This article originally appeared on the blog writerramsay.com and is republished here with permission.
I’ve thought long and hard about whether to share this with you, my friends. But, I’ve long held a loyalty to truth regardless of its ugliness. Allow me to fess up and tell you the whole truth now.
I have had severe depression since I was a child. The first time I thought about killing myself, I was 8 years old. My daughter is that age now. After a particularly bad day at school, after relentless daily bullying by my peers for two years, I was walking hand in hand with my aunt to go home when I saw a large dump/gravel truck going by. My first instinct was that if I jumped in front of it I could end my pain. What stopped me was that I didn’t want the driver to be traumatized and I didn’t want my aunt to be either. Life improved when my parents took me out of that school.
Today, over 20 years later, I am hospitalized for suicidal ideation.
Yesterday I checked myself in because I was scared I’d hurt myself. I had made up my mind to die, and as I’m typing this I still haven’t changed my mind yet but I’m working with the doctors and nurses to get healthy.
The most scary part is that there’s 1% of me that doesn’t want to die and is fighting for my life, and I struggle to hold on to that part because when you feel suicidal, it’s not an emotional feeling. On the contrary, killing myself makes the most logical sense.
I have fibromyalgia, GERD, chronic pain, limited mobility, constant nausea, I’m a single parent who has gone through abuse, traumatic birthing, multiple miscarriages, a nasty divorce and custody hearing, ongoing bullying as a child & teen and I’ve also made some shit calls in my life that have left me ashamed. I won’t share those here with you.
What I’m here to say is that if society keeps tip-toeing around suicide, we’re not going to save as many lives. You see, I have a deep rooted belief (read it again: a deeply entrenched belief system) that I am fundamentally unworthy of love. Ironically, my name is Amanda, which is Latin for “Worthy of Love,” and I’ve always hated my name. When people care about me, I feel worse actually because I feel like I’ve manipulated them into liking me. I smile a lot, I like people around me, I’m “outgoing” and “personable.” I worked successfully in sales for most of my adult life. But remember, even the amazing and charismatic Robin Williams with all the resources and influence he had, still succumbed to his condition.
I’m on disability for my conditions and that makes life hard financially. I don’t have Robin Williams’ resources or even talent, but I do know that I have you my friends... and this is where the 1% of me is fighting for you to hear me:
I came the closest I’ve ever come to devising a plan of action. I was googling the diameter of my car’s exhaust pipe...
My friends, please keep tabs on me. When I get out of the hospital, the only thing that will prevent this from happening again is that I engage more with my community and I continue to be honest about how I’m doing.
But I know, some of you don’t like morbid subjects or scary thoughts or ideas like suicide. It gives you the shivers, you think perhaps that someone who is suicidal is just plain nuts. HEAR ME!
Get rid of your discomfort because talking about it will save my life. Ask me if I’m suicidal. It’s not taboo. It’s a treatable condition and 1% of me wants to just feel like someone is watching over me, I don’t want to slip through the cracks. You see mental health is severely underfunded, they don’t even have room in the psych ward for me right now. This hospital easily needs twice the beds it has in psych. I made a preemptive appointment with Mental Health (Northern Health Authority) to get in touch with resources (I’ve accessed them before). I called in August to make an appointment and they scheduled it for September 25th. This appointment wasn’t for counselling either, it was simply an intake assessment. If I had been in crisis, I’d have been dead by now. Instead I have to admit to a room full of ER people (nurses, doctors and other patients) that I’m thinking of killing myself. And those who do, they feel deep rooted shame about this condition. So, these end up both being barriers to getting help. But, that 1% of me, she’s a feisty bitch who won’t let anyone push her around. Right now, I let her be in control-she doesn’t give a fuck about shame, or your comfort, she wants to see my daughter graduate, possibly find a life partner and raise her own little posse of mini-hers. And/or take on some career or life’s mission to change the world. That 1% bitchy, take-no-prisoners part of me wants to see what I look like with grey hair, she’s sure it’ll be fabulous. But not everyone has that 1%. Some people have 0 and they will find a way to die if they want to.
