Content warning: The following story contains references to self-harm and suicidality, which may be triggering to some readers.
“Voice from the Darkness,” Raquel Lyons
I tried to kill myself.
Wait for it.
I tried to kill myself.
There, that’s more accurate.
I was listening to “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran when I wrote my suicide note poem titled “May Our Souls Rest Tonight” back in May 2015.
I’ve attempted suicide twice and yet I don’t consider myself a suicide attempt survivor. I would have to have made a “serious” attempt on my life in order to be considered that term. I’m talking multiple broken bones and permanent side effects kind of suicide attempt survivor stuff.
Even though when I look up close to things my eyes move back and forth rapidly and THAT’s because of a suicide attempt, I guess, it just doesn’t “count.”
Not in my brain.
Let me formally introduce myself to you--hi, hello, welcome, over in the far right corner is OCD, behind them is secondary depression and self-harm obsessions/thoughts and suicide obsessions/thoughts line all the bloody walls in this place. Now, that’s an introduction!
I don’t want this piece to be about the recovery side of things--I’ve already written and write daily about that before. No, instead, I just want this to be a talkative piece. Where I share with you my darkest days, where suicidal ideation ran rampant and I was convinced I was going to die by suicide.
I just want that story to be told--because it hasn’t been, not yet. And it’s time I stepped away from the shadows and found my voice, and used it.
So, let’s begin, shall we?
As someone dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on self-harm and suicide obsessions--by the textbook I never should have acted them. Yet, even when I was “just” dealing with OCD, I was acting on the obsessions. I thought, maybe if I did what the OCD said, it would go away.
So I sat on a ledge. So I jabbed myself with car keys. So I scratched myself. So I took one pill of an old prescribed painkiller.
But still, the OCD came back. In fact, it came back tenfold worse after I had acted on the thoughts.
I wasn’t trying to hurt myself (except when I was); I was just trying to find freedom. Everything in my world had turned upside down, I didn’t know what was right or what was wrong anymore and the doubt was getting on my nerves. I was tired of the emotional whirlwinds--spiraling from anxiety to depression to anger to apathy. I just wanted it all to end, to pause for even the simplest of moments. But I didn’t have the “guts” to kill myself.
And, let me be clear here: Suicide doesn’t take “guts”; suicide isn’t a “brave” or “cowardly” act. Suicide just is. That’s why I’ve used the quotations here, because even with quotations those accusations are just such utter bullshit. And, it’s about time someone called them out for what they are and not prance around pretending like it’s anything other than bullshit.
Secondary depression set in during the time my therapist “Steve” was away, during the winter break. On the night before New Year’s Eve, I felt depression speak up from the shadows. It told me that suicide was my only way out of the hell that was OCD. It told me that there was nothing I could do to make my emotional pain stop. I had tried every possible positive coping strategy for four hours that evening, just so I could get some blissful, sweet sleep.
Yet the sleep never came.
No matter what I did, nothing was working. Nothing would ever work; there was nothing I could do to make the pain stop, and all I wanted was the pain to stop, right?
For six days, I planned my suicide. That was all I thought about: suicide, suicide, suicide, suicide. Details from what I’d wear to where I would do it, to who I could tell to stop myself, to not believing at all that I would even follow through with it. I dreamt of suicide as my release, my freedom. It was my fantasy of releasing me from the hell that I was stuck in. How sweet, no, how beautiful suicide would be to me. I yearned for it even as I read articles upon articles about suicide prevention, trying to convey their warning signs into my daily life.
I wanted my freedom and I wanted it desperately.
I thought, because of the nature of the OCD that I was dealing with, that if I told someone about the thoughts that I was having on suicide, the fixation of it, that they wouldn’t believe me to be a danger to myself. I thought they might just think I was talking about the OCD again and that they’d respond with thoughts are just thoughts.
I thought that I had to prove I was a danger to myself. And the only way I could prove that, my brain said, was to act on my suicidal thoughts. The only way I would prove I was serious about dying from suicide, was if I died by suicide.
I remember the discussion between my brain and myself. I remember it taunting me, telling me if I didn’t ingest the pills, what I was dealing with was “just” OCD. But, if I ingested the pills, then it was something else. So, was it “just” OCD or was it something else?
I remember my own self-awareness that I knew my true self would recognize that ten pills, twenty pills would be a genuine threat to me, and therefore I would step in to prevent myself from acting on my suicidal thoughts. So, I had to trick myself. I had to get myself to ingest some smaller amount.
Suicide had to be better than the hell that I was struggling to breathe in. Breathing was exhausting, moving was exhausting, everything had just become exhausting.
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk, and I couldn’t open my damn mouth to let somebody know--anybody! The secondary depression stole my voice, the OCD my will to live. There had to be a way out of that life and the only alternative that was always on my mind, playing like a charred weapon throwing out bullets, was suicide.
However, first I had to convince myself to let go of life. Before I could act on my suicidal thoughts, I had to ask myself permission to kill myself.
I knew the first hour of the OCD telling me to kill myself would be met with a firm no. But after the three hundredth time, then, then I would waver. And then a little more time after that and I’d be considering and I’d finally, finally give myself that sweet, glistening allowance: Okay, I’ll do what you say.
All in the disillusionment that the OCD would give me reprieve if I just did what it said.
This led up to the first time I tried to kill myself on Tuesday, January 6th 2015, when I ingested five pills of that same painkiller from earlier. I walked into 2015 with the promise to myself that I wouldn’t see the end of the year, because I’d be dead.
