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Life After Wanting to Die

Young, Smart, Privileged…and Suicidal

June 22, 2018, St. Louis, MO

Words by Rachael Krajewski  

The Netflix show 13 Reasons Why recently debuted its second season, shining the public spotlight on teen suicide. The show does a lot of things. Not all of them are great. On the upside, the show brings suicide into mainstream discussion. The downside is that it graphically portrays cruelty and suicide without showing healthy solutions and the true fallout of death. It portrays suicide as the result of bullying or assault, as the ultimate form of revenge. Suicide is not an inevitable result of mistreatment, and it’s definitely not a viable form of revenge. 13 Reasons Why shows us what not to do without ever telling us what to do when life goes from bad to unthinkable.

I want to offer my own unique take on that. I’m a college student who almost didn’t make it past sophomore year alive.

After a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression, the stress of my early college years pushed me over the edge. Like so many others my age, all of the coping mechanisms and routines I had established to deal with my mental illnesses were thrown in disarray when I moved away from my family to go to college. Wanting to end my life was the scariest thing I have ever experienced. On the flip side, seeking treatment, recovering from depression, and rebuilding myself was the best thing I have ever done for myself.

There are a lot of stories out there from people who have survived suicide, who tell you it will get better. I had heard these stories, but more often than not, they were from adults much older than me. I was happy for these people that they had gotten better, but what was I supposed to do with their stories? Did I have to wait until I was in my 40s to introspectively realize that living was worth it? Did it take 15-20 years for things to get better? As well-intentioned as these stories were, it was hard for me to relate to them.

That’s why I thought it would be a good idea for me to share my own story, one year after being suicidal, fresh out of it, and probably close to the age of anyone taking the time to read this. I asked my supervisor if I could write this piece and get my story out to someone who may need it.

So, here are my own 13 hard-learned “Reasons Why Not to Take Your Life.”

  1. Life truly does get better. And it can get a lot better, pretty quickly.
    1. Plot twist: Therapy works. And the combination of the right therapy and the right counselor can work magic. You may be surprised by how quickly you start to feel better.
  2. After experiencing therapy, you will learn so much about yourself, and so much about what it means to be human.
    1. Even if your only goal is to want to be alive, getting to that place will feel so good and powerful. Putting the effort into therapy and seeing the results is one of the most empowering and worthwhile experiences I’ve ever had.
  3. More people care about you than you may realize.
    1. After talking about my experiences, I was surprised by the number of people who reached out to me and told me they were proud of me and how thankful they were that I was still around. And I had felt like I was completely alone and no one cared.
  4. You are not alone, even if it feels like you are.
    1. Purely from a statistics point of view, 1 in 5 young people considers suicide at some point in their lives. People around you probably know what you’re going through, even if they don’t show it themselves. People will be more supportive than you realize.
  5. You don’t need to know the perfect solution, or where to find the right help, or who exactly to talk to.
    1. Crisis lines and intake centers are there for a reason. They have the resources and know what to do. When I realized I needed help, I had no idea where to start. I had no idea who would even be the person to help me if they could. I just Googled counseling centers near me, picked the closest one, and made an appointment. You can too. People want to help you and will do anything they can to help.
  6. The hardest part is telling the first person.
    1. A lot of survivors of suicide will tell you this. That’s why so many people don’t make it past this first step. But everything after that step seems easy in comparison, at least it did for me.
  7. Your brain is lying to you. Suicide is not a solution.
    1. Suicidal ideation is a symptom of mental illness. Suicide won’t solve anything, even though right now it may seem like the only way out. There are a lot of ways out.
  8. Some things are bigger than you can handle alone, and that’s okay.
    1. Just because you feel out of control or like you don’t have a handle on things, that’s okay. People go through years of training to know how to handle these kinds of things. You don’t need all the answers. Professionals have the answers, let them help you.
  9. Having suicidal thoughts is not a weakness that needs to be hidden.
    1. Suicidal ideation is a natural, albeit painful, part of the human experience for many of us. It’s not a blemish on your life that needs to be scrubbed away or hidden from everyone. This experience makes you stronger, more understanding of others, better able to handle the difficult parts of your life.
  10. Successful treatment won’t just help you to stop feeling suicidal. It may actually make you feel better than ever before.
    1. Most of us don’t just feel suicidal out of nowhere. Usually we have problems below the surface that get worse over time, eventually bubbling over after some kind of trauma. That’s how it was for me. My therapy didn’t just help me to stop feeling suicidal, it addressed the pain and fears that I had felt for a long time, and it treated them.
  11. Life isn’t a Netflix series. Death isn’t a plot point – it’s the end.
    1. In the TV series, Hannah gets to explain her reasons for suicide and force the people around her to reflect on her death and understand why she died, almost validating her suicide in a way. In the second season, she even reappears as an “apparition” of sorts, continuing to interact with the main character and explain herself to him. This is not real life. Death is not an event in your life. It is the end. You will not get to explain yourself to the people around you after you die. You will not get to move on from the experience.
  12. There are safer, gentle ways to find relief from your pain. And you deserve to find those ways.
    1. Suicide is not a solution to pain and suffering. It only creates an unfixable void. There are real solutions that do help. Crisis lines, therapy sessions or talking honestly with trusted people in your life.
  13. You are loved, you are worth love, and you deserve to be loved by yourself.
    1. Right now your mind might be telling you that no one cares about you, that you are worthless or unlovable. These things aren’t true. Your mind isn’t malicious. It’s just doing the best with what it knows right now, and it’s confused. By learning how mental illness works, you can begin to see your value clearly.

That’s what I’ve learned since some really bad days. I am so happy that I did not take my life. If I could, I would publish these words all over the internet and plaster them on every signpost I could so no one would ever think life doesn’t get better.

I look forward to the next day of my life and the years ahead of me. I’m more empathetic, more passionate about life, and better able to handle the hardships I face.

To sum it up, I don’t think I will ever be thankful for my struggles with suicide, but I am definitely thankful for how those struggles have shaped me. I’m happier than I was before this whole experience. I’m excited to be alive.

 

By Rachael Krajewski. Rachael is an undergraduate Psychology student, aspiring clinical therapist, and our newest development intern at Safe Connections.

 

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