My friends, please. Start asking every. Single. Friend. You have. if they have ever contemplated suicide. You might end up having a conversation that saves their life.
For those of you who are suicidal, please reach out. Just bounce the idea off of someone you trust and if there is no one, call a suicide hotline. I did yesterday and I’m pretty sure it prevented me from moving forward. I couldn’t reach anyone and I just needed someone to hear about my pain. I don’t like to tell people about my pain or trauma because it often just traumatizes them, they don’t know what to do for me and really, once you put it out there it feels like a genie that won’t go away again. A hotline is amazing because they’re trained to work with you and ask you the right questions. I had never called the line before, and it calmed me after a triggering event. (In BC, it’s 1-800-SUICIDE)
So here’s your to-do list if you want to keep your friends around:
Drop your personal bullshit about mortality. Get over it, everyone dies.
Ask every single friend you have if they’ve ever or are currently depressed and/or suicidal.
Bone up on your depression and suicide knowledge by reading or searching for information about suicide. Get to know the signs and symptoms.
Take 20 mins every week to consciously think about if any family or friends have shown depression, anxiety, stress, or suicidal symptoms or signs. Take an inventory. Schedule it in your phone. If you think someone might be, do the following:
Talk to your family or friends who show the signs or symptoms. Reach out to friends and family weekly, ask how they are doing and tell them what you see in a non-judgemental way.
Allow that person the freedom to express themselves and ask them if they’ve sought help or medical assistance. This question is important because if untreated, then it can be treated... if already treated, maybe their depression has surpassed their dosage or medication type and they need to see their doctor to adjust their treatment plan. You see, a depressive does not see the signs. It’s like slowly walking into a pool. You don’t realize you might drown until you’re already in the deep end. Additionally, although people get comfort and solace from religion, faith or spirituality, suicidal ideation, as well as depression, are medical conditions that require medical specialists. Although spiritual guidance leaders like priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, etc. get grief training, they do not have the skills to treat the underlying biological condition.
Offer to go with them to appointments, the hospital, offer to look after their kids or pets if they need it. If they have a depressive episode offer to get groceries or pick up their meds from the pharmacy for them. Do the small things that actually help them overcome it and make good decisions. If you can’t help in this way because maybe you’re far away, ask if they have any local friends or community that you can reach out to for them. Make the phone calls for them. They’re scared, ashamed, guilty and they need to see that there is no reason to be. They need your assurances.
Finally, contact your legislators and demand better mental health care! Whether it’s your MLA, MP, Governor, Mayor, President, Prime Minister, municipal office, and write it in a letter. Calls to offices get logged but letters get filed and must be kept on record for a certain number of years.
These are just a few of the ways that you can help people who struggle with suicide. People are dying of things that they have no control over: cancer, heart issues, etc. Suicide IS preventable friends, so let’s prevent it.
I love you, all of you. Please message me if you have ever had suicidal thoughts or inclinations, or you lost someone to suicide or if you’re depressed and need a reach out.
My friends, I may not have been able to tell you I was slipping. I most likely wanted to talk about it but I don’t want to overwhelm you, as the topic can feel dramatic. Truth is, I like the façade of being a strong independent woman and I struggle with who she is and whether I ask for help too much. But my 1% bitch won’t let my pride get in the way of living. Truth be told, when my mom found out I was in the hospital again she cried at work. I want to apologize for causing grief, anxiety or fear in any of you (including you, Mommy) but I shouldn’t. I am doing what I need to in order to stay alive but I know it causes others pain to see me this way. In reality, this is all I’ve ever known so it causes me no grief to consider death but I am sensitive to your fear for me.
Stay safe my friends, my digital acquaintances, and ultimately-my earthly family of fellow Homo sapiens.
My 1% bitch thanks you for your time.