I’m a terrible suicide survivor. Or at least that’s what it felt like.
Close to three months ago as a result of life’s inertia and an overpowering feeling of losing control, I made the impulsive and life altering decision to end my life. I wasn’t depressed. I didn’t think about it over and over again in advance. I didn’t send out any unanswered cries for help. I was simply hit by multiple major stressors, seemingly at once and immediately decided that ending my life made more sense than trudging through my existence picking up the pieces one by one.
In that instance I walked the block and a half left to my apartment, poured a glass of water and methodically consumed over 40 pills prescribed to me to control the symptoms of my bipolar disorder. Three different psychiatric drugs made their way into my system within seconds, and I never thought twice about what I was doing. Afterwards I calmly wrote a letter to my family, turned off my phone, and walked to my favorite path by the Hudson River and waited to die.
Due to what can only be summarized as divine intervention, my lifeless and unresponsive body was found under the George Washington Bridge, and thus began what will likely be a lifelong journey to healing and understanding.
I think of my suicide attempt often. The burn marks on my chest from the defibrillator used to bring me back to life are a constant reminder of that faithful day. In February after a two week hospital stay and upon my release I just wanted to be normal. I hated the look of concern that dotted the eyes of my loved ones. The “Hey girl, what’s up!” conversations that I spent my lifetime receiving from my friends were now replaced with daily check-ins to make sure that I was “OK”. I recognize now that the people around me were still mourning the loss of the Kasey that they so effortlessly knew and were now figuring out how to interact with this new version of me. This person capable of doing something so utterly inconceivable.
They were afraid. They were hurt. And they were on high alert.
Selfishly it didn’t matter to me; all I wanted was normalcy – no matter what. I began to shun my concerned network of friends and gravitated to those who didn’t know what I had done. I ignored texts, avoided calls, and when I was hunted down I made sure to cut all interactions down as drastically as possible. I rarely spoke about my suicide attempt and I made sure that not a tear left my eye. I was eerily “OK”. My endeavor to end my life seemed like a series of events that happened to someone else and I was just a keen observer, taking it all in from the sidelines like everyone else. I wanted so desperately to move on, even if those around me couldn’t.
As I watched the drama unfold surrounding the young singer Kehlani and her attempted suicide my heart breaks for her. After days of speculation and online bullying concerning her relationship and accusations of cheating, Kehlani is reported to have tried to commit suicide by overdosing. Soon after while in the hospital, she proceeded to upload a photo of herself on a gurny with the caption “Thank you for saving my life” directed to her ex-boyfriend who sat beside her in obvious disarray. Many people slammed her after posting the photo claiming she was using her situation for sympathy, looking for attention and as we so eloquently put it in 2016, “Doing it for the gram”.
I remember my psychiatrist telling me that there are two types of people that attempt suicide: those crying out for help and those who genuinely want to die. I don’t know which category Kehlani falls under, but I do know that her actions and the harsh responses following it reminded me so much of my own situation and the overbearing responsibility of suicide survivors when it comes to those around us. Who can truly judge what qualifies as appropriate behavior following such a violent situation? In the social media saturated world that we live in, maybe the only way she knew how to thank the person that she credits for saving her life was to applaud him publicly. I honestly don’t know, and neither do the people criticizing her actions. People have this warped expectation of how a person should behave after something so tragic, but can anyone truly dictate the actions of another and what qualifies as their healing process? It is difficult enough to begin to recover mentally, emotionally and physically from attempting to take your own life, but having to take on the weight of those around you can be far too much to bear sometimes.
Now multiply that by the thousands chiming in on her life right now.
Individuals must come to accept that the aftermath of an attempted suicide is different for everyone. The healing process may not look the way you imagined and could quite possibly not happen when you want it to – and that’s okay. As a concerned community our power comes from support, not expectations.
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Suicide is quite possibly the most unnatural thing a human being can do. Life is meant to be protected and prolonged, often times by any means necessary. To go against that engrained instinct to survive is unfathomable to most people. Family, friends, spectators, supporters - everyone is watching and attempting to wrap their heads around the complexities of such actions. I don’t think I ever had the question “Why” hurled at me so often as I did after my suicide attempt. People just want to somehow understand how such a terrible thing could happen; and guess what - on some underlying, hidden, visceral level, us suicide survivors want to understand too. Unfortunately it’s just not that easy.
So cut Kehlani a break (I’m looking at you Chris Brown). A young woman felt so much anguish that ending her life felt like a viable option. Let’s focus on that. Let’s focus on surrounding her with love and compassion. Let’s focus on creating a discourse around this topic so that others who may be considering harming themselves feel supported in such a way that they will reach out for help in their own time of need. Let’s stop victim shaming long enough to realize that either this was a genuine attempt to end a life or it was a desperate cry for help, and either way, Kehlani needs more then to be the brunt of a joke or a tasteless meme.
Put aside your personal views on what brought her here. Ignore the gossip. Disregard whatever post or tweet that may have raised an eyebrow and let’s collectively support one of our own. Today Kehlani represents the thousands of individuals at their lowest point, just looking for a helping hand; let’s give it to her.
Kasey Woods is a freelance writer, entrepreneur, mental health advocate and creator of the mental health awareness campaign, My Manic Memoirs (www.facebook.com/mymanicmemoirs).