Guest blogger Kimberly Zapata is the creator and voice behind Sunshine Spoils Milk, a blog dedicated to mental health and Motherhood. She is a regular contributor for Sammiches & Psych Meds, and her work has appeared on The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, BLUNTMoms, Mamalode, Bonbon Break and The Good Men Project. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Trigger Warning: Includes description of suicide attempt.
The day began like any other: with the pungent smell of cigarettes and coffee, with the distant sound of footsteps and muffled conversation, and with the rising of the sun.
An early “Wait, it isn’t even 6 o’clock yet. Why is it bright out?” rising of the sun.
Of course, I didn’t see the sun rise, because in my room, the curtains were still drawn. The lights were still off, and I was still buried beneath my sheets and my blanket. My head (and eyes) were shielded by a cheap Target pillow, but that is hardly the point. The point is that it was a regular day. A typical day.
It was just another beautiful summer morning.
But it was also to be my last day, or so I thought. Or so I had decided. Because on that day, the last day of my junior year of high school, I’d had enough.
I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe either, and I wanted to die. At 17, I genuinely wanted to die. And so I wrote a note, made a plan, and decided how I would end my life.
Pills, I thought. I’ll take lots and lots of pills. It seemed like the easiest, most logical way.
Of course, I know what you are thinking right now: Why? Why would a child want to take their own life?
And the truth is, I don’t know. Even now, 17 years later, I don’t have an answer for that. What I do know — thanks to my memory and several dozen shitty poems — is that I was struggling. I was suffering, and I was hurting. Physically, emotionally, and mentally, I was a wreck.
I was depressed. I had untreated and unmanaged depression.
And this warm June day was the day it all came to a head, and I couldn’t take it anymore. My mind was made up.
However, sometime after swallowing my 20th acetaminophen, but before my 30th, things changed. My mind changed, and I realized I didn’t want to die. (I really didn’t want to die.) I just didn’t know how be alive.
I didn’t know how to live.
And it turns out many “survivors” share this sentiment; many who attempt suicide do not have a desire to die. Instead, they — like me — are just trying to end the pain.
They are looking for relief.
Make no mistake: I know this doesn’t make sense, especially if you have never struggled with mental illness. Especially if you have never been plagued by suicidal thoughts. But suicide doesn’t always “make sense.” Depression doesn’t always make sense.
It is indiscriminate, illogical, inconsistent, and irrational.
But making the voices stop? Taking control of my uncontrollable life? Finding silence? Getting relief? Now, that made sense; sometimes, when I am deep in the throes of a depressive episode, it still makes sense.
And so, in spite of my newfound desire to live, I kept going. I kept downing pills. But a strange thing happened 36 hours later: I woke up. Alive.
Of course, I was furious, I thought. What a failure! I can’t even kill myself right.
But after recovering and going to therapy and receiving professional help, I realized there was another way. There was hope. And hope? That hope was worth more than gold.
Help and hope and not actually wanting to die is why 60–70% of suicide survivors never make a second attempt.
That said, while these odds sound good, every concern should be taken seriously. Every threat should be taken seriously, and if you know anyone exhibiting “warning signs” — if you know anyone talking about suicide, expressing an interest in suicide, acting out, and/or displaying hopelessness, helplessness, recklessness, apathy, or any extreme personality change — talk to them now and take them seriously.
Because while I didn’t want to die, I almost did.
On June 19, 2001, I almost died. And I’m really glad I didn’t.