the most unexpected people, the ones who seem to have so much going for themselves who one day end it all, without a warning. What they most often have in common is their sensitivity. They were all highly responsive and insightful people, qualities that are very hard to sustain in this dog-eat-dog world.
Stories of attempted suicide abound in my life, as I seem to meet many who struggle in that place. Among the ones who were unfortunately successful, the most difficult cases to accept, for me, were those in which a parent left a family and children behind, or a young person who was driven to suicide by heartbreak.
My step-mother’s niece was so heartbroken from not being allowed to marry her true love, and having to marry another man according to her father’s wishes, that she dumped a full can of gasoline on herself and burned herself to death on her family home’s terrace. She was a beautiful, bright young woman who had just turned twenty.
A friend of mine, another young and gorgeous twenty-something woman, was studying at one of Canada’s top universities, and also was an up-and-coming actress who had, among other gigs, played a couple of times on 21 Jump street. Despite her bright future, she was so distraught when her boyfriend left her that she drank a bottle of Drano, the toilet detergent, which killed her that very night.
I have personally known more cases of fathers who actually committed suicide than mothers, although I have met more mothers struggling with suicidal depression. Furthermore, I have noticed that the children who have had a parent who committed suicide, remain with that vacuum left behind by the parent for a very long time. It is almost as if the suicide of the parent had attached itself to the children’s aura, as if they were psychically haunted by the spirit of the parent who had died.
Suicide is not a hereditary disease that gets passed on from one generation to the next, even if it runs in your family. Suicide can however be felt to be a family curse, in that certain family members start to believe that it will happen to them as it happened to close family members of theirs. I see this pattern with the Hemingway family, in which five of them have committed suicide over four generations.
What is passed on through the generations is the accumulated unprocessed emotional baggage, more like a life energy paralysis, around what pushed the loved one to kill oneself in the first place. This way of dealing, or rather not dealing with emotional issues, becomes almost hereditary if this unhealthy pattern is not faced and dealt with. Children usually imitate the behaviour of their parents and role models, for better and for worse. This imitation at times becomes crystallised into their own patterns of behaviour, so that it can seem as though these patterns are genetic, whereas they are most often the result of unconscious copying.
It also does not help to take a very hush-hush tone around the topic. On the contrary, it needs to be talked about openly to air it out and put the suicide on a more ordinary footing, without reducing the importance of the incident.
Whether suicide has been an issue in the family or not, feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughts is not to be ignored or denied by the person struggling there. It must also be noted that the last thing anyone in that situation needs is to be labelled as having a suicidal personality. There is a deep relationship between depression and suicide, and it is perfectly normal to feel suicidal when seriously depressed. Besides what difference does it make if we are suffering from suicidal depression, manic depression, bipolar depression or chronic depression? We’re depressed period, and the label the experts give us doesn’t really matter.
In other words, instead of labelling a person who displays several signs of depression, categorising them in some medical little box, we could choose to take in consideration their context, what they are going through, and empathising with them. We should try to look at them from our heart and not to analyse them from above. This should be the foundation of any suicide prevention involvement on one’s part: put ourselves in the shoes of the suicidal person long enough to feel their plight and understand their situation; the empathy we will necessarily feel for them will also be felt by them when we try to help them want to live again.
The first time I did harm to myself somewhat successfully, I was 13 years old. I was falling more and more into a depression between the beatings at home from my dad, the lack of love from my mother, and a younger brother who would never stand up for me, as I had for him. He chose to take advantage of his privileged status with my parents, and never would take my side. I was alone, and I was hated daily, in one way or another, within my so-called home.
A girl at my previous high school had reported to the school authorities the couple of scars I had on my face one day after yet another beating. One thing led to another, and Children’s Aid Canada got involved. After an investigation, I was given the chance to leave my parents, provided that they accept, to join a foster home. I literally spent months dreaming about this idealized foster home, which I was never going to get to go to.
My dad, who is a psychologist by profession, was somehow able to close the file, and we moved out of town. A month later, I decided to drink some poison, a sort of medication from Russia for external use only; I drank the entire little bottle. The day had actually been fairly calm, and I had spent most of it in my room reading. I remembered feeling trapped in this family that so obviously hated me, and not able to see a solution in sight or an escape. I had thought my dad would let me go to a foster home because at least I would have been out of his hair. A sort of heavy sadness came over me, and I went looking for some poison to drink.
Within a couple of hours, I was feverish, seeing blurry, and with shooting pains in my stomach, and I was feeling sicker and sicker. I went to look for my mother, who was making dinner, and I told her what I had done. She did not turn around, and complained that I was always after attention no matter what. While my dad was the obvious aggressor, my mum was the voice of my self-hatred; her damage to me has been the most difficult to cleanse. I was never genuine in her eyes; I was always trying to get attention, playing some melodramatic role, or simply victimising myself. It was quite convenient to repeat these accusations endlessly to me from such a young age, so that I would never stop doubting myself, and question what was actually happening to me.
