The Creative Portfolio of Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

TOAA Reflections:You Will be Missed

by Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

Please be aware that this article contains graphic descriptions of suicide and other sensitive material. These are not fictional incidents or creepy pastas. These are actual incidents and real reflections from the point of view of someone dealing with suicidal tendencies. None of it is plagiarized and none of it will be censored.  If this makes you uncomfortable I would suggest leaving the page.

TOAA Reflections

You Will be Missed
By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

Suicide is an unpleasant topic in our society. We know it happens and we know it happens a lot more than on some pandering set aside awareness holiday, but we also try to minimize it and keep the topic at arm’s length. The idea that someone can be so unsatisfied with life that they make their own way out just doesn’t compute for a lot of people and it understandably scares them, so our society tries to give the illusion of tackling it with romanticized and usually heavy-handed pamphlets,poorly trained hotlines and some clumsily shoehorned snapshots of awareness when it’s relevant.

The reality is this. While you’re clambering about suicide awareness because a celebrity did it or because one more national holiday is telling you all you need to do is wear a ribbon to solve an issue, thousands of people around the world have shot themselves,hung themselves or overdosed on a dangerous substance because they didn’t get the help they needed and thousands more are going to do it the next day when you’re wearing your next world-saving ribbon or celebrating your next pointless awareness day because it’s no longer cool to care about suicide. Suicide is not a phase, a tantrum or a gimmick. It’s a mental illness.

When someone is suicidal it’s not something they’ll grow out of,get over or push through. It’s not a temporary issue that needs one day of your time and a ribbon for solidarity. It’s a mental health epidemic that kills millions of people each year in every walk of life, 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Being aware is not enough. Taking it more seriously and allowing the topic to not be made taboo or audience-friendly is what needs to happen.

The people suffering with suicidal tendencies don’t just experience them as coming and going, they live with them. Every single day is a new fight for life. Every night you lay down ends with a prayer to not get up and every morning makes you question what life is worth living for. Your mind is never focused on the future. It’s consumed with the end.  No matter how many kind words you get or how many good things happen between the bad ones you always have that nagging in the back of your mind of what would happen if you took one too many pills,drank something not meant for human consumption or happened to trip in front of the bus coming down the street.

If you think I’m being overly dramatic or trying to scare you, one of those things is partially true. I’m not being overly dramatic, because I live with suicidal thoughts myself and have multiple attempts at suicide under my belt as well as two planned attempts and a history of self-mutilation and substance abuse. However, I’m not sorry if I scared you. Suicide and the sheer number of people it affects every year in our society should scare you a little. Thousands and perhaps millions of people live life by the moment like I do because our society is too scared to go beyond awareness and truly talk about real solutions for suicide prevention. Even more suffer the aftermath because their loved ones were let down by a mental health system and society that doesn’t take suicide seriously enough or just pretty much dumps on those who go through with it or struggle with considering it.

It’s been called the coward’s way out,romanticized for media and even used as a casual joke in our modern society like so many mental health terms are these days. Many mental health professionals fail to even truly understand how suicide truly affects people. I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve dealt with actual health professionals who have brushed me off when I’m open up about suffering with suicidal tendencies because they either don’t take it seriously or think it’s fine as long as you’re just thinking about it and not acting.

Many of the “solutions” our society offers to sufferers are useless and pandering. Pamphlets break down the issue of suicide into the most generic easy-to-digest parts possible without really educating anyone. Suicide helplines are rife with poorly-trained and insensitive people reading scripts. Our society makes a huge fuss about awareness when someone in a fat tax bracket or a criminal commits suicide but then calls the lower class people crying out for help every day “emo” instead of reaching out to them.

Very often even health professionals don’t even know how to handle a person dealing with suicidal thoughts. Therapists ask at appointments but rarely follow-up or show concern while people with suicidal ideation are often denied inpatient care and sent home until they just decide to act on their thoughts. Meanwhile people in the lives of those dealing with suicidal tendencies are told the wrong things to look for and advised the most generic things to handle their loved one’s situations.

There are notably a lot of things wrong with how our society handles the topic of suicide, but perhaps the worst thing is fearful and hands-off we are about it. The more we avoid talking about it,the less likely people are to seek or get help for it. There are a lot of scary things in life but perhaps the scariest thing is having to realize that thousands of people die on a daily basis because millions of people are too scared to openly discuss an epidemic killer in our society.

If you have a person struggling with suicidal tendencies in your life….

Know the signs. Not all people in danger of attempting suicide are depressed. Some of them are happy,relieved, calm or even openly loving. Many people considering suicide will make efforts to wrap up lose ends,distribute their possessions or share sentiments with those around them more than usual. While most do plan suicide carefully,not all of them leave a note or speak up about it. Don’t trust a pamphlet and don’t settle for what a doctor tells you. If you feel concerned, take the time to really learn what to look for and make sure you communicate to the person that you’re there for them and care about them, even if it looks like it’s hitting deaf ears.

If a person is speaking up or voicing an interest in suicide or even just implying it,take it seriously instead of brushing it off as a casual comment or phase. If a person is talking about it, that is a good sign they need and want help, and you may have time to step in and get them that help they desperately need. Pay special attention if the person has a mental illness because it means that any instance of “I want to die.” or “I wish I was dead” as well as the person contemplating what things would be like if they weren’t there are red flags,not passing commentary or angst.

Don’t defer or dodge. Many people think the best first step is to cart their loved one off to a therapist or hand them a hotline number. What they need the most is you. Talk to them. Listen to them. Take them seriously and show them you love them. Most of all, be honest with them. While professional help is great, it’s not a substitute for the person’s support network and it shouldn’t be used to avoid a talk you need to have. If you’re afraid then be honest about that but be present. If you can’t talk just listen. Whatever you do, don’t make the person feel more alienated or like they’re a burden.

If you’re a person struggling with suicidal tendencies….

I’d like to tell you a short story. Years ago right around Christmas Eve I attempted suicide by swallowing a handful of Tylenol. I ended up having to get my stomach pumped and I came within an hour of dying. I still suffer heavy depression at Christmas and a violent psychological aversion to Tylenol. While I have large chunks of memory missing from that night I’ve never forgotten the image of my family gathered around a hospital bed sobbing and the fact my father couldn’t be there because the strain of the event caused him to have an upset in his heart condition.

I’m not going to give you some heavy-handed and cookie cutter advice like “Tomorrow is another day.” or “Things will get better.”. I just want to tell you something that I learned a long time ago that’s kept me alive to write this blog. You will be missed. It may be one person or it may be one-hundred but make no mistake that you will be missed. When you’re at rock bottom and riddled with thoughts about death, life can feel like walking around with a permanent shroud on. I’ve been there and I’ve crawled back up more times than I can count. It may not feel like it’s worth it sometimes but just remember that before you pull a trigger,chug some pills or make yourself a noose that you will be missed. Love yourself enough to fight for the help you need so the people around you can keep loving you.

Thanks for reading this issue of Thoughts of an Aspie!

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