Until last night the only time I ever came close to having a plan to commit suicide was when I was 21 and on a cocktail of 7 psychiatric drugs. I had visions of hanging myself out my window with a rope that I’d never had before and have never had since. I’ve spent precious little of my life being actively suicidal and even those visions seemed more like haunting images than actual plans or intentions.
I’ve been lucky enough not to make a plan to kill myself despite a growing mass of time feeling suicidal. Since my lifelong friend Michael Bloom’s death by suicide 2 years ago, it has been a default state of mind for me to feel suicidal when I feel broken. As naive as this may sound to some, last night was the first time I ever went towards a plan in my mind
After having a recurring stomach flu that felt intertwined with a lot of feelings of separation and alienation from many people I have considered family (including my birth family) and losing my appetite on and off for a week, the thought of downing a bunch of pills went through my mind. When I lose my appetite (for emotional or physical reasons), I almost always feel suicidal, due in large part to the deficiency and lack of reserve from not eating. The combination of physical and emotional loss of appetite this week put me over the edge to finally approaching the loss of my suicidal-plan-virginity.
The ironic thing was when I played out the prospect of downing a bunch of pills, I had the realization I wouldn’t die anyway. I would go through another trial of the body and I wouldn’t die. I can’t explain how I knew this or why some people die and others don’t, but I can say I know it’s not my time to die. Many people survive suicide attempts and other near death experiences “against all odds” (while of course many, like my dear friend Michael, do not and I have no explanation for this).
This might sound like a torturous thought to someone feeling suicidal and at loose ends, but rather it was the opposite. After playing out this scenario, and having the realization that I simply am not gong to die anytime soon no matter what I do, I felt relieved. I felt light hearted. A sense of optimism returned to me. I recalled something a friend wrote to me almost 15 years ago when I was losing faith as I was last night. “You are woven into a fabric that holds you and loves you and will not let you fall.” This phrase came back to me and rang true in a new way.
I feel most at ease and safe when I know I have no choice. This is strange to many people, I am aware, but it has been true for me for as long as I can remember. I like to feel that the Universe is guiding me and I am basically going along for the ride. Perhaps someday I’ll grow into a more willful and self-directed approach to life, or maybe I’ll continue to move toward surrender and feeling protected by something bigger than myself. What I know right now is that surrendering to something bigger than myself has thus far been the only option that works for me and it is what keeps me alive.
Knowing there is a purpose and plan for my life that is stubborn, relentless, unwavering and unwilling to die (just yet) is a relief. When I share suicidal feelings with others, I usually say, “I don’t have a plan.” Now I have numerous friends I don’t need a disclaimer with. They know by now I don’t have a plan. And now even if I do I have another disclaimer: I’m here for a reason. It’s not my time to die. I have more to do even if these things terrify me. I have a purpose. The Universe has dreams for me and holds them solidly even when I can’t. Especially when I can’t.
Sometimes every day feels like a suicide attempt, a stomach pump, a near death experience and the combination of feeling further damaged and a stronger sense of purpose. Since I go through this cycle regularly, a suicide attempt seems frivolous. The only point would be to indicate to others how much I’m suffering, how real it is.
This brings me to the humble task of communicating, telling people emphatically how much I am suffering at times, asking for reassurance that my dear ones love and care about me and sense my purpose. This may sound self indulgent, and it may be, but it is also a preventative measure, harm reduction and what keeps me from addiction and suicide. Haven’t most of us had moments of wanting to die so others would finally value us, notice how much pain we’re in, name our special qualities, express how much they loved us, regret their behavior that hurt us? Isn’t it humbling to admit we need our loved ones to tell us how much we mean to them sometimes, how much they care?
