International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, also known as Survivor Day, was designated by the United States Congress as a day when the friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support. It was determined that Survivor Day would always fall on the Saturday before American Thanksgiving, as the holidays are often a difficult time for suicide loss survivors.

In a previous post I said:

I do not believe in suicide. It is taking the pain you feel you can no longer deal with and passing it onto those who love you most.

And while there are many layers to that statement, saying that I do not believe in suicide was arrogant, irresponsible and entirely lacking in empathy. So I take it back. And I wholeheartedly apologise. In life we learn and unlearn, and I have since learnt that suicide is the final collapse under unbearable weight.

Suicide is not selfish.jpg

As someone who struggles with their mental fitness (and has a teeny tiny but growing readership on the blog) I feel really driven to show anyone else struggling with their own mental fitness that it is okay not to be okay. That there is nothing to be ashamed about in asking for help. That in fact there is great strength in the vulnerability and honesty it takes to open up about stuff society usually frowns upon. Whereas the world over has made great strides in encouraging conversations around Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and other mental illnesses, the stigma around suicide remains so great that conversations on the topic are almost taboo. More so in Kenya where suicide is criminalised.

So for Survivor Day 2019 I decided to do things a little differently to create awareness of the day. Three brave women, all suicide survivors, agreed to share their stories on the blog. I reached out to them with the aim of helping anyone else struggling with suicidal thoughts realise that life is worth living, and that it gets better. That a bad day/week/month/year does not equal a bad life. It is my hope that anyone who reads their stories and is struggling with suicidal thoughts may draw strength from these brave women who triumphed, and continue to triumph, over their darkest days.

And for anyone out there who has a loved one that is struggling with suicidal thoughts, my friends over at Project AKILI shared this on their Instagram in September for Suicide Prevention Month. I am sharing it here in hopes that it might be as helpful to you as it was to me.

Project AKILI

Lizzie

As a kid, I used to sit at the window of our bedroom with my feet dangling towards the ground, always thinking of wanting to jump … please note we lived at the top floor of a three storied building.

Growing up, my childhood had more dark days than happy ones. Don’t get me wrong, my Mum worked very hard, maybe even too hard, to ensure I had everything I needed: you know food, shelter, clothing and a good education. I went to private schools, dressed in the latest fashion and had our Sunday outings at Splash or Pizza Inn for some pizza and ice cream. Unfortunately, until now, I always felt empty. A void that I couldn’t seem to fill or be filled. And no, Jesus for me wasn’t the way to go. As the years went on, growing up as a teenager and into my adult life, I tried to fill that emptiness with friends, sex and obviously way too much alcohol. Until slowly, as they had said, I started to become my father’s daughter. The similarities of our behaviors were too analogous.

That Thursday morning on March 7th the emptiness was overwhelming, and more so the pain I felt emotionally was unbearable. I had gone out the previous night and rocked up at my boyfriend’s house at 4am to get some sort of comfort. That wasn’t the case and instead it went from comfort to a fight. I’m sure the neighbors weren’t too worried about the arguing as it had happened many times before, only this time it went on for hours until daylight caught us by surprise but that didn’t stop us.

I remember running up the stairs mid argument to the roof of the building, tears burning my cheeks and my heart drowning in my stomach. At the roof is where the hanging lines are and the kids at the apartments had tied a skipping rope to one of the poles so that if two of them want to skip they could do so without needing a third kid.

There it was. My get out of jail free card. I ran towards it, tagging on it to ensure that neither the rope nor the pole would snap. I don’t remember him being behind me, so I tied the rope around my neck and then something dropped. What could have been so important that I needed to die with that I had to pick it up?? I don’t even know!! As I bent over to pick it up, I think, I’m not sure, he must have loosened the rope somehow. When I heard him shout behind me “anataka kuruka!” I quickly jumped off so that they couldn’t have a chance to pull me back. But damn! The rope, the pole, the thing that dropped were too good to be true for a successful execution. I was pissed, I was livid, how could I still be fucking alive? Why? Why couldn’t he just let me go?! Long story short, only my right ankle, both inner and outer sides broke, which is why I’m here right now to write my story.

