Speak 2 Swatties: Talking Openly About Suicide

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Trigger Warning: suicide, death, killing oneself, coping, parents, mentors, hospitals, friendship, depression

In January of 2010, I sat in a hospital room bawling. My mentor had dropped me off after I started to overdose on some pills. They told me that no one would have to know; what I shared was entirely up to me. Hours later, my parents busted into the room, frantic and confused. They had no idea I was suicidal, or that I even felt depressed at all.

During high school, and years before, I was incredibly depressed. My senior spring of high school, I had some big glimpses of happiness. What was this feeling? What was happening? Was this normal? Why? Before and after my attempt, I had friends complete suicide.

I was and am hurt by their deaths. I have come to a place where I value the good things that came from their deaths. Growth, change, understanding, and empathy were given to every person who lost them. Regardless, hundreds of people were broken and further damaged. In the past, this fear of hurting others was my primary rationale for not killing myself. If I were to kill myself, how would my school handle that? How would my family cope? What would my friends have to face?

Then I started to ask, what if I just isolated and disappeared from everyone’s lives before I killed myself? If I didn’t have friends and weren’t participating in any activities, no one would be hurt much by my death. Being considerate in the way I would have killed myself would have caused me to isolate.  Making the decision to isolate was the scary part for me. I would have to disconnect from everything that made me, me. That process would be even more painful than the life I already was living.

These days, I often feel lucidly suicidal. I have done enough research and training to confidently say that I am not at high risk or even medium risk for killing myself. I certainly, however, can appreciate a point where suicide does become the rational option. Perhaps my rationale comes from this elite theory-based education we receive at Swarthmore. Is life really worth having this pain? We have existential crises, and perhaps that’s an indication that our existence is pointless, and flawed. If we forget who existed 200 years ago, how can I be sure my actions today have any worth? If I die, won’t the causes I care about continue without me? Will someone’s sadnesses really matter to a future generation? Or, to them? If good can come from death, why stop that from happening?

And yet, I am still alive and I don’t foresee my completing suicide. Why? Most days I don’t have the answer, and don’t mind that I don’t. Some days I yearn for that answer, and assume that I have to make it to the next day where I, again, won’t care that I don’t have the answer.

I slowly opened up to one of my friends and told them that I was, and perhaps still am suicidal. They asked me questions, and didn’t flinch. They didn’t tell me they had to bring me to a specialist. They didn’t push any other resources on me. They recognized that the resources existed. Primarily, however, they let me talk to them. They didn’t make me feel like an alien. They made me realize that in many ways, my suicidality could be an independent entity. I wasn’t an imminent risk to myself or others, and I just wanted to be heard. I wanted someone to say that I wasn’t inherently insane, or going to kill myself, because I am suicidal.

Last week, September 8th through September 14th was National Suicide Prevention Week. I want to prevent not only myself, but everyone from completing suicide. That said, I wholeheartedly encourage, when supporting our peers, that we accept feelings of suicidality. Sometimes, we are gifted the choice whether to live or die. When you weigh all the options, death might make the most sense. When death does make the most sense to me, I start to believe I am lucidly suicidal. Despite frequently feeling suicidal, every day I choose life. Having conversations about the options, having someone not panic and put me in a hospital bed and accepting that I feel bad is what stops me from killing myself. Someone giving me the language to talk about my pain, but also accepting that I can feel suicidal without completing suicide, is what gifts me life, because it gives me space to talk and get support. How do we create the best circumstances for ourselves, and our peers, to choose life, even if we still feel suicidal?

For me, living still feels good because people are open with me about the option of death and aren’t scared to talk to me about suicide, even if I am living with suicidality.

Find any S2S Peer Counselor if you want to talk confidentially about anything. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The number connects you to a counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.  Calls are confidential and free.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I am a survivor of a suicide attempt which occurred decades ago and I appreciate you talking about this issue. I understand how every day can be a struggle and I truly believe that every person who uses their voice does make a difference in their community. The fact that you have written this article to start a conservation about suicide and your struggles and thoughts helps fight the social stigma surrounding this issue and that your voice is making a positive difference for others. Alice Paul, from the Swarthmore community, made a huge difference for women in this country. But without all of the other voices which spoke out in support of the cause she helped champion, would voting rights for women in the USA have occurred? I am no Alice Paul, but now that I am older I use my life and voice to try to bring positive change, because one voice can up against a bully, bring caring and love to someone in need, join others to talk about issues that need to be discussed. Thanks for starting this conversation.

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