I don’t talk about suicide a lot, because just saying the word “suicide” makes people uncomfortable. However, I sat in on a talk about suicide and eating disorders this past summer at the annual NEDA conference, and the information that was presented really helped me to see the connections between suicide and eating disorders.
I have only just barely touched on this topic with my therapist, mostly because I am afraid to speak aloud the thoughts and feelings that are buried so deeply in my soul. I know there was a time when I was happy with my life, when I was a child and my world was all about playing and learning and then sleeping deep, peaceful sleep…that time seems so very far away now. In the past ten years, as I have dealt with anorexia, and at many times given in to the voice of Ed, I have almost constantly had suicidal ideations in the back of my mind. Suicidal ideations are different from a suicide plan, or being suicidal, in my mind. And I learned at the conference I went to that the statistics show this to be true- 34% of those with suicidal ideations actually create a plan, and 26% of those without a plan actually attempt suicide, while the percentage of those with a plan jumps to a 72% attempt rate. (These numbers may be slightly inaccurate as some time has past since I received this information in September, but it does shed some much needed light on what all of this means.)
Suicide is scary. It scares me so much, because I know what my pain drives me to think. I am especially concerned because I know what it is like not to be in a good mindset, and as I learned at the talk I attended, anorexia has the highest rate of suicide out of all mental illness. Usually, there are 3 factors that premeditate suicide and they are:
- Psychological pain
- Disconnection from self and others
- An acquired capacity for lethality, fearlessness death, and pain tolerance.
All of these things are invisible, so if they are never talked about, no one will ever know what another person may be going through. I know I have kept quiet myself, not out of secrecy or shame, but out of care for those around me. I don’t understand how people don’t feel the depth of the pain I feel, but I don’t want them to. If the thoughts aren’t in their brain, why put them there in the first place? I’m not talking about suicide…I’m talking about the questions that run through my mind when I’m in a dark place. Thoughts of the purpose of existence, the pain a young teen felt before dying by suicide, the heaviness of this world. I feel it all. And it’s so heavy. Too heavy for me to carry, so I try to avoid these thoughts and the emotions that come up.This, to me, is psychological pain.
I had never heard the term “psychological pain” before attending the conference, and I immediately felt myself relaxing a bit, from having the knowledge that I am not alone. I never thought that I felt deeply when I was a child, though I look back now and see a lot of instances where it was clear I was in pain, but not from something anyone else could see. Only someone else who feels so deeply, so much, will truly understand. I’m curious about psychological pain, and what it drives humans to do. We hear of a death by suicide, and wonder what was so bad in their life. We look at school shootings, and think that all of those found guilty must be horrific people, monsters…I often think this too, any time a life is taken, there are questions. But when I put empathy into the equation, it’s almost as though I just purchased a new pair of glasses, ones that are calibrated to fit my eyesight needs perfectly. I see immense pain, uncertainty, and fear. Fear of living, not of death. I’m not saying I sympathize with murderers, I’m simply saying that they are humans too, and we don’t know what pain and demons they have fought on their own.
As I have written before here, I am not trying to glamorize or justify detrimental actions, I am only writing to get this off of my chest, and to place a unique viewpoint out there. I did not ask to feel this much, I did not come into this world desiring death, and I don’t want to die. The demons that live inside me, in my deepest darkest places like to whisper to me that death would be easier than living. They like to blow my issues up into huge looming shadows that I cannot run away from. They infiltrate my dreams and leave me helpless, waking with sweat dripping down my face and a scream on my lips. I hesitate to publish this, as the reactions I have gotten when I do talk about my thoughts sometimes leave me wishing I had never spoken. I am going to write this and publish it, because I need readers and those close to me to understand how intertwined anorexia and suicide are. I need to feel safe, and I need to know that you are there to hold me accountable. Please, when in doubt or if you see something, say something.