(Written December 19, 2019)
We are afraid that if we normalize suicidal thoughts we are saying that suicide is okay. To the contrary, if we admit that having depressive or suicidal thoughts is a part of the normal human experience we can actually start to have a dialogue about suicide and perhaps have a real chance of making strides towards prevention. So I’ll start…
At first when my husband died by suicide I did not get it at ALL. I didn’t understand how he would see that as an option because that thought had never crossed my mind. But now I realize that I had just been one of the lucky ones. When things got to be too much for me I didn’t get depressed in the traditional sense, instead my perfectionistic tendencies kicked in and I tried to “fix” my way out of whatever was bothering me. I was pretty successful at doing that until Chuck died but I couldn’t fix his death so my normal coping strategies failed me.
I remember it very clearly. It was about a month after Chuck died and I was having dinner with my Dad at a restaurant that Chuck and I had gone to often. I was already feeling very anxious and uneasy and I went to the bathroom. While in there, darkness suddenly engulfed me and thoughts of dying swirled in my mind and momentarily I saw suicide as a viable option. At that moment I didn’t see any good in my life and I couldn’t envision it being any different in the future.
I have never been more scared in my life than I was standing in that bathroom. I was terrified that those thoughts were mine and I was so sad that Chuck must have battled those thoughts repeatedly before ending his life. But I was very lucky because my suicidal thoughts were transient and after I walked out of that bathroom they were gone and I haven’t had them since. I also feel very fortunate that I had that experience because it helped me to empathize with Chuck and others who have battled suicidal thoughts. It helped me to see that suicidal thoughts can come on very suddenly (and also leave just as quickly) and the importance of being proactive in my mental health.
I was already seeing a therapist following Chuck’s death and I shared my experience with her. She helped to normalize it and has continued to support me through my grief journey.