To my mum’s defense, there had been one incident of parasuicide, a year and a half prior to my drinking this poison. The word parasuicide is used to describe a situation in which someone goes to great lengths to hurt himself only to get attention. I should really use positive attention or compassion here, as “attention” on its own can have a negative connotation.
In my case, I had simply pretended to swallow a whole bottle of pills, as I was by myself in the kitchen, hoping like hell that my parents would walk in on time and find me. I was hoping to move them somehow. My father did walk in, and reacted angrily. It is interesting that the parent who was the most obviously aggressive and violent was also the one who reacted the most to what was happening to me. He had never been indifferent to me for good or for bad.
Back to that evening from hell in July 1987… The poison is eating my insides and my mum reluctantly calls an ambulance all the while complaining about the problems I cause them. My father at the time was working as a psychologist in a prison up North. My brother was also around, although he may as well not have been, for he never reacted. I was brought to the hospital but I don’t remember what happened that night, whether they pumped my stomach out or simply kept me under observation. I never had the opportunity to ask.
In the morning, as I woke up slowly, thinking out loud that heaven could not be so ugly. I had the displeasure to see a big white doctor on the side, looking at me from above: “No this is no paradise, this is the hospital… You have committed a felony; it is against the law in Ontario to commit suicide. Your mother has signed you over to Algoma Hospital, a psychiatric hospital where they will keep you.” I was trying to make sense of all of this, and my terror was now stirring inside, and I asked how long I would have before I had to go to the asylum.
The second---and last---time, I tried suicide by hanging. I was 22 years old, and I had quit my job due to miscalculation on my part. Three months later, I was no longer able to pay my rent, and a couple of collection agencies had already started to call. I freaked out one night, as I did not know how I was going to tell my landlord I had no money coming in or how I could get the money together. Somehow, this fear quickly grew out-of-control into an all-out terror attack, where I was shaking non-stop. My heartbeat was like a loud drum in my ears, and I could not handle the strength of the emotion taking over my body. I even heard at one moment a divine voice tell me: “You’ll see, everything will fall into place.” This gave me a breather, but it was too short… I was back in hell, and I could not take it.
This is when the other voice, the anti-life voice inside of our heads that most of us live and fight everyday of our life, started to concoct a plan about reincarnating more evolved and healthier if I were to end it all. Of course, in my crisis moment, any escape from it sounded good, even if it made no sense! I mean, I convinced myself that God wanted me to kill myself, as only then would I be able to reincarnate whole and evolved?!
So I first tried to put a knife against the back of my neck for about one hour, as the same classical music played over and over again,The Canon of Pachelbel and Clair de Lune of Debussy. Notwithstanding the very dramatic ambiance of my studio and myself, I still could not put the knife through my neck. I then came up with an even better idea, or so I thought at the time, of suicide by hanging. There would be no blood, no torture, and how hard could it be to simply walk off the chair and hang in the air?
After finding the perfect stool, the perfect hook in the ceiling (this was an old building with high ceilings) and the perfect rope, all within a couple of hours, I got on the stool, and pushed the stool off my feet. I ended up hanging there for what seemed like an eternity, although it was in fact only a couple of minutes before I fell to the ground, in a shower of rope, hook, and chunks of ceiling which had broken away. I lay there on the floor in convulsions for about an hour. So much for a speedy, effective, painless suicide method!
I had always been responsible, and been seen as a responsible person, but the fear of facing my landlord without my rent was only the tip of the iceberg. I did not know this at the time, as I was snatched up by a big wave of terror, a terror I was to find out later that I had been denying since I was kid. I was still not ready to face the accumulated denied terror, which was now rising in me, and suicide appeared to be the best option. Often, you will find that a big healing crisis can get set off by a situation that, while smaller in its physical and emotional reality, hides a much larger problem beneath.
In the weeks following this last attempt on my part at destroying myself and my body, I found out just how conscious my body was and is, and how I, my mind, is not alone in there, inside of me. I effectively could not relax, and every time I tried to sit down, or simply rest, I dealt with a panic attack in my neck area, where I felt intense anxiety and physical pain. I would hear inside of me, a voice that felt like it was part of my every tissue, and every cell, but I could not pin it down to an area: “This is what it felt like bitch! Never put me through this again!” For the first time of my life, I cried the tears I should have cried for having put a perfectly functioning, healthy, and strong body of mine through so much hell…I made the ones who violated me look good compare to what I had been putting my body through!
Suicide warning signs:
There is no one standardised, complete list of suicide warning signs, because, among other factors, suicide can be either a spontaneous decision or a premeditated act.
As a general rule, the ones who find ways to announce it are not the ones who will act on it. We have already mentioned parasuicide, whereby people will harm themselves extensively, because they are looking for attention and compassion. It is a desperate call for help.
