As a mom I struggle with that moment when Charles took the steps to end his life. I know he knew we loved him. But it’s so painful to think my love was not enough to prevent his death. Or that he thought we didn’t love him at that moment and we were all better off without him.
That’s where those of us who’ve lost someone to suicide struggle the most.
Not too long ago, I got a message from a young man who lives in Chicago. He was doing some research and found this blog and reached out to me. He admitted he was depressed and had suffered from suicidal thoughts and is in the process of getting help.
Despite the fact he’s suffering and not surrounded by people who currently have a good understanding of depression or mental illness, I am impressed he is fighting for himself and trying to figure all this out–which is complex even for those of us who’ve been advocates for mental health for years.
Something he said stuck with me and helped me understand that irrational moment when someone is in such despair, they can’t see past their pain. I thought this was very honest and showed such amazing self understanding.
“I see suicide as bad but I’m starting to see why it’s like at some point I won’t be able to care anymore about how it would make my family feel.”
He’s not being selfish. He’s simply understanding that that moment is irrational. I’ve never heard anyone say it that way. And it’s now so much clearer to me the state of mind Charles must have been in. I feel like it would have been impossible for him to know how much we loved him in that moment. You can’t make well-informed decisions when you’re mind is in acute emotional distress.
It was that one statement that made me realize that not only was Charles experiencing irrational thinking and unable to make a decision to help himself, emotion and confusion rendered me decision-impaired as well. And that’s why I didn’t react like a normal mother.
Funny how one statement sticks with you for days and then becomes an Aha! moment that unlocks a secret you did not previously comprehend. I get it now. As much as anyone can that has never had those thoughts.
The key to healing, the key to preventing suicide is understanding it. I don’t think I can have this realization without also recognizing what it means. And that is if you have had thoughts of suicide, even if you are taking care of your mental health, you need to have a plan.
You plan for all sorts of other things like a jack and spare in case you get a flat tire. It only makes sense to have a plan to keep yourself safe.
So take a second and program this number into your phone. For you, for a loved one, for someone you might save that you have yet to meet.