Tess-11 Years Post Attempt: What I’ve learned in the last 4,015 days-attempted to end my own lifeI wish I would have known at age 16 when I attempted to end my own life, the remarkable life experiences still in store for me.

I believe those who struggle with suicidal thoughts each have their own narrative, their own tape of sorts playing in their mind. I imagine for some the tape plays very slow and others very quickly. In my experience the tape was playing painstakingly slow and the volume was deafening. My body and brain had collected memories the way a child collects shells on the beach except it kept the bad and discarded the good.

I wish I would have known at age 16 when I attempted to end my own life, the remarkable life experiences still in store for me.

And so it went the bad memories were translated into a movie reel on repeat and I was the only one who showed up to watch. What I realize now when I reflect back is that from an outsider’s perspective the battles that I was facing maybe didn’t warrant concern that my life may be coming to end. This is exactly why we owe it to each other to be kind. My tolerance for hardship, trauma, and loss, or whatever it may be is infinitely different than the person sitting next to me at the coffee shop.

This isn’t to say I didn’t have a support during that time because I did and I’m grateful for that. Turns out it had little to do with feeling loved and supported and everything to do with believing one day years from now I could have a different story. Something radically different than the story I was stuck in.

Turns out it had little to do with feeling loved and supported and everything to do with believing one day years from now I could have a different story.

The Aftermath

And so I made the decision to attempt to end my life out of the belief that I would be stuck in this part of my story for the predictable future. Perhaps today that seems dramatic but at age 16 in the middle of my high school years I was really struggling.

I choose to write about my experience with suicide because like an eating disorder, like any other mental health struggle it is often misunderstood and under discussed. I believe I can absolutely serve others with the parts of myself I prefer to keep hidden and I believe in creating awareness and dialogue even if I feel uncomfortable at times.

Perception has to change

Attempting suicide is not like a bought of the stomach flu. It’s not a 24-hour period of misery with the knowledge that better days do still exist in your near future, yet frankly I think sometimes this is how it’s perceived. The belief that I was stuck in my story didn’t end after I took the pills and woke up in the hospital, it didn’t end after 72 hours in the hospital, or the car ride home. I lived for many months’ post attempt very convinced that I was still stuck.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I became un-stuck, and I’m not always sure other people know what the defining moment is in which they decide, “I want to be alive”. Today I believe it had a lot to do with ambivalence, this idea that maybe some part of me regardless of how small still had curiosity about the future. Ironically, I think uncertainty saved my life, a feeling nowadays I can’t stand.

The takeaway

My suicide attempt taught me a lot of things, but most significantly this. We all have remarkably different levels at which we tolerate and can cope with difficult things in life. Assuming that someone can tolerate the loss of their parent, a recent break-up, depression, social anxiety, whatever it may be, because another person in a similar situation has coped and been fine, is not honoring that individuals experience or struggle.

We all have remarkably different levels at which we tolerate and can cope with difficult things in life.

I no longer feel stuck and that is a liberating feeling yet I know there are many people who do. Everyone’s narrative and tape is unique and I wish at 16 years old I would have known that it was quite alright I couldn’t tolerate what I was experiencing, and that life still had remarkable experiences in store for me.

What I could absolutely not see from that hospital bed 11+ years ago was graduating college, getting married, or the opportunity to help others. There is a view far more beautiful beyond the white walls of the hospital.