Tag Archives: suicide attempt

Staying Alive is So Much More Than Breathing

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness or Abuse  (c)2019 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

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For a long time after my suicide attempt in 2011, life seemed to hold little worthwhile substance. Never mind I wrote a book, learned how to collage, began a writing and speaking career, and created newsletters for two classes at my church. Some days felt like fresh air and possibility. Most seemed stale and defeated.

My feet kept moving. On days with little to do, I gazed at walls or the computer screen, attempting life with little focus. Therapy homework added helpful busyness; going to therapy did as well.

However, I am a decision-maker. Once I make a commitment, 98% of the time I will stick to it no matter the cost. I’d made the decision to die by suicide. As strange as it may sound, it was difficult for me to change my mind.

Pivoting in indecision kept me stuck.  My moral center- that of wanting to please and honor Jesus – kept me from acting on the pursuit of death again no matter how I felt. It also gave me patches of solid ground on which to painstakingly climb out of the quicksand that is major depression.

Still, it was living for living’s sake. Breathing for breathing’s sake. Someone said, “You are doing phenomenally” (referring to all the projects I had taken on despite depression).  That encouraged me until the moment was over and the sense of lifelessness returned.

For a few years, occasional kudos were like sunshine and a bit of cheer leading pushed me to function. I doubted I could continue the fight without them. That theory was tested when I moved back home, eight hours away, leaving those supports behind.

Not once since I made the decision to move have I for even a nano-second regretted that choice. This is where I belong. It is where I fit. People here speak my language.

Life on my own was hard for two years. It didn’t seem I had the stamina to make healthy and wise decisions without input or an “atta girl”. Yet here is where it gets interesting.

At the end of those two years I took what I had learned from therapy and made some major decisions to remove what wasn’t helping and to grasp what would. I joined a church where my giftings are wanted. Relationships with next door neighbors are deliberate and improved. Weekly dinners with my grown sons added to a sense of belonging. Good friendships formed. Old friendships reignited. Now I know I am needed, wanted, and loved by many people.

It seems almost overnight life felt meaningful. Sure, nearly seven years is hardly overnight. Hard work after the suicide attempt, moving despite deep pain,  getting up the next day after a lousy one – those decisions paid off.  Staying alive was so much more than breathing.

I am committed to pursuing what is in my heart to do. It is still vital to honor and please Jesus. In a healthier mindset, I know he loves me too.

Today’s Helpful Word  

John 10: 10b-11a

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd.”       -Jesus

**** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours.

 

 

To Survivors of Suicide Loss: Let There Be Peace this Thanksgiving

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Patty was angry. Her sister had ended her life two years earlier, and left Patty in turmoil. Why had she done it? She knew she could have reached out to Patty and their other siblings.  She did not have to die.

Pastor Jones barely mentioned the past, uttering in generalities the story of his friend’s suicide thirty years earlier.  He was a fellow pastor who had called Jones and talked about feeling depressed.  Then he was gone. It did not require a doctorate to diagnose the guilt Pastor Jones carried on his face.  

These are only two of dozens of survivors of suicide loss I have met. They approach me, most often to tell what happened. They are not asking for advice or platitudes. Their tales are rarely welcomed in polite company, and they see in me someone willing to listen without judgment.

In every story there is one running theme: the question why.

Why suicide? Why did I not stop them? Why did they not ask for help? Why did I not listen? Why. Why. Why.

A Different Perspective

Sometimes I fear my story of surviving major depression and attempted suicide will only serve as a morbid reminder of pain for those who have lost someone to suicide. However, that has not proven true. Instead, as far as I have observed, my story helps those left behind with a perspective they may wish they could hear from their deceased loved one. 

For me, suicide seemed the only option after months of struggle with depression. If we wanted, we could blame me: I did not reach out for professional help until late in the process.  We could blame professionals: I was under their care when the suicide attempt occurred. We could blame the support person I reached out to who did not respond well. 

We would be wrong. There is no one directly to blame.* Suicide and suicide attempts result from mixed-up minds and torn-up emotions.

