Ever since last Friday and hearing about the tragic suicide of Chester Bennington I’ve been thinking about suicide. It has sadly already been a week since the news first broke and my thoughts are still heavily on him and suicide.
When I first heard the news I was just truly shocked and speechless. Chester Bennington had died? That couldn’t be right. That can’t be. Please don’t let that be true. I sincerely hope this is not true. But it was. He had died. And he had killed himself.
That was a heavy blow I am still unable to get past.
I couldn’t help but wonder how such a talented and insightful singer/songwriter could take his own life. Just weeks after a new album release, and practically days to the start of a North American tour. He was the frontman to a wildly successful group, and had millions of adoring fans who looked up to him and listened to his beautiful words with a ferocity that few can claim. And he had killed himself?
I just can’t understand it. I can’t understand how it could be possible. I can’t understand how he decided to make the choice that he did. I can’t understand it. I question this as if I myself have never struggled with suicidal thoughts before. But I can’t help it. I can’t help but feel confused. How could someone seemingly doing so well would commit suicide? Why? Why did he do it? Why would he feel that this was the end? Why would he feel that life was no longer worth living? What was it that broke him?
I was fortunate to see Linkin Park in concert with one of my best friends a few years ago, and it was one of the best nights. Their concert still resonates with me today when I hear their music, and I was hoping I would one day see them in concert again. They were just so good. But alas it is not meant to be. The one concert I was fortunate enough to see will have to be my single concert memory. Fortunately it’s a good enough memory it should last. But it certainly doesn’t make that we will never see Mr. Bennington in concert again any easier. In fact, it makes it harder.
His death is truly heartbreaking. He was so talented and his lyrics were beautiful poems. Listening to some of their music was like coming home. It felt like not only did he understand what you were feeling but he knew how to articulate it. He knew how to weave the words together so well that he could make the hardest emotion seem poetic and lovely.
I know that fame and success, no matter how much you have, doesn’t guarantee anyone anything when it comes to struggling with mental Illness. Having family and friends around you doesn’t guarantee anyone anything. If anyone understands the fragmented, disjointed, scary thoughts that can accompany mental illness it’s someone else (like me) who is also struggling with mental Illness. And for those of us who do struggle with mental illness, and have had suicidal thoughts, we know all too well how quickly things can go south, and how close many of us have come to dying by our own hands.
Those who struggle with mental illness tend to take solace in each other’s struggles. There is something about knowing that we are not alone, and that what we are feeling or struggling with is not just us. That others have scary thoughts like we do. That others have overwhelming emotions and urges that we try so hard to manage makes it seem a little less daunting. We hold onto each other and our respective struggles or demons or disorders and feel just a little bit less hopeless and alone. We hold fast that we will make it out alive. That we will all make it out alive. We hold fast that if others can make it then maybe we have a chance too. And when we lose one it can set us back. It can put a stop on any progress we’ve made thus far, and it can relegate us back to old habits and patterns, and the belief that we won’t be able to beat this. It can throw us into a tailspin that leaves us wondering and scared that we might be next.
We sometimes can’t help but think, if he can’t make it then what hope do I have?
It is always difficult to hear about the loss of a fellow sufferer. When the light of one of us is darkened by their own hand I think we all take it a little personally. Whether you knew the person or not. Because it means one more of us who didn’t make it. It means one of us didn’t make it out alive. It means the darkness took another light. It means that there is one less of us to hold onto and hope for better things. It means there is one less of us hoping to pull through. And we need all the hope we can get.
As anyone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts can tell you that often the thoughts are not on a linear path. In fact, they rarely go in any kind “logical” order. Feeling blue to sad. Sad to depressed. Depressed to severely depressed. Severely depressed to suicidal. It would be great to track it from phase to phase but it just doesn’t work that way. The path of mental health and mental Illness almost never goes the way of order. It is chaos personified.
It is sporadic and temperamental. It is tenuous and fragile. It is scary and dangerous. It is subject to change without a moment’s notice, and can leave you feeling like you’ve just been hit by a truck. You can wake up feeling okay and on a good path, and mere hours later you could be feeling like suicide is the only way out. Certain behaviours and moods can certainly help to identify and intervene before it gets that bad but as many signs that can be seen there are double the amount that can come out of nowhere. And the scariest part is that you can be feeling better and doing better and still have suicidal thoughts come on. You can be in recovery and moving forward and still find yourself falling backwards.
For myself there was something truly terrifying and so very fragile about moving away from depression. I was feeling better and I was seeing things clearer but there was still this nagging darkness behind me. In some ways it comforted me that my old familiar darkness was there, but it also scared me because it could creep up over and take me down again at any moment. And in fact, it did.
I remember the night I walked the floors of my hallway holding a knife and feeling like there was just no other way out. I was so terrified that night that blood would spill on the hardwood floors in my bedroom that it still shocks me I somehow managed to survive that night. I am still not sure what got me through to morning but whatever it was it stayed my hand long enough to call for help.
