Surviving Suicidal Thoughts: My Story of Epiphany
"Trigger Warning": This article includes discussion about suicidal thoughts which may be disturbing to some readers. The main purpose of the article is to aware people about suicide prevention.
Back in 2009, there were hardly any discussions about mental health. We could hear the news of suicides but then hardly anyone addressed depression on a serious note. Moreover, we considered suicide as an act of cowardice or mostly the price for their distressful personal situations. I could see people frown their brows and sympathize with the loss but act as if that was a pretty natural aftermath.
I grew up in the same society with constant pressure to harbor similar perceptions about mental health. The term “mental health” itself was a taboo, and there I was struggling with my own mental health in such a frame of time.
I had just hit puberty and with the physical changes in my body, the upheaval of my emotions were terrifying to me. Both of my parents worked full day to secure the financial stability of the family to ensure our access to good facilities, and I struggled with the persistent loneliness as a pre-teen. I had a younger sister but she was too young. It resulted in a codependent relationship with my peers. I developed self-esteem issues as I strived for their attention and love.
The first time I cut myself I was 12 and it was solely under peer pressure to look cool. My gratitude and longing for emotional fulfillment went out of boundaries when I became a pushover which led to extreme loss of my self-confidence and identity. By then, I was actively being emotionally bullied by some of my classmates and I was defensively bullying the mates who I considered weaker than me. The power struggle was in a strong motion and I was turning into a family rebel and problematic child, whose grades had suddenly started dropping.
I hated being a teacher’s kid in my school. The whole teaching staff was so demanding of me motivating my father’s expectations. I remember being really interested in dancing but I was indirectly discouraged to do it because “good students” didn’t dance. I would cry all the time and it was my marked weakness. Hence, I was always considered weak and believed as someone who had to depend on others.
My dependence shifted from girl-friends to opposite sex but the immature dating experiences didn’t last. With the end to it, I felt more vulnerable to the negative cycles of thoughts, emotions and behavior. The shame, guilt and amount of hate in me strengthened. I started becoming conscious of my appearance as I felt I had nothing else to offer.
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I had vaguely started writing at that time and it was the first time I was being appreciated for something else than my academic grades. However, I was not writing much because I was preoccupied by more important things. I obsessively looked for ways to be accepted in the social group. I would steal money because my lower middle-class couldn’t afford the lifestyle of my friends. My parents were hugely taken aback by my passive-aggressive behavior and had no idea what was going on with me. I was their child who was going out of track. By that time, I had started cutting myself all over again and I was addicted to self-harm.
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WHEN DID MY SUICIDAL THOUGHTS GET TRIGGERED?
Even though I was fighting with the abashedly provoking thoughts of self-esteem, self-image, shame and loneliness, I had never come across the thought of killing myself but my anger issues were getting uncontrollable. At home, we had nasty arguments over my exam scores ending up with me slamming the door to my room. The outbursts were severely harmful to everyone and mostly me because I would end up punching my fist to the wall. My knuckles would bleed and it would feel naturally relieving.
Cutting myself became a routine and if I didn’t cut a single day, it would be unnerving. When I cut myself it was physically painful and it distracted me from my emotional pain.
Everything changed when I betrayed one of my close friends. The action was so impulsive and irrational that once it was done, I sat and realized how awful I was to her. It was because I hurt her, I became a social outcast in my class followed by emotional and physical bullying. They blamed me for playing the victim card. In a way, they were not wrong. I tried to justify my hurtful behaviors to others with my emotional wounds. I kept thinking that it was my fault to be bullied and I deserved it. I was so guilty of hurting her, I gradually started having suicidal thoughts and it grew at an enormous intensity.
“I never wanted to live to begin with. So, maybe it is better if I die.”
“She must be thinking that I should die to redeem my mistakes.”
“Nobody loves me and it doesn’t make a difference even if I disappeared.”
“Which is the easiest way to die?”
“Do I have materials to kill myself?”
When the SLC results were out, my scores were too low for my father’s expectations. As I watched him being mocked by his colleagues, I died a little at his face of disappointment. The lurking suicidal thoughts danced in my head to the song of victory. I cried all night to insomnia. Since I cut myself with razor, I thought cutting my wrists must be the most convenient way to kill myself. At the same time, I was hysterically writing journals which I tucked under my pillow. Sometimes, I would imagine someone reading my diary and telling me not to die.