The person on the edge of a suicide attempt is not thinking about all the pain their death will bring to loved ones. Rather, they are thinking everyone will be better off.  They are not necessarily selfish, but unable to see beyond the suffering that is the only reality they comprehend.  They have not generally lost their faith.  Irrationality is due to a mental problem,  not reasonable cognitive choices. 

As supports, we only know what we know. There is no shame in not understanding how to help someone who may have reached out.  We are only human. There is no guilt to carry for being fallible. If we could change the past,  would we? Yes.  It is not too late to make peace with that.   

Anger, grief, confusion… these are natural after the death of a loved one to suicide.  Our loss is legitimate. We hurt. We want to blame someone, to find a reason for the senseless. Often, with nowhere else to look, we blame ourselves.

Allow yourself to feel, and hear this from someone who has been to the end.  The answer to why will never come, at least not in the way you want it to. Your loved one did not even know why. At least 90% of people who die by suicide do so because of impaired judgment and impulsivity. If they left a note, those “reasons” were constructed from confusion. 

Often, the holidays stir up memories of loss. Gratitude might come harder. This Thanksgiving, let yourself rest. Resign blame and be at peace. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 28:7

 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

*********Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*In the case of someone “driving” a person to suicide, extreme circumstances, such as Michelle Carter who urged her boyfriend to kill himself,  would be called murder. This post is written to the vast majority of survivors of suicide loss who cared directly or indirectly for the life of the one who died. 

5 Most Common Responses When I Tell People My History Includes Attempted Suicide

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries  

Whenever I tell my story of recovery after attempted suicide, I have learned to expect one or more of the following responses.

photo-24768393-old-man-raising-his-eye-brow1. “My (insert loved one- son, mother, friend, etc.) killed himself (or herself).” 

Often, the speaker leans away or makes some movement indicating discomfort and distrust. Once he or she realizes I am interested and not judgmental, the torrent starts.

I learn about the day their loved one died, what warning signs were left before the suicide, and memories of the victim. Always, the suicide was unexpected. Without fail, the survivor suffers guilt.

Many of these suicides were in the far past. Decades and even generations later, suicide continues to hurt those left behind.  

2. “I have been there.”

I hear this at every official event and in most casual gatherings where my story is shared whether the topic was advertised ahead of time or not. The sheer number of people who have experienced such severe depression and hopelessness is staggering.

3. “How can I help my friend (or family member) who  is depressed?”

With worried faces and often desperation in their voices, people want to know how to “fix” others who struggle with depression. Sometimes the plea for normalcy is an angry one. They are disappointed that life has become so hard because a loved one is dysfunctional.

Usually, when I reply that none of us can fix anyone else and the best support is non-judgmental, people remain upset or worried and leave with a difficult understanding. Others hear hope and immediately embrace learning more practical ideas. 

4. “No one understands.”

A psychologist attended a conference with others in his field. Their overwhelming consensus was that the number one hardship for patients is a lack of effective support at home.

Generally, in American society we are clueless how to handle one another’s suffering. The reason is fear based in lack of know-how. Mental illness is especially challenging to understand because we have been and continue to be falsely indoctrinated that people who live with it are scary and possibly violent.

Normalizing mental health issues is an important part of saving lives and treating those who live with mental illness.

5. “I help those who live with mental illness.”

Volunteers, religious leaders, school principals and teachers, professional counselors and therapists, nurses and doctors of nearly every specialty, and others want me to know they are in the fight too. Sometimes they have questions.

Interestingly, psychologists and psychiatrists whom I’ve never met before, want to know what type of therapy I receive, medicines I take, and how I feel now. It is slightly amusing when they assume an automatic right to examine my recovery. It is also nice to see that these caretakers are passionate about their profession. I openly and freely answer most inquiries because if I can help by sharing what works, that is what I want to do.

A stigma surrounding suicide is that those left behind ought somehow be ashamed. Even the topic is taboo. People express gratitude when I listen without advising or overreacting because so often they are not heard.

neqg3zyToday’s Helpful Word

Psalm 10:17

You [God] listen to the longings of those who suffer.
You offer them hope, and you pay attention
    to their cries for help.

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

How to Know When It’s Time for Professional Help: Part 2, Second Clues

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2017  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

2di5mkkA young college student who has Bipolar Disorder, mentioned he needs his friends to ask him how he is doing, and to make sure he takes his medications each day.

