Following a suicide attempt, you may have conflicting feelings about your experience. It may be that you feel ashamed, confused, relieved, disappointed, or angry that you need help. I have recently made a suicide attempt and feel all those emotions which is exhausting in itself. It is a nasty cauldron of mixed emotions to work through and high on the list is guilt as if you are not carrying enough, if you suffer from Complex PTSD through child abuse.
A common experience for people after a suicide attempt is lethargy and physical fatigue. The suicide attempt, reactions from others and the experience in the emergency department may all be overwhelming you right now.
It may be helpful to remember that while all these feelings are probably very intense for you right now, they will pass and a return to normal life is possible.
Reasons for living
People who have been through this experience may find that it is helpful to reflect on their reasons to live. It may be your family, children, friends or even a beloved pet that are your most important reasons for living. Perhaps it’s a passion or interest that is meaningful to you. While reflecting, you may want to write these thoughts down and keep them for future reference in case you are feeling suicidal in the future, or if you just want a reminder of all the things that make your life worth living. This I can find easy to say in retrospect and in the cold light of day but when I get overwhelmed with suicidality it can be really hard to focus on all the ‘right strategies that we have learned’. We have found a tool useful in our house. We have adopted the Australian Bush Fire Warning System. This is a sign that is located at the top of every country road which has a dial that points to the words low, medium, high, dangerous depending on the level of bush fire risk. We use this ‘code’ to rate my suicidality and it has many times averted calamitous situations getting out of control. It’s simple but it works – most of the time and does not alarm the children. As any person who has attempted suicide will tell you we love our families dearly and do not wish to hurt them or leave them but just at that time cannot live with the trauma any longer. We get overwhelmed. This is where being closely in tune with a loved one who understands unashamedly our suicidality is vital. It is literally a lifesaver.
Support after a suicide attempt
Suicide is still a delicate subject and is largely misunderstood. The stigma surrounding suicide might cause you to worry about what other people are thinking. Remember that it is your choice who you talk with about what you are experiencing. It is important to be kind to yourself and surround yourself with trusted and supportive people. Building a strong support network is a key stage in recovering from a suicide attempt and keeping safe in the future. It is helpful to have at least one person you can talk to about your feelings, especially if you start to have suicidal thoughts again. Professional support is essential. You cannot leave it just to your family and friends. There is no shame in attempting suicide. No one would do it unless they were desperate. It is not a choice and do not let anyone tell you it is. In the case Complex PTSD it is the disorder taking over. Seek your professional therapist as soon as possible and re-engage with therapy. Therapy is a process. It’s one step forward, two steps back. With the support of those around you, you can win the fight again PTSD and it’s demons.
It is impossible for families to not ask “Are we not enough to keep you wanting to live ?”. I have been asked this many times by my family and it is the most heart breaking question a parent can be asked by their children because what do you say ? I reply that I love them with all my heart but that the demons from my past overwhelm me and drive me to want to kill myself. I feel that they are better off with their father which they of course fervently deny and it’s probably true but when I am ill that is how I feel. That I am not worthy of them. So the challenge is having a suicide plan in place that loved ones can call on when they observe those tell tale signs of deterioration in behaviour. There needs to be open communication about these plans with your therapist too because there is nothing more devious than a suicidal person. Believe me I know. Have a trusted team around you who know you well. Your children will be forever grateful.