The social perception of “Hurting others is a sin” played a major role in my inability to forgive myself. I begged for her forgiveness but I didn’t forgive myself for a very long time and dealt with my depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts.
HOW I OVERCAME MY SUICIDAL THOUGHTS
One day I decided to end it all at once, the pain, the disappointment, the mockery and this shameful loop of circumstances. As I tried to cut my wrists, I just couldn’t bear up the courage to do it. My brain instantly searched for all the reasons I should live. I was just trying to hide and run away. I didn’t know that I had depressive symptoms then, since I was never diagnosed by a professional. However, I never told my family that I was struggling with mental health because I believed they wouldn’t understand.
After my failed attempt to suicide, I felt rejuvenated with a new energy. I was willing to change and face my mental health issues. I promised myself that I would never try to kill myself. I threw away all the razors I owned and realized how horrible I had been to myself all these years. I practiced journaling and wrote letters of gratitude. I began reading a lot of books and wrote a lot. I was always interested in psychology so I read about different theories and works of pioneers in this field. Carl Jung’s “Shadow Theory” helped me a lot in self-acceptance and forgiveness.
I made efforts to talk to people and got involved in social gatherings. I did really well in my college which helped me gain my confidence back regarding my academics. I was genuinely happy after a very long time and was more open to healthier ways of communication with my family and friends. Nonetheless, my journey to healing was not sudden and quick. It took me a very long time to be more accepting of myself and adopt healthy ways of life which is continuing till date.
HOW IS MY MENTAL HEALTH RIGHT NOW?
Even though I got rid of my suicidal thoughts, the persisting self-esteem issues were more difficult to deal with. I had been an extremely under-confident kid because of my childhood trauma of being in constant pressure to perform better. I still struggle with the smallest failures to regain my confidence in my capabilities. Even so, I have healthier ways of dealing with my mental stress now. Since I had been a post-grad student of Counseling Psychology, it has helped me a lot in my personal growth and development.
Now, I still deal with mild anxiety issues and low self-confidence but I try to learn with every adversity and good experience. I still have trust issues but I have fought hard to thrive in this life which I am grateful for. My family has been supportive of my future plans and I try to communicate with people in my life in a healthy way though I still fail miserably sometimes. Today, the discussion of mental health has been growing and problems are being addressed. This has helped in being more accepting of myself.
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WHAT HAS HELPED MAINTAIN MY MENTAL WELLBEING?
- I take care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- My sister has always stood as a rock in my life, supporting me throughout and encouraging me to achieve whatever I want to.
- Writing/Journaling has always been an emotional outlet. Since I am more comfortable putting my thoughts and emotions in paper, I have killed two birds with one stone because I am creatively gifted.
(N.B. Do not kill birds in a literal sense.)
- The love and support of my family and friends has helped me get through my mental distress.
- My involvement in What The Book Club transformed my life in a good way as I met amazing people and acquaintances. It helped me increase my confidence in social interactions.
- My personal interest in psychology led me to study the mind and behavior of people, which helped me to be empathetic and accepting of myself and others.
- I have learned a lot through books like somebody rightly said, “It is wiser to learn from other people’s experiences.”
- My post-grad peers helped me to be comfortable and unapologetic about being myself.
Whatever you are struggling with, do not keep it to yourself. Even if you have trust issues, collect your courage to share it with the person you are most comfortable with at the moment.
- Seek help:
It is okay to seek help. I still regret not asking for help sometimes because I struggled with my mental health alone for a long time. Seeing a therapist/ mental-health counselor can guide you to healthier ways to deal with your mental health.
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3. Find a healthy outlet:
Do not keep your feelings and emotions to yourself. Adopt healthy creative hobbies to let out like painting, writing, meditation, etc.
- Be kind to yourself
In our Asian society, we learn to be kind to others but we hardly practice self-love. We teach ourselves to be extremely giving without boundaries. But when we are kind to ourselves, we can be kind to others in a healthy way.
- Educate yourself
Learn about mental health and it’s aspects. Teach them to your family and friends.
Normalize the discussion of mental health in your family and among peers.
- It is okay to take one step at a time
It is impossible to always feel good about yourself. Be more aware and accepting of your feelings and thoughts because they are valid.