When I was a kid, I had parents that were everything but “normal.” One, they were young hippies, 18 and 20 respectively; Two, it was the ‘70s; Three, my parents were divorced, something that wasn’t nearly as common then as it is now. I often found myself standing outside of the primary social circles at school, amongst my neighbors, and within the confines of my familial structure. Yes, even in my own family, I felt like an outsider. I represented my parents’ irresponsibility and was often reminded of this fact; I also had this propensity for being the ultimate truth-teller, recognizing injustice and being unafraid to say something. When trying to integrate into a family whose modus operandi was denial, I perpetually found myself on the outside. Ever the “other,” ever different, ever isolated. Long before drugs and alcohol came into play, there was cutting, internal angst, and a burgeoning eating disorder. No one noticed.
Suicide was always something I viewed with adamant frustration and disappointment. It was something I saw as the ultimate in selfish behavior, and the quintessential act of “giving up.” Any suggestion that I might be suicidal was met with anger and opposition. Frankly, it wasn’t until several 4th steps later, and over a decade of sobriety where I realized that my behavior was, in fact, suicidal. It just presented differently, or perhaps more subtly than the usual cries for help we typically look for. I hung out with peoplewho used needles, smoked crack, committed crimes. I sat, on my presumably high horse with a bottle of Southern Comfort in my hand and somehow thought I was above it all. I dated angry, violent men and I eventually married one. Through deep introspection I discovered, in many ways, my subconscious goal was to die–but by someone else’s hand or some mitigating circumstance. Fortunately for me, I was unsuccessful in my weirdly passive-aggressive attempts at self-destruction.
