It was Christmas Eve of the year 2000, and the night couldn’t have gone more horribly wrong. I stared at my image in the mirror; blotchy red spots, a tear-streaked face, and eyes that hadn’t sparkled in months. The bags under my eyes were massive, and the crushing feeling in my chest left me feeling like I was suffocating.
My parents and I had fought over dishes, but it felt like so much more to me. Just one more thing to add to the list of instances they had proven their *favouritism for my siblings over me. I couldn’t stay silent about it; whenever I was upset it was like verbal diarrhea, whatever I felt at the moment came pouring out, unfiltered, un-thought about. Just there.
I had ruined Christmas. I always ruined Christmas, dad had said.
And I had. I couldn’t do anything right. Despite the courageous face I attempted to put up at school, the people who bullied me about being a Christian, about being a loser, dug right to my core. My brother was mad at me over a situation with a girlfriend, and my sister and I couldn’t be alone together for more than ten minutes without things turning into an all-out-fight.
The darkness was growing, and with it the realization that not only was I worse than nothing, I was also a burden on everyone around me. My family could never be happy with me there, I realized.
There was a voice in my mind that had been growing louder and louder over the last few months, a voice telling me that the only way to find peace from the torment, the only way to let my family lead a happy life, was to end it all.
I paused to listen and see if anyone was coming upstairs, and was met with nothing more than the echo of the tv and the laughter from my family over whatever it was they were watching. I hadn’t even ended my life, and already, they were happier without me.
Choking back a sob, I snuck into the kitchen and opened the cupboard where mom kept the medication. First I grabbed the extra-strength tylenol bottle, and started swallowing them one at a time. My hands shook, and I wondered if I could really do it. My hands were shaking. I was terrified. But I was tired of being a burden. Tired of hurting people when all I wanted was love.
“You don’t deserve love.” The words echoed through my mind, and despite my shaking hands, I continued.
When I got to 12, I stopped counting, and instead grabbed a glass of water and dumped out a handful of pills from the bottle. I didn’t count how many there were, but it took three mouthfuls to get them down. Then I grabbed the aspirin bottle.
“I’ll just fall asleep, and it will all be over,” I told myself.
I emptied another handful of pills out of the bottle, swallowed them, replaced the bottle and returned to my room where I penned my suicide note. I was sobbing as I wrote it, thinking of how much happier they would be when I was gone. My heart breaking at the lack of love I felt, at the loneliness that had been swelling inside of me for as long as I could remember.
When I finished, I placed it on my nightstand, then pulled out the ‘cutting kit’ I had created for myself. The dull sewing needle was covered in dried blood, and for the final time, I carved back over the words on my arms that had been following me for months “I hate myself” and “I’m nothing.” I carved and carved through layers of skin until it began to bleed, each arm throbbing a dull ache mixed with a sharp stinging as the only words I believed to be truth bled off each of my arms.
I crawled into bed still sobbing. I was alone. No-one saw the pain I was in; saw through the act. And if they did, no-one cared. My pleas for help had all been ignored. The journal entries in my English class where I spoke of how death haunted me, and how I continuously wondered what it would be like if life just stopped for me had fallen on the eyes of someone who disliked me enough to not even care that I was on the edge.
I was fourteen years old, and I believed that I didn’t deserve to live. So I lay on my bed, waiting for death to overtake me, believing that if there was a hell, it would probably be a breath of fresh air to everything I had been through.
In the darkness, I cried alone, just wanting it all to end.
In Canada, one in five Canadians suffers from depression and/or mental illness. Suicide is the second leading cause in youth deaths.
Over the years, as more and more suicides have made headline news, I’ve watched as people have puffed up their chests and declared that suicide is a coward’s choice; that those who proceed with attempting suicide (or are successful) are selfish people who think nothing of others.
I’ve watched as people blame it on an attempt to get back at someone.
With three suicide attempts under my belt, and many more times of coming close, I’ve been called every awful name in the book – from selfish, to a coward, to conceited, to a horrible person.
But I’ve also been called other things. A hero, a life-saver; courageous. Words that reminded me of my worth, reminded me that the things I’ve been through have the power to change someone else’s life – to save them from making the same poor choices I did.
It requires far more than weakness or cowardice to take your own life.
Over 90% of people who commit or attempt suicide have either been diagnosed with, or sought medical help for mental illness, depression, or extreme anxiety. The only reason it’s not at 100% is because doctors have explained that the remaining 10% consist of people who were not diagnosed, and had never sought help.
I once asked someone I know who had studied psychiatry and human behaviour what they felt were the chances of that remaining 10% not having a mental illness or suffering from some sort of depression, PTSD or other situational things that can cause a temporary loss of mental stability.
They told me that if there was a way to prove it, they believed the chances would be zero.
It takes something seriously wrong in your thought patterns, in your emotional state to commit suicide. And the number of people taking their lives seems to be increasing every day.
There’s a reason why a date has been marked on the calendar, to be identified as #WorldSuicidePreventionDay . There is a need, not just for awareness, but for compassion. For people to reach out to those who are struggling and remind them that they are not alone; that they are worth something and that there are ways beyond suicide to make life better.
Tonight, one of our local organizations has asked people to light a candle near a window at 8 p.m. tonight to show your support of suicide prevention, to remember those we have lost, and to show your support for those who have survived their attempts.
Tonight, instead of passing judgement or contempt on something you may not understand, take a step back, and instead show love and compassion. Show the world that there is a better way, and that nobody is alone.
I am alive today because someone took the time to notice; took the time to sit me down and say “You are loved, and we’re going to find another way to stop the pain.” I am alive today, because once we realized there was more going on than teenage angst, my family stepped in and helped me get my mental health back.
I’m alive today because someone was willing to remind me that suicide is not the way.
Tonight, will you do the same?
*Please note, the story is written from my feeling and perspective at the time, and does not necessarily reflect the reality of what was going on outside of my scope of understanding.