What really shook me about that night was that I had been doing so well. I had been seeing a therapist and making great strides in finally understanding a lot of my past and my trauma. I only recently discovered that back then I was really just scratching the surface, but I digress. I was working full-time, I was in a relationship that I loved, and I was doing stuff that interested me. I was generally feeling okay about things overall. It was by no means a complete recovery but it was certainly better than it had been.
Back when I was crying every day and feeling like the world was crushing me. When I felt so alone and lonely and that no matter how many words I used no one would ever understand me or be able to help me. When I felt so weighed down by life I could barely make it out of bed. Comparatively-speaking I was doing really well.
And then that night happened.
As the sky darkened outside my windows I suddenly felt this crushing weight on me that literally pushed me to the floor. Where I remained for a few hours crying until my tears ran dry and I was totally numb. I suddenly felt so hopeless and helpless that I was forever doomed to pain and suffering no matter what I did. I felt as if life was just not something that I was meant to have. I was never meant to be happy or have good things. I was forever destined to darkness. And it crushed me. I mean it broke me right down. As depressed as I had felt before, this weight that came over me literally left me breathless. I remember sitting just outside my bathroom gasping for air because something was breaking me down. Something was suffocating me. And it wasn’t long before I suddenly found myself with a knife in my hand and the will to live just fell away.
I didn’t care that I could die. I didn’t care if anyone might miss me. I didn’t care who found me or how. I didn’t care about anything. Literally. I lost my connection to the world so profoundly that it wasn’t until I saw the blood running down my leg that I realized where this was going. I frantically searched the apartment for bigger knives and drugs that I could take and things I could use to end it all. Anything was fair game. Jumping out the window, slicing my body to pieces, taking every drug in the apartment, or all of the above. I was on a mission and the completion was death.
Whatever carried me to morning did so without my knowledge.
I remember seeing the sun peak through the window and as I lay on the floor staring at the ceiling I was amazed that I was still alive. I laid there on the floor for most of the day after, as if I had run a marathon the night before, and at some point I fell asleep as the adrenalin dissipated. And it wasn’t until the following night before I finally moved off the floor. I slept most of the next few days away and spoke to no one. I’d like to say that what happened that night was cathartic and that it was a breakthrough for me, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close. It had terrified me. It had set me back to a place where I couldn’t even trust myself. It had literally almost killed me. It had not left me unscathed and I did not feel any better about life. It took months and serious therapy to bring me back to where I could function again.
One thing I did learn from that night was that even someone on the recovery can still be broken. I learned that being in therapy and coming back from depression did not mean that everything was okay, or that I was fully functioning again. It did not mean that the darkness couldn’t take me again. And that’s not to say that therapy and recovery are a lost cause because they aren’t. And it doesn’t mean that recovery will be negated in one fell swoop. Yes, that night blindsided me but that might not be true for others. And when I look back I can see in some parts why I turned to suicide that night.
That night almost killed me AND I still believe in recovery and I still believe in hope.
I wrote earlier that the path to suicide is not linear, or constant, and it often makes no logical sense, which is true. However, it is still a path. Suicidal thoughts rarely just spring out of nowhere for no reason. There are usually some signs that show where things are headed. Sometimes we see the path, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes others see the path before we do. And sometimes we don’t care what path we are on, or where it will end up, as long as it ends the pain and suffering.
What I want to really be clear about here is that suicide is something that should always be taken seriously. Whether the person is asking for help or whether they fully intend to end their life, the threat should be treated as real and true. I want people to understand that suicide is scary at times, even for the person who is attempting or committing suicide.
I want people to understand that suicide is rarely about not having a great life or great success. It is rarely about the people around us and in our lives. It is often about us, and our own pain and suffering. It is something that can happen to anyone and there may be times where it seems to come out of the blue. It can hide and spring on you when you least expect it. It is something that can happen when you’re in the darkness or trying to come out of the darkness.
There are as many reasons to commit suicide as there are people in the world. And what is enough reason for one may not be reason for another. So that is a lot of reasons and a lot of chances for the path to turn dark. And it’s important to keep in mind that feeling suicidal is not a weakness nor does it mean failure. It means that you need help. You are struggling, out of ideas, and out of options, and need help. You are boxed in, overwhelmed, stuck, lost, and need help. You feel helpless, hopeless and worthless, and need help.
The bottom line is that you need help. And you are entitled to it as much as anyone else is. You are NOT worthless. And even if you’re hope has diminished then let someone else hope for you, until yours comes back.
I am going to close this by saying that I hope anyone who feels suicidal, please reach out for help. Or if you know someone who is suicidal, please try to offer them support, whether it’s making the call for help for them, or just sitting with them to let them know they aren’t alone. Please take all suicidal threats seriously because it could cost a life.
I know that there will be some suicides that won’t be able to be stopped. There will be some who will not see the next day. There will be some who you won’t know are struggling. There will be some who will go out of their way to not tell you they are struggling. There will be some of us that won’t make it out alive. But if you see it, or they ever do tell you, please try to help.
For those who find themselves in the darkness and are unable to find your way back to the light, I sincerely hope you find peace, no matter where it lays.
Hope and hugs for everyone out there 🙂
SUICIDE LINES – CANADA: