TW: Suicide discussion, medical abuse, trauma
Through all my antics in my 20s, I never ended up in jail, the hospital, or the psyche ward. I got away with a lot of dumb shit…mostly it was the 80s everyone was on coke so it was hard to tell who was actually manic :O I was mostly lucky. Lucky I didn’t drive myself into a light pole. Lucky I didn’t hurt anyone else. Didn’t have a heart attack, didn’t get any STDs (still a bigger miracle than I care to contemplate) didn’t stay manic long enough to run away too far too often. It’s hard to say but I think I’m lucky that I was so depressed a lot. Probably saved my life when I was so massively unregulated and unaware.
But Luck only goes so far…
You know what a suicide attempt doesn’t get you? ANY kindness, compassion, sympathy. At least that was my experience. If you are lucky most people will just pretend it didn’t happen. But mostly they fall into two categories shame and blame.
“How could you” –
“If only you could get your life together”
‘you are so selfish’
“What a drama queen”
— and those are mostly your friends.
But ya know what? any of us that feel that terrible to make an attempt are not surprised by the response… if anything it’s what we expect and part of why we end up where we do…but that’s like a whole PBS special worth of sh*t to discuss so we’ll just move on. (Pssst please find out how and why suicide happens so that you can help prevent further suicide ideation – isolation does not help)
What I was not prepared for was just how truly “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” the whole freaking system was. (Mind you this is 15 years ago perhaps it’s better in some places? I have very little hope but maybe?)
The first thing I was subjected to was being hit to keep me awake. Surreptitiously, (this is where I tell you not to leave vulnerable people alone if possible everyone needs an advocate. Stores soapbox for later use) And yelled at. The way they spoke to you like a criminal. Like you had reached out and attacked them personally. But see here’s the thing I think that’s why we get so judgy around suicide ideation and death by suicide because people feel guilty and rather than stopping and going HEY maybe this person needs our help everyone goes “HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME FEEL BADLY ABOUT MYSELF HERE IS MY MISPLACED DISCOMFORT IN THE FORM OF JUDGMENT AND ANGER” and I can tell you from experience it absolutely makes things worse. Some compassion would save a lot more lives and possibly let people live happier lives. I was once again lucky. I had a few key people that made it known I would be missed and I was worth the hassle. Praise jibbers for my family. Not everyone is so lucky. I wandered off again. It’s hard to remember this stuff. It’s like flashes of a bad movie. The moment I was out of sight of my family I was ridiculed. Called sad princess. Oh, what no one loves you honey…we’ve heard it all.
This was the staff y’all. The other mental patients were all just sad and needy and broken down. God, it was truly a terrible experience. I suppose for me it sort of worked. I guarantee I’ll never let myself go back to a ward. That was a worse trauma than childhood beatings, catholic school. and the death of my husband. You are at your most vulnerable. You’re like a small child who just had a terrible accident and you’re laying there crying and bleeding and instead of someone picking you up and taking care of you everyone laughs and points and tells you not to be such a worthless clutz.
Y’all I was a 37-year-old woman and I had been abused before and I tell you this was awful. Can you imagine what has happened to old people, children, and more vulnerable people? Everyone was treated like a stupid, evil, uncooperative child. We were yelled at, humiliated, and watched. And the WHOLE time I still felt lucky because I had my faculties about me – the people I was surrounded by broke my heart. There was screaming and crying and rocking and no one, except the group therapy guide, they were pretty reasonable and kind, was soothing or helpful or kind.
Y’all I had a good corporate job and pretty darn good insurance…now imagine what is happening… No, don’t imagine it. Do what I did. I got out on a Wednesday with my new Seroquel prescription, after 5 days. (Again I was so lucky) That Wednesday night we watched “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”
and I laughed that gallows humour laugh until I curled up in bed and cried myself to sleep. Because that sh*t was barely exaggerated. I guess I’ve never really told anyone how bad it was. It’s sort of embarrassing actually. That I never did anything. That I just walked away.
I was lucky. I was so damn lucky. So many others aren’t. So if you ever wonder why some people choose to live on the street rather than “get help” this might help you out a bit.
Go hug someone you love. Call a friend. Be there for someone. You never know that one kind word, that smile, it could change a life…maybe even save it.
And if a friend uses suicide to cry for help….don’t punish them. They just need to know that they matter. Shame is never the helpful answer when someone is hurting.