When you lack a support system, a strong family foundation and a shit load of debt you crumble, and you crumble fast. Over the years I always knew something was wrong with me, that a part of me just wasn’t right. I hid from it thinking things would eventually fix themselves but instead they became worse. Depression hides in many forms and people always assume that you must be stuck in bed in a dark room crying your eyes out. That is a fallacy. For me, it has been the extroverted behavior that I display in most situations. In short, I’m a runner! Always running away from something or someone or running towards it or them. And on that day, I was running away from my pain and from him.

The mind can play tricks on you I swear, and it covers up a whole lot of shit that you really don’t want to remember. The constant question of “isn’t your son worth living for?” Let me answer this very clearly, you are You, before anybody else becomes a part of you. And when You are broken, not even having a child can piece you up together!

Soooo… what made me get over the guilt, shame and disappointment? The fact that I had my Mum who effortlessly took care of me, the two friends who kept me sane, my boyfriend who never gave up on my spark – and part happy that I didn’t die where he lived, JK – and strangely enough my job that had the cleaner version of the truth. And I discovered Therapy!  I got an amazing doctor – Dr. Kibaara – who is absolutely amazing and worth every coin.

Lastly, I won’t mess with you and tell you BS like in the end it all happens for good. It does, but that’s an eventuality. What I can tell you, is to be honest with yourself! Cut the bull crap, take off the mask and quit the façade. Be honest to and with yourself! Only then will you be free. Free from shame, free from pain, free from social norms, FREE! I’m messy, I’m strange, I lack self-esteem, I drink way too much, I’m a people’s pleaser and I tried to commit suicide, but I am Me!

Nyaguthii Kioi

My name is Nyaguthii Kioi and I have attempted suicide 4 times.

I suffer from major depressive disorder, severe anxiety disorder and panic disorder. I was diagnosed when I was 16. My first attempt was when I was 17. I took a bunch of medication from my mom’s medicine cabinet. My sister found me and called my mom. She came back home and forced me to drink milk and throw up everything.

The second time I attempted suicide was when I was pregnant at 19 years old. It didn’t work and I was too ashamed to let anyone know what I had tried to do.

My third attempt was when I was 22 in 2017. This was the most serious one. My mom found me unconscious, nearly dead and rushed me to hospital. They pumped everything out but I only regained consciousness after three days. It was so severe and I was so depressed that the doctor said the only thing that could help was electro-convulsive therapy, ECT. This is a procedure you go through every other day where they shock your brain back to normalcy, kind of like jumpstarting your brain. ECT has severe side effects such a loss of muscle control, loss of memory etc.

My fourth attempt was on 22nd September 2019. Three weeks after I was interviewed for an article on World Suicide Day and I encouraged people to seek help before resulting to suicide. It resulted in me being put in a psychiatric facility in Avenue Hospital for a week.

Why have I attempted suicide? Because sometimes my mental illness gets so bad that I feel the only option for me is to die, to cease existing. It seems like the only way to put an end to the pain. I think it’s really unfair to criminalize suicide. It does not take into consideration the struggle that people with mental illnesses go through. That our mental illnesses push us to the edge and suicide is the only way out at that moment.

I am in therapy and I am on long term use of antipsychotics and antidepressants. I think it’s important to create space for such conversations to take place, to create a community of people with the same struggles and hardships, to be there for each other and remind each other to take it a day at a time.

I hope I never find myself at a point where suicide is the only way out again. I really hope so. But I also hope that if I ever get there again, I won’t be crucified for it. That people will see through my pain and suffering and understand.

Mwikali.S.K

“My Mama doesn’t like thick girls, she finds it unladylike to be as hippy as you, you really should try cutting some weight or she’ll never accept you.”

Those words are forever etched in my mind every time I have a tough day, because if I could survive that then there’s nothing I can’t handle. Period!

Believe it or not those words came from my then “boyfriend”. Shocker, I know. It’s not every day that you come across emotionally abusive boyfriends. We’re so used to physical assault that we forget that one too can be emotionally assaulted and bear painful scars similar to those of the flesh.

Every time I’d tell people that my ex was one of the major reasons that I got into depression they’d tell me that I’m overreacting or hating too much on him.

