46 Reasons to Live Despite Having Attempted Suicide
Post date: Aug 11, 2017 9:55:38 PM
In Jay Asher’s 2007 novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker gives thirteen reasons why she killed herself. In response, I want to describe forty-six reasons why real people want to stay alive despite having experienced severe trauma that prompted them to attempt to kill themselves.
These reasons are described in my Choosing to Live: Stories of Those Who Stepped Away from Suicide. I asked the forty-six people I talked to two questions: What led up to your suicide attempt? and What keeps you alive now? I can’t state all of these reasons in this blog, but here are several.
“Harmony” was shamed extensively by her mother when she was a child. Her mother, who herself had been severely criticized as a child by her mother, killed herself at age forty-two. Harmony tried to kill herself twice—once when she was a teenager and once when she was twenty-three.
When Harmony was forty-one, she told me, “Up until three years ago, I felt that there was nothing that could be done about my being flawed. I was incurable. But now that I am a year away from the age at which my mother committed suicide, I have a big motivation to find healing. I want to break the cycle from my grandmother to my mother to me. And getting into a relationship with the loving and accepting man three years ago made me realize that a different life was possible. I felt myself healing.”
Harmony continued: “The biggest part of the healing has come from understanding what was going on. It has enabled me to acknowledge that I had shame. It gave me power over the shame. It gave me hope that things would get better. And it gave me relief, overwhelming relief, at being freed from the prison that shame had created for me.”
When Harmony finally understood how she had been shamed as a child, she realized that she did not have to remain in the prison of self-rejection. She developed new patterns of thinking about herself. Because her wounds were deep, her healing was slow. But it was, nevertheless, real.
When “Orlando” was a child he was bullied. His family was not supportive during his teenage years. At nineteen, he said, “It was about six in the morning when I decided to go to a nearby beach. I wanted to die. Everything was telling me I should drown myself. I walked into the ocean. In one of the waves, I went under water. I felt weak and tired, and I closed my eyes. I entered a trance state.”
“A fisherman came and pulled me from the water. He hugged me. It was the first time someone listened to me and gave me the advice that I should press on. That made me reflect. I decided to start over.”
When Orlando was twenty-five, he said to me: “Something in me says that I should continue onward, that everything will be okay. I see it as an energy that pushes me forward to do the things I have to do, treating patients who are going through the same things I went through.”
Orlando was deeply affected by the kindness of a stranger, who pulled him from the waves just as he was about to lose consciousness. Instead of shrugging off that kindness, he chose to become a therapist so that he could help others who were victims of harassment. The energy that was awakened that day at the ocean keeps him pressing on.
“Aleema” was raped when she was twelve. Her father often got drunk; her mother rejected her. She tried to kill herself when she was thirteen and again when she was twenty-two. For several decades she sometimes did well and sometimes did not, but always hid her emotional pain from herself.
When Aleema was fifty-nine, she told me, “I don’t need to hold on to the horrible things in my past: The beatings and ugly names my mother called me. The abuse from people I thought cared about me. Feelings of unworthiness. The rapes, the molestation, the prostitution. All of the pain. All the shame. I can let it all go.”
One way of dealing with emotional pain is to try to hide it from oneself. Aleema did this for decades. But eventually the pain bubbled up and tormented her. When, finally, she acknowledged her distress, she could stop living a double life and work on letting the pain go.
Despite the severe trauma that Harmony, Orlando, and Aleema endured, they found reasons to continue living.
© 2017 by Cliff Williams