With all the recent news in the media about mental illness (finally), I felt compelled to write about a still taboo topic and that is of being a survivor of suicide. Not once, but twice. Even now, we often don’t know that someone has been taken by a mental illness because it’s still such a shameful secret to talk about. Nobody wants to openly admit that they lost their loved one to suicide because there are so many stigmas associated with that. From the beginning of time, mental illness has been treated as something that is shameful and bad and evil and the person living with the mental illness is treated harshly and even with contempt.
Imagine for a moment that you heard your loved one was living with a devastating illness and there was a risk that this person would die from that illness. How would you react? If you are like most people, probably with shock and sadness and even anger at the illness itself. And I’m guessing you would want the best treatment for your loved one and some of you will take the time to look for support and information about battling this illness. Take cancer for example. You hear that your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and there’s a chance that they could die from the illness. If you were to hear that, you’d most likely be flooded with compassion for this person and be looking for support groups and information and funding and anything and everything you could get your hands on. And you’d find a wealth of resources available to you. And support from others. There’d be fundraisers and events to help this person rally through and find the strength to fight this illness and beat it.
Now, let’s look at an illness such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) which is what I have. I’ve been diagnosed with it since 2006 but it has been a challenge for me from adolescence. 10% of people with BPD attempt suicide, often more than once. So there’s a significant risk that you may die from this illness. In 2007, I made a serious attempt on my own life. I was no more in control of my illness than someone is of the cancer spreading. This illness overtook me and the pain of fighting this illness was too much. There was nothing that could treat the pain and suffering I was going through and the only relief that I could see was ending it all. I was the mother of two beautiful children, had a comfortable home and job, and so much to live for. I was 34 years old and at the prime of my life. I was busy and life was good……but then the illness struck and it struck hard. There were no fundraisers for this girl. No sympathies offered on my struggle. Instead I was made to feel ashamed that I had been so weak as to choose the coward’s way out. I was often told i was selfish because look what it would do to the people I left behind. So not only did I survive a brush with death…..I had to deal with the shame and embarassment at what I had done.
In 2010, I made another serious attempt on my life and survived. I was weak from fighting this for so long and again, I just wanted the pain to end. I had a wonderful loving partner and two beautiful children. I was working and very good at my job. But BPD reared it’s ugly head again and robbed me of all this. I KNEW that I had the love and support of many people, but the illness makes you feel like you are all alone. I felt overwhelmed with pain, sadness and an emptiness. I just wanted the pain to stop……much like a cancer patient is given morphine to take away the physical pain, I wanted something to take away my mental anguish. THAT’S why I attempted to take my own life…not because I wanted attention. I didn’t do it to cause pain to my loved ones. This time when I came out on the other side alive, I was determined to not feel ashamed of what had happened. I wasn’t going to sit back and let others judge me for something I couldn’t control. Instead, I decided to get the help that I needed to help me deal with the emotional storm inside.
With years of therapy and a concentrated effort to change my thinking patterns, I have moved away from feeling suicidal. I still get the thoughts, every single day, but instead of acting on the thoughts, I’ve learned to accept them as a part of my illness and try to let them leave as easily as they come. Battling BPD and depression is going to be a lifelong challenge for me and I only hope that by sharing my story it may help others in their struggles. We don’t have to be ashamed any longer that we are battling an illness. We didn’t choose it, but we are living it. And that takes a strength and courage and a will to live that people need to give us credit for. We are warriors and deserve compassion, kindness and happiness.
I am a survivor.