Why? He was earning straight A’s in a major in science and a minor in a foreign language. He made it to our meetings on time each morning. He is capable of organizing and remembering his treatment regime. 

Yet this young man had tried to kill himself multiple times. Just before we met, he had been hospitalized for another suicide attempt. His friends can play an important role by helping him follow doctor’s orders.  

How are we to know when professional mental healthcare is in our best interests? There are clues. Keep in mind, not every person will show the same symptoms or intensity of symptoms. The clues discussed in this series are meant as guides, not diagnostic tools.  

An article on VeryWell.com¹ claims one reason people do not seek or stick to professional treatment is denial of the problem.* Denial can look like brushing it off, and criticizing oneself (or a loved one) for having unwanted feelings and symptoms.

Only half of those who need treatment seek or find it; while an overwhelming majority of those who receive professional treatment go on to live more satisfying lives. 

Yes, they “go on to live”. 

Second Clues – Suicidal Thinking

Suicidal thinking is a valid reason to talk to professionals.  When thoughts and inclinations have turned to suicide, or suicide attempts, keeping these a secret is dangerous. Every suicide starts with a thought. Not every suicide attempt is noticeable if the one suffering does not tell anyone about it.

If we have suicidal thoughts – or if we are afraid we might die by suicide – there may have been some earlier symptoms such as described in Part 1.  Perhaps life has changed from participatory to hiding. Our usual energy level has sunk extremely low. We wonder if we are a burden to our families, friends, and the world.  Wouldn’t everyone be better without us?

We think about death. Reasoning goes something like this: Sure, some people love me, but they will get over it soon if I die;  My child deserves a better parent;  If I’m out of the way, my spouse can marry someone else and be happy;  I’m replaceable at work and in the world.  

Thoughts circle around: I want to disappear;  Nothing will ever change;  The future is bleak;  Nothing is worth this pain;  No one can forgive or love me; There are no options.

Maybe we have sent messages, clues to people around us that we need help, or that we plan to die soon. Statements similar to, “You won’t have to worry about me anymore”; “When I die everyone will know it”; “I don’t want to be here anymore,” or any other form of communication. Writing, social media, art, songs, school reports… all are ways we may have tried to let others know. 

When suicidal thoughts cross our minds and especially if they linger, it is time to seek professional help. If we are formulating plans, or when those thoughts turn to intent, it is time to call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room!

We are ultimately responsible for saving our own lives. One of the best ways to do that is to speak up clearly. No hinting.

Tell someone outright if you are considering suicide, and get professional involvement. Ask God to walk with you through this, and He will. There is help, there is hope, and there is life on the other side of this moment. 

Today’s Helpful Word

“Blessed are those who find wisdom…  She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;  those who hold her fast will be blessed.” – King Solomon

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

¹ Torrey, Trisha.  7 Reasons Patients Don’t Comply with Treatment Recommendations.  VeryWell.com. Reasons for Patient Noncompliance and Non-adherence updated March 06, 2016. Retrieved on January 8, 2017 from https://www.verywell.com/adhering-to-treatment-recommendations-2614978

I’m Begging You to Hear Me! Please, I’m Dying Here

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virdenphoto-24714726-young-man

Hold it all together. Don’t let anyone see you cry. 

Everyone seems happy, I wish I could be one of those people.
I’m different and no one knows.

I’m alone. Don’t know if I can hold on for much longer.

My screams are ignored, nobody hears me.  Now I see who really cares – no one. They’d be better off without me.  My life doesn’t matter.

Smile a little- can’t let anyone see you cry.

High school students hear a heartfelt message

One week ago today, three volunteers representing the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention stood in front of about fifty high schoolers and talked about depression and suicide. As one of those volunteers I had a few minutes to share my story and some typical thoughts anyone who is majorly depressed may have.

Our audience was exceptionally well-behaved (military boarding school), and fresh from saying goodbye to their families and friends back home. Everyone heard the message, it is OK to ask for help when you hurt.

But will they?

Two suicides and a threat 

Today, three of us offered a second presentation, this time to college-age students.  I introduced myself as a suicide attempt survivor, something never easy to admit.

A therapist reported that a friend’s family member died by suicide in the past week. A student-leader who works with school counselors to prevent suicide, said he would be attending his buddy’s funeral this afternoon- another suicide.   

I didn’t tell them how I’ve been locked in conversations with a suicidal loved one this whole week, trying to save a life.

Every 13 seconds, someone dies by suicide. Here in Pennsylvania, there are more suicides than homicides. Suicide is on the rise, and it’s main cause is untreated major depression.

Yet stigma remains intact, keeping us silent and ashamed, unhearing and uninformed, and dying for no good reason.

Hold it all together. Don’t let anyone see you cry. 

I’m alone. No one hears me. No one cares. 

No, no more screaming.

Don’t know if I will hold on much longer.

*********

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

-pictures from Qualitystockphotos.com

 

 

 

 

When is a Person Serious About Suicide?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2012 Nancy Virden

My personal experiences have led to meeting many people who have attempted or heavily contemplated suicide. To choose only three of their stories to tell here is difficult. However, let me introduce “Everett,” “Diamond,” and “Bruce.”

Everett.  Suicide Attempt

Everett is retired, having left his career behind due to a desire for rest. He has dealt with Major Depression for as long as he can remember.

His second marriage is struggling. He tells of the challenges he has living with his wife and mother-in-law, how they urge him everyday to get out of the house and find something to do. He confesses he is sphoto-24757858-old-man-with-crossed-armspending his time watching TV and little else. However Everett’s concerns did not start or end with his home situation.

A month before I met him, Everett had slashed his wrists. He was tired of living as an unhappy person, and felt useless since leaving his job. Following three weeks in the hospital, he returned to daily life where he continued to feel as if he was just waiting to die.

The best predictor of future death by suicide is a previous attempt. Someone who has this background is to be taken seriously when talk turns to, “No one will miss me,” “You’ll be better off when I am dead,” and other similar statements. 

Everett is doing better than many who share his mental health history because he wants change, is looking for part-time jobs and volunteer options, and attends marriage counseling with his wife. These are not permanent “cures” for Major Depression, and he may have to face it again.

Diamond. Repeated Suicidal Gestures

photo-24779100-frowning-womanDiamond is a public speaker on the issue of clinical Depression, has a husband, two adolescent children, and abuse in her past. Her parents did not beat her when she was a child, nevertheless they did not interfere when her ten older siblings did, repeatedly.

Her suicide gestures began in her early teens, and did not end for nearly ten years. She would take an overdose of pills, wait to be rescued, and then recuperate in a hospital. 

She still feels most of the time that she would rather be dead, yet has surrounded herself with friends to whom she reports daily. They hold her accountable and in this way, she is saving herself from future suicidal behaviors.

Why should someone like Diamond be taken seriously? Because she is desperate for help. Thank God she is calling out sooner than Everett did. To respond to her cry, as  overly dramatic as it may seem, is to invest in her life.

People who hurt themselves on purpose at all are in great emotional pain.  Until appropriate help is received, this risky behavior will likely continue until one day, the suicide gesture will not be stopped in time.

Bruce.  Suicidal Ideation

photo-24774846-a-mans-face-looking-awayBruce was the father of two young children. As Father’s Day approached, he had been growing increasingly despondent and withdrawn. He started to make insinuations that scared his young wife.  One afternoon, as he was declaring he had no reason to live, she asked him, “What am I, what are our children to you?” His answer, “Not enough.”

On Father’s Day, Bruce said, “I figured out a way to make suicide look like an accident.” Then he walked out the door, drove away in the car, and was gone for four hours. When he returned he simply said, “I don’t have the courage to do that,” and went to bed.

Suicide ideation, or thinking about committing suicide, is how every gesture and attempt begins. Ideation can grow over time and lead to a lethal act. People like Bruce have to be taken seriously because the seed of suicide has been planted. Like most  seeds, unless its sprout is plucked it tends to grow.

The simple rule of compassionate love, is when anyone  starts talking about dying or suicide, pay attention. No matter how many times this subject or threat has come up before, it is best to seek help for the hurting before action backs up despairing words.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com