After a failed suicide attempt, Keola Birano realized he needed to embrace his suicidal thoughts.
I feel my world collapsing on me as I stare at a bottle of pain killers. My hands shake uncontrollably as the voices within beg for the pain to end. I grab my pills and try to muster up the courage to take them all while an internal battle wages within my head. I try to push back my feelings of despair but it seems pointless as I experience flashbacks of a childhood trauma I hoped I had left in the past. These flashbacks seem so real that it causes me to close my eyes in an attempt to make this horrific movie disappear.
After what seems like hours I’m able to take control of my emotions through deep breathing and prayer. It feels like a miracle when I am able to get myself off the ledge and put down that bottle of pills. The next day I go through my usual routine without a word to anyone about the incident from the previous night. I am scared to share what had happened because I don’t know what did happen and I didn’t want anyone to label me crazy, especially since I was already feeling like I was going insane.
The next day I try to push past the previous night, but the suicidal thoughts keep creeping in. I do my best to forget my problems by throwing myself into my work. I work so hard I end up falling asleep during my nightly prayer. I feel like I have won the day.
Sadly this victory would be short lived. I woke up with the same flashbacks I’d had the night before, but this time I gave into the sadness that consumed me. What came next was my first attempt at suicide.
Looking back I realize now that I didn’t have to suffer in silence. I didn’t have to fear those dark thoughts or feelings of despair. If I had known those feelings didn’t make me a bad person or weak I may have never tried to commit suicide because I would have called out for help. I would have seen my symptoms as a medical issue that needed attention and not a personal defect that needed to be hidden.
Till this day I still struggle with thoughts of suicide but unlike before, I’m not ashamed. Unlike before I now know why I have them.
Here are my four reasons for embracing my suicidal thoughts rather than giving in to the shame I used to experience.
#1 — They tell me that I’m in need of attention.
For me, these thoughts serve as a warning notification. It’s like the way my phone lets me know that it needs to be charged. When my mind starts wandering toward suicide I quickly slow down and try to focus on what is happening in my life that could be causing me distress.
If I were to ignore these thoughts they aren’t likely to go away and the effort of trying to keep them at bay would drain me because I’d constantly be fighting to suppress my feelings. The best thing I can do for myself is to pay attention to this symptom and try to figure out the issue. That way I can make changes that will recharge me before I psychologically shut down.
#2 — These thoughts don’t mean I’m certifiable.
When I first started having suicidal thoughts I kept them hidden because I didn’t want people to think I belonged in a mental hospital. I didn’t want to be strapped down to a gurney while hospital staff shoved pills down my throat. These fears originated from the lack of credible information I had about mental health. After I tried to commit suicide I met with a counselor and learned what my condition really meant.
Through counseling I learned that my suicidal thoughts didn’t mean I was crazy, but meant I was human. My counselor helped me to realize that the flashbacks of my childhood, coupled with the issues I hadn’t worked through because of them, might cause anyone to contemplate suicide. I didn’t have to be ashamed because I was doing something that others would have done if they were in my circumstance.
Later in life I learned of other people who struggled with suicidal thoughts. People that I looked up to and respected. Suicidal thoughts don’t necessarily make me crazy, but they do remind me that I am a human in need of support.
#3 — Having these thoughts doesn’t mean I’m going to kill myself.
Just because I think about suicide it doesn’t mean I have to go through with it. As I learned with that first attempt, suicidal thoughts are the first steps toward possibly taking my life, but it doesn’t mean having them puts me on a path of no return. Instead, I choose to view them as just a starting point, which means I can still easily turn things around through counseling, stress management, and social support. This frame of thinking allows me to not freak out after every suicidal thought, which helps me avoid anxiety attacks, which can make my condition worse.
#4– Thoughts of suicide tell me that I shouldn’t be alone.
When I first experienced suicidal thoughts I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want people to see me suffering through my psychological pain, so I isolated myself hoping to overcome them on my own. I thought that if no one knew I could keep up my persona of being “normal.” I would quickly learn however that being isolated in this struggle only put me in greater danger.
For example, the first time I tried to commit suicide I was just a few feet away from friends who would have helped if I had woken them up, but I didn’t and I paid the price for it. Lucky for me it wasn’t the ultimate price, and after that day I knew I needed to speak up whenever those thoughts returned. By doing that I’ve been able to withstand those temporary moments of despair because I’ve informed those around me that I’m in need of support. This honest call for help has been a lifeline for me as friends, and now my wife, know when I’m in the danger zone.
If you are reading this and are having suicidal thoughts, please open up about them. Seek out help from professionals and from those in your life you trust. There is no shame in having suicidal thoughts. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t mean you have to go through with it. It means that you need help and support.
If you don’t know where to go for support you can go to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or, find a resource in your country from this list of International Suicide Lifeline numbers. Talk to someone. Please.
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Photo: Flickr/Sander van der Wel