Through my mentally ill eyes: Suicide is not selfish
If you’re set in your ways and unwilling to consider any perspective beyond your own, you can stop reading.
If you want an unabashed look into the mind of someone with depression, and you think you might have room in your head for more knowledge and room in your heart for more understanding, I hope you’ll read on.
I’ll set the scene for you now:
I’m sitting at my desk at work, and though no one around me has any idea something is wrong, I’m terrified. My heart rate is elevated, my chest feels tight, and something I can only describe as an aching numbness creeps across my skin. I’m having an anxiety attack. My brain is telling me bad things. It’s encouraging me to harm myself.
According to a 2011 Reuters article, one in 12 teenagers self harm, and 10 percent continue to do so into young adulthood.
Self-harming can involve cutting, burning, carving or any number of actions meant to inflict injury to oneself.
I’m looking at the office supplies in front of me, and my brain is telling me it would feel good to stab my forearms with a pen or staple my fingertips. I know that sounds crazy, and in many ways, it is. But depression is not rational, and that numbness I spoke of? It’s worse than any pain I’ve ever felt.
Throughout my teenage years and into adulthood, I have heard many people scoff at victims of self-harm, dismissing them as attention-seekers. For some, that may indeed be the objective. For many however, it’s a coping mechanism. As for me, though I have the awareness and self-control to avoid self-harming most of the time, the concept poses as a mode of sensory relief.
I’m fighting the urge to self-harm and instead frantically (well, it only feels frantic, because my appearance and actions are calm and normal) texting people I trust so they can distract me and bring me back to reality. Eventually, I do start to feel calmer, but not in a healthy way. After coming down from the height of my anxiety attack, I am physically and mentally exhausted. I’m nearly defeated. I want to die.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. In 2013, someone in America died by suicide every 12.9 minutes.
There is a stigma attached to suicide, particularly in cases involving depression. The opinion I seem to come across most often is that those who commit suicide are selfish. Let me clear this up right now.
I sometimes find death to be an appealing notion when depression hits me particularly hard. I will be the first to admit that I have been tempted on numerous occasions to end my life. My suffering would cease. The chronic fatigue, overwhelming anxiety, mood swings, hopelessness, all that would disappear.
Depression causes its victims to think irrationally and feel hopeless and helpless. It can be argued that such thoughts are selfish in nature, but as someone who has experienced the illogical, tumultuous thinking caused by depression, I can say with certainty that there is more to suicide than a selfish desire to end one’s own suffering.
I want to die, to end my suffering and be rid of the struggle that is my life. But more than that, much more… I want to relieve the world and all those I love of a burden. Me. The lies my chemically imbalanced brain tell me cause me to begin to believe that everyone would be much better off without me. I start to try to rationalize taking my own life by considering all the ways I am a burden to society, economically, physically, emotionally and more.
Thankfully, I am aware and stable enough to eventually identify these episodes and understand that they are only that. Sadly, there are countless individuals who will succumb to their depression and end their lives. It is likely that, as you read this, someone is dying by suicide.
Suicidal thoughts and attempts are serious cries for help. If someone you know is exhibiting any signs they may be considering suicide, don’t be silent. The Mayo Clinic lists the following suicide warning signs and suicidal thoughts:
Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
Warning signs aren’t always obvious, and they may vary from person to person. Some people make their intentions clear, while others keep suicidal thoughts and feelings secret.
I’m not asking you to understand depression. Truthfully, I don’t know that anyone can understand it until they’ve experienced it firsthand. I am asking you to be compassionate, and remove your own selfish feelings from the equation. Let’s end the stigmas.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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