Every single day I spent in that relationship I slowly started losing myself. I’ve always been a bubbly girl for as long as I can remember, friends and family can attest to that. I mean he too can attest that when he met me I lit up each room I was in. Little did I know that my light would one day attract darkness.

As girls, as much as we say that we’re strong and independent by ourselves, your man’s comments can crush or build your spirits.

Let’s call him K. When K and I met it was pure bliss. I remember telling my friends that I’d found the love of my life and father to my kids. Lmaoo for a 20 year old I for sure did dream wild.

At first everything was okay, we were a normal couple, until later on when his jokes became more ill intended instead of normal jokes. K would make fun of my physical features saying that they weren’t deemed fit for my age. At first I understood him because he was a mixed race kid, and his mom being white had the idolised slim petite figures that the western culture would refer to as attractive.

So me being a hippy girl didn’t sit well with him. On numerous occasions he would tell me “that dress is too short for your size, you big thighs are literally outside, it’s disgusting.” At first I never took it to heart, but like we’re told when you keep on hearing the same thing over and over again it easily becomes part of your soul. At one time I did consider hitting the gym to try and cut off a little bit of weight, but still it want enough for him, he’d still say that I looked fat.

His voice became a constant ringer in my head that I stopped making any effort in looking good because at the end of the day it was his word against mine. So I stopped eating and not because I wanted to but because I couldn’t find my appetite. Eventually I lost a lot of weight and went from being 72kgs to 51kgs. I had lost so much weight that this one time my friends almost didn’t recognize me. I also couldn’t go home because I didn’t want my parents to see me in that state.

Eventually K went back to school as he was studying abroad. That’s when all hell broke loose. His insults started getting more and more, he’d compare me to the girls in his school and tell me that I now looked ugly because I was too skinny. But what really pushed me to the edge was when I found out that he’d been cheating on me, and when I asked him about it he said “I mean look at you, what’s there to be attracted to now?” Here was the man that had pushed me into the state that I was in, and was now blaming me for him not being attracted to me anymore. That’s when I knew enough was enough and left him. I was so mad at everything and everyone. My grades had already started becoming poor because I’d stopped attending classes and I had missed assessment marks in several units. I was honestly tired of myself and the world.

All this turn of events are what pushed me into wanting to take my own life.

I felt weak.

A failure.

And most of all ugly.

Felt that the world would be a better place without me.

Being in med school gave me an advantage when it came to coming up with ways that would kill me quickly so on the morning of March the 26th I knew it was time to leave this earth. I mixed bleaching agents, took the solution, lay on my bed and waited for it to be all over.

All I remember next is waking up in hospital with tubes all over my body and my mom seated right next to me praying. That’s when everything changed for me. That’s when the doctors diagnosed me with Clinical Depression and Anxiety. I was angry at everyone, especially God, for still having me here. I was so mad that now I’d get labelled as the crazy girl that tried killing herself.

It personally took me a lot of therapy and counselling sessions for me to be able to understand that I was sick and that I needed help. During all those weeks that I was admitted in hospital I made a promise to myself that when I would get discharged I would be a completely stronger person than I was.

To anyone out there that’s lost, in a sad place, or undergoing things that they can’t talk about to anyone else I’m here to tell you that suicide isn’t the answer. My psychiatrist always says that suicide only takes away the pain from you, but those you leave behind get to die emotional deaths everyday trying to come to turn with your loss and things they could have done to help. When I was told that I was mentally ill I was in denial for several days, especially because when people hear the term mentally ill they usually refer to you as a psycho or a mad person. Which is so not the case because mental illnesses are like flu, diabetes, typhoid etc. The only difference is that they’re not physical wounds but nevertheless require as much attention as a cut and abrasion.

If you know of anyone that’s struggling with their thoughts please walk with them and assure them that it will be okay. Encourage them to seek medical attention or talk to a psychiatrist or counsellor and trust me that when they’re out of their dark space they’ll be forever grateful to you. Also remember that being nice to people is the most simple form of therapy anyone could ask for.

Lastly remember dark days never last forever. The sun will eventually come out.

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