But, I lacked conviction.
In sharing my story for this piece, someone told me that I couldn’t prove death. That I couldn’t possibly prove I was serious about suicide if I died by suicide and stayed dead. If I stayed dead by suicide I wouldn’t be able to live my life another day, and some part of me wanted to live life another day. Death doesn’t work that way, though.
And, I think that’s the worst part.
The worst part is not in all the action that I did manage--sticking a pen in an electrical outlet, how I tried slitting my wrist on the toilet paper dispenser after I placed a bag over my head for ten seconds, how I skipped class because I was trying to hang myself in the bathroom about ten feet away from the classroom.
The worst part is certainly not lying within the three hospitalizations I had from the end of January 2015 to June 2015.
The worst part is that no matter what I act on it is still not considered “serious”, not really.
I’m still seen as someone who didn’t really want to die--and you know, yeah, that’s true. Wanting freedom and wanting death are two different things, but when they seemingly align to mean the same thing, you’ve got some serious problems going down.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t lack such conviction. Some days I wake up and think to myself, “Damn it, you should have killed yourself when you had the chance.”
These are no easy things to admit. But I’m being honest about my experiences, because there are not enough voices out there who are sharing these words, words others can relate to and feel less alone because of them. Because talking about suicide is important, especially when it comes to preventing another suicide from happening.
More days I’m glad to have survived my suicidal crises. I may not completely, or even partially, consider myself a suicide attempt survivor, because of the low doses of painkillers I ingested, but I acted on it. I followed through with suicide plans. And by mental health professionals’ standards, that IS serious.
Sure, that’s not what the OCD tells me, but the OCD also tells me to go kill myself so really I shouldn’t be listening to its bullshit anyhow.
I can say though, with certainty, that I hate it when people suggest my suicide attempts weren’t “that bad”, or “I wasn’t really trying to kill myself” or “it was a cry for help.”
Way to kick me when I’m down, bro!
I hate it because it fuels the OCD, because in my brain it’s confirmation that it was right all along. But I don’t want to die to prove that point!
And worse, no one wants me to go acting on that either. What they say is intended to make me think of the part of myself that wants to live and recover and be happy. But I interpret it as “Oh, you weren’t really serious otherwise you’d be dead.”
And, that sucks.
When it came to my second suicide attempt I immediately felt regret. I was filled to the brim of the thoughts: “Oh shit, what did I do? What if I die? I don’t want to die.”
That fear was palpable when I thought I might die, and I found out that the OCD, the depression, everything in my brain had LIED to me.
Suicide wasn’t freedom. Suicide wasn’t relief. Suicide was painful. Suicide was shit. Suicide meant releasing pain onto others and taking away any chance of the future possibilities of life getting better. Suicide meant never seeing some god damn rock formations in the future, not getting to smile again, to laugh, to listen to music, to just feel and be and breathe. Suicide was painful and sickening and meant ending my life just when I realized how much I had to live for.
For six months I had been lied to, and I had believed those lies. And when I found this out, when I found the truth, I was beyond pissed off. I was also disappointed, because now the one thing I had believed in so much wasn’t true, and there was a loss in that.
That loss has brought me back to the present moment. I haven’t acted on thoughts regarding scratching myself, self-harm in general or suicidality in at least a month, but many more for other aspects of that list (i.e. scratching myself and the suicidality).
While I haven’t acted on them, I have wanted to. Oh, how I have wanted to. But I don’t, because in losing suicide as a fantasy, the reality of suicide has hit me square in the face.
There was something that I told myself when I was suffering through my suicidal crises that I’ll share with you now:
“Some people make it through their suicidality, and some people don’t. We lose some people to suicide, and that sucks. They likely felt some inkling of what I feel right now and that may have been the last thing they ever experienced. So am I going to be someone who makes it to recovery or someone who doesn’t?”
For me, these were sobering words. They allowed me to see the reality of the situation, there was no foolery or bullshit, just blatant fact.
There are times, today, where I think to myself that my voice and my story matter more when I’m alive than when I’m gone. And likely, with society as it is today, if I were to die by suicide? I can’t imagine anyone would be told it was that because suicide is just not spoken about, and that’s bullshit at its finest.
It’s at this point in the story where I elude to the fact that there isn’t an ending. Where I elude to the fact that I am an ongoing story (loose leaf pages, by the way) and I thank you for reading and spending some time visiting this old noggin of mine. Expect OCD to take a swing at you on your way out, and depression to yell at you some unfortunate words. Don’t worry; they do that every time I have a guest over.
And, finally, if you are someone struggling with suicidality, I encourage you to choose to live another day. The future days may not always be rainbows and sunshine, yet they may be days’ worth sticking around for. Of course, the choice is up to you.
About the art:
The inspiration from this painting came from the idea that suicide is a "fantasy" in Raquel's story. The trees, clouds, and sunset in the center are the fantasy and the inner peace you think you will achieve.
However, as you move to the outer edges of the painting, the "fantasy" starts to unravel and fall apart. I used sponges to create a chaotic feeling for the viewer. I find a lot of quotes for paintings through Pinterest and I came across this one by searching for "voice."
It is very fitting for the piece and to Raquel's story. We all think we are trapped in the current life we are living, but what we often fail to realize, is that it is all in our own minds.
It takes an incredibly strong person to not only to recognize it, but to actively make a change because of it. I am honored to paint this for Raquel and I hope whenever she views it, it gives her comfort.