I was 20 years old when my older sister made an attempt on her life. To be honest there was so much trauma going on the memories of finding her body were obliterated by my psyche and later I took to addiction due to the distress caused that I could not share with anyone. That was in 1982. My other sister attempted suicide in 2013 and at the hospital she was blown up like a balloon from the effects of the drugs which was so distressing to witness. I was asked to take a bag of her things home from hospital and it had about three medications including anti psychotics and anti anxiety meds and when I googled them some of the side effects were anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I was fucking angry.
Later at the hospital I was asked by the doctor “do you know why your sister is on anti convulsive meds” I hit the roof and nearly screamed the place down. “You want to know why because they have been overmedicating her ever since she had a hysterectomy a few years ago and playing Russian Roulette with her meds.” I then told her of my family history of addiction and how I was in AA. I thought the men in white coats would come for me but a few nurses took me to another room while I cried and they really listened. Later the doctor came in and said “we have taken her off that medication.” It was still a long way back for my sister and for my mother who found her it was terrible. My other sister who had attempted suicide years before was at that stage in a care home and she died never knowing about the attempt my sister took on her own life.
It pays to remember that witnesses to suicide are also traumatised for the rest of their life and may struggle to understand. They need a lot of support afterwards and may be similarly forgotten. Of course there were complex issues as to why my sister wanted to end her life and I fully understand them having witnessed a lot of the difficult treatment she received in the family from those who could not relate to her emotionally and had their own defences.
I am writing this to raise awareness. I have suffered from strong feelings of wishing to end my own life, most especially after my last relationship which was quite emotionally damaging left me with profound feelings of low self worth. I have always tried to reach out when I feel that way in past years and be honest about how I feel. But this is just not possible for many. We need to be aware that modern life is full of stress, dissociation, dislocation and emotional isolation. We are urged to put on a front a lot of the time and can feel scared and afraid when we cannot cope in ways others seem to be able to.
Reasons people choose suicide are complex so let us stay open and not believe we have the answers for those who are feeling confusion and profound despair. Let us be present for what people are really feeling and be present and open our hearts and really listen when we can. We just don’t know how much a caring ear or smile or work of kindness may help someone who is silently contemplating if it may not just be better to end it all. I recently had a call on a day I was in such a state and the man really listened. He said to me his father had tried to take his life and if I ever needed to talk I should give him a call. His kindness to me on that day meant a lot to me. Life is full of inner struggle so let us show as much compassion and sensitivity to others as we can.