I heard someone say today that suicide was a selfish act. What do you think? Is it a choice? Do you really think that someone would intentionally take his or her own life out of being selfish? If you do, I’m so sorry you feel that way. If you do, I hope I can change your mind.
Suicide certainly leaves a wake of devastation for those who are impacted. Survivors of suicide loss are at increased risk for depression, addiction, and the emergence of suicidal ideation themselves. Even though suicide causes massive collateral damage, can it really be considered selfish? The answer is a resounding “No”.
The suicidal mode is an altered state of consciousness. When a person is battling with their demons and feeling hopeless, their thinking is often significantly distorted. They do not see reality the way they would if they were not in suicidal crisis. Their thoughts loop on the theme of how they are a burden to those they love. Their brains actively make a case for how others will not really miss them or that in the long run, those they love would be better off without them somehow. (Of course, their loved ones don’t agree with this).
An analogy might be helpful here. Take the case of a person who is in the grips of anorexia. (I, myself, had anorexia before anyone ever knew it existed.) I was dangerously underweight. However, I didn’t see myself that way at all. I could still see that overweight little girl who was so tired of being overweight. I had a distorted perception of reality. In a similar way, those who are in a very dangerous crisis of suicidal despair often have distorted perceptions of reality. They see themselves as a burden, the same way that an individual struggling with anorexia sees him or herself as being overweight.
Further, those who are in the grips of the suicidal mode (or suicidal trance) often become mentally detached from those they love. With that being said, each suicide attempt is different. In each one’s story, it’s clear that interpersonal detachment is a core part of the suicidal mode. People’s demons become like the domestic abuser whose first move is to isolate his or her partner from the influence of those who love them. Demons will ambush those who suffer in silence, but those who break this dangerous code of silence before the suicidal crisis begins, often can regain their hope and will to live.
Finally, those who survive suicide attempts often look back on their crisis from a different perspective. They often understand how suicide would devastate their loved ones, where they did not see this in the throws of their earlier suicidal mode (trance). Those who come through a dark time and regain a sense of hope and purpose have stories that can save lives. Those who are suffering need to hear stories of hope and recovery. Attempt survivors can use their experience of being in the grips of suicide to argue that hope awaits us, even in the midst of some of our darkest days. Their stories can break the power of shame and stigma.
(I would like to share what an individual who survived a suicide attempt had to say to a blog author from”Psychology Today”.)
I am a suicide survivor who attempted to take my own young life, at age 23, with an overdose of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. Fortunately, my sister found me unconscious and was able to call an ambulance in time. After 2 years of therapy with a great psychiatrist, I recovered and, now, 30 years later, am still eternally grateful to my sister.What I remember most about deciding to end my life is that it was an unpredictable, lightning-fast decision, preceded by an upsetting event, during a time in my life when I was both depressed and anxious. I remember feeling pure relief when I made the decision to end all the pain. You mentioned the word “tunneling,” and that is a perfect word to describe my thought process. I blocked out all thoughts of how my actions would affect my loving parents, family, and friends. This wasn’t purposeful—it was simply what occurred. It was, as you said, an altered state of consciousness, and the lens through which I saw my life at that moment was so different from how I had previously, or would see it in the future. I didn’t intend to hurt anyone; I wanted to unburden my family and finally escape the pain. I felt hopeless in the truest sense of the word. And, no one saw it coming, including me just a few hours earlier. That is how unpredictable and instantly gripping I believe [suicidal thoughts can be].