When Louise* was a teenager, her uncle regularly molested her. She thought that was normal, because he behaved the same way toward a lot of young girls. Her uncle said, “I do this because I love you.”
When she left home at seventeen, she felt that there was something hanging over her, something that had not been addressed, but she didn’t know what it was and wasn’t able to express what she was feeling. Everything had been shoved under a rug by her family.
She got a job, but could not shake the painful emotions that plagued her. By her late twenties she had spiraled to a place of darkness. She was in such emotional pain that she started thinking about killing herself.
At first she didn’t want actually to kill herself, because she didn’t want to hurt anyone else. In the end, though, easing her own pain became more important than not hurting someone else. She attempted to shoot herself in the head, but the gun jerked and simply grazed her head.
Louise’s story is both different and the same from other people’s stories involving a suicide attempt. It is different because there are many different sources of emotional pain—bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress syndrome, parental criticism, to name a few. It is the same because it involves a high level of emotional pain. The pain level is so high that the person who experiences it is willing to do anything to get rid of it, including dying. If someone believes that the only way to rid themselves of pain is to die, they will become suicidal.
A different way to answer the question, Why do people want to kill themselves? is to say that people who experience intense pain do not actually want to die. Rather, they simply want the pain to go away. As Garrett* said, “I didn’t want to die. I just wanted the pain to end.”
* Not their real names
© 2015 by Cliff Williams All rights reserved