There are plenty of non-verbal signs of suicidal depression that are usually obvious to the ones who care, who choose to see and who use their intuition. The suicidal person starts losing his/her glow, a heavy silence replaces conversation, and he/she will usually prefer be isolated from everyone. It is as if death has started to move in, and there is a dark cloud around them, much darker and gloomier than what comes with depression.
It is true that there are people who love to manipulate by threatening to kill themselves, and there are some who see no other recourse than threatening with suicide out of legitimate despair. The latter happens often in intense domestic fights, and in some cases, the despair transforms itself into such a rage that some have committed suicide just to punish their spouse or partner. We need to use our intuition, and our knowledge of the context in which that person is in to know what to make of the potential threat of suicide.
Suicide is by and large not a real alternative in life, and it should never be seen as an option. I have myself at times unfortunately fallen into the unhealthy thinking that killing myself was an option. For instance, I would at times tell myself that I could always end it all, if this or that would not work, or if I were to find myself failing and failing at trying to reach my dreams. Failure was a big terror of mine, and I did not realise for quite some time how twisted I was to want to destroy myself rather than deal with my ego breaking down around my lack of success in life.
In my case, I can say that my suicidal thoughts were at times purely motivated by my ego trying to protect itself from feeling my personal failures. I had built a fortress around my heart to not feel my weaknesses. In this context, I can say that suicide can also be a selfish thing and a cowardly thing to do. I found relief in the thought of suicide. Yes, it can be a gutsy act to face death in the moment, but you are also at the same time escaping a reality, which, at the end of the day, I find cowardly.
Looking back, what strikes me the most about both times I tried to kill myself, is how firmly I believed that my reality was never going to change. Now, of course, I am happy I stuck around because I have had great moments since. I have finally fallen in love, and found someone who loves me just as much. Still, it is hard for me to believe how I had convinced myself both times that tomorrow was not going to come or was going to be same miserable experience repeated on a different day. I was believing the story of my terror and grief, not knowing that my emotions were just living their crisis, and that their scripts have always been the same since they had not been healed by me to that depth before.
I am the one who changes the script, my life’s script.
Had I known what I know today, I would have dealt with my emotions, no matter how violent they felt, and rested my body after the emotional healing. Then and only then, would I have focused on what had made me feel suicidal in the first place. Sometimes, the healing we do is so strong that we can even attract a solution to our problem(s) without trying.
Death is not Salvation:
The real reason for not committing suicide is because you always know how swell life gets again after the hell is over.
Ironically, Hemingway, who was so right about the shift from hell to heaven on earth, did in fact commit suicide, which does not, however, rob his words of their relevance.
If there is one thing that is true about life, it is that everything shifts and nothing stays the same. Even though our depression and suffering may look and feel permanent, they are in fact temporary. It is important to not invest energy in projecting our misery and hopelessness into the future, because we do not know the future, and more to the point, we need keep focused on what is in the present. As for our suicidal thoughts, we could use to observe them, to feel our reaction if any, but to not intently focus on them as if they represent our destiny and our truth. The only intent to have in that situation is inner healing for ourselves.
In an absolute sense, a suicidal depression or even a nervous breakdown, as they often go hand in hand, can represent a great opportunity for a healing crisis. If the latter is handled consciously we can create an opening for a rebirth in our lives. A suicidal depression or a nervous breakdown can set off a few old and intense emotions all at once within us which we can process to release and transform big chunks of our stagnant, rotting, denied negative energy into positive conscious energy. These heavy moments or periods in our healing phase are the hardest to move through short-term, but, properly handled, also bring the greatest rewards.
If we are honest, we can find as many reasons not to commit suicide, as we can to do it. It all depends on the perspective we choose to take at the moment when we are given to reflection or self-analysis. Again, choose your context carefully before you evaluate your life; do not do it when you are in a depression, for your list will simply reflect where you are at. Know that suicide in not a solution, but an unhealed reaction of our part no matter how big and bad it feels to you at the moment.
According to several spiritual messages, including the Tibetan Book of the Dead, you do not escape what brought you to commit suicide in the first place. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation of your soul, we are not machines but rather human beings with a soul, a spirit, energy, a body and a heart. Every act, positive or negative has a repercussion in our destiny line, in our soul energy. If you actually believe that we are just matter that goes back to matter, and nothing else, then you would not be reading this article, and nor would you be surfing this site.
Ask yourself why would one escape what one has to face in life?
I did not know that to survive a terror attack, such as the one I felt when I tried to hang myself, one has to do the same thing as to survive depression:hang in there, and face your hell without trying to escape it and with as much presence as you can give it. You may be alternating between bouts of anxiety and depression for some time, or your breakdown may resolve itself quickly, but, either way, stay the course. Imagine that you are being taken on a ride by waves of the sea, and know that soon you will land safely on land, a new land.