My vulnerability and brokenness in this regard may make me unpopular with some who pride themselves on being “more together,” yet it also fosters the intimacy, closeness and trust I feel with so many. And because of it, I don’t need to ask myself if anyone will care if I die. I can experience that reassurance while I’m alive if I have the humility to ask for it, and keep asking until my soul is met with other souls who genuinely care. That experience humbles me greatly and somehow makes all of my brokenness feel like love and open heartedness. Against all odds.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Thank you, Chaya, for your honesty, openness, and vulnerability. As a person who has both survived my own suicide attempts as well as the loss of others in my life to suicide, I relate to this very much. I think there is something worth noticing in the interplay of grief, loss, separation, and our own thwarted communication — specifically, how all that can emphasize our suicidal thoughts and feelings. For me, when I have those thoughts or feelings, it’s often a sign that something isn’t getting communicated, or that something in my life needs attending to in a serious way. Then my task is to figure out what that is, and how to attend to it — often not an easy thing. This is why it’s so important to let trusted others know about your suicidal thoughts (as you do, and have done!) so as to enlist support in helping you to sort through all those conflicting feelings, and to help you care for yourself in the ways that best support your healing.
Ultimately, like you, I would say that one of the big reasons that I’m not planning on dying anytime soon is because I also feel connected to a higher purpose, a call to service that I can’t (and won’t) ignore. This keeps me motivated, even during darker moments. It gives me hope. And hope, I find, is crucial to my wellness. So I’m hopeful for you, Chaya, and thank you again for writing your truth to all of us reading here.
“For me, when I have those thoughts or feelings, it’s often a sign that something isn’t getting communicated, or that something in my life needs attending to in a serious way. Then my task is to figure out what that is, and how to attend to it — often not an easy thing.”
Most people who pride themselves on being “more together” are usually total phonies anyway even if they do have it together. Sometimes I over hear there trivial conversations and pointless small talk from the next table when eating at a restaurant and am glad I’m not like them. Sometimes if I’m out with recovery friends and we are talking about our experience with jails, institutions, and near deaths the “more together” people overhear and who knows what they are thinking.
Dont let the “more together” people bring you down, stick with us.
Thanks Copycat. I appreciate the solidarity. 🙂 This comment makes me smile.
hells yeah for the honesty, Chaya…
“Haven’t most of us had moments of wanting to die so others would finally value us, notice how much pain we’re in, name our special qualities, express how much they loved us, regret their behavior that hurt us? Isn’t it humbling to admit we need our loved ones to tell us how much we mean to them sometimes, how much they care?”
Yup. This is so true. Glad you’re around.
I loved this sentence: “Sometimes every day feels like a suicide attempt, a stomach pump, a near death experience and the combination of feeling further damaged and a stronger sense of purpose.”
Thanks for posting this personal experience. It is wonderful that you have people to share these things with.
“alienation from many people I have considered family”
This is really hard. Chosen family, close friends, and other supportive people can help a lot.
Best wishes to everyone for this holiday season.
Thank you Tom. Yes, many chosen family are on my path and I am glad to have such wonderful people around me.
Thank you for writing this, Chaya, and thank you for being in the world. 🙂
Chaya…really powerful words. Thank you for sharing so deeply. Reading your words, and other articles you have written show me someone who has some very deep wisdom. Even in the midst of pain and suffering you are offering some very good heart medicine. Thank you for being here.
Thank you Jonathan!
I believe we’re all “broken”, and that love is the only thing that helps any of us “beat the odds.”
Thank you for another fine post. Glad you’re here.
Thanks Duane! I agree. “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
I too have suicidal thoughts sometimes when I feel “broken” or am physically ill — but they’re not nearly as overwhelming and incomprehensible as when I was on a cocktail of 6-7 psych meds.
Thank you for your honest and compassionate posts and willingness to share your human vulnerabilities with others. I always enjoy reading what you have to say. I’m sorry you were feeling so badly lately.
You’re doing important work in the world.
That means a lot to me.
“The world need authentic beings to have the courage to be who they are,” Mark Nepo. Thank you for sharing so honestly Chaya. I met you not too long ago and your energy is one I felt have so much to share with the world. “You are a creator of your life, you do this by your intention, I believe I heard Oprah or Gary Zukav said this recently. You have stated your intention to live well and have people around you who share that hope with you. I look forward to all you have to share with the world! ~ Corrine
Thanks Corrine!! It means a lot to me to read these words. I love how we can pick up on what others have to offer. Thank you for seeing that in me. Where did we meet?
Hi Chaya, I met you at AU in Wethersfield, CT when you were filming sex and psychotropic drugs. A conversation I would like to continue with now that it is in my consciousness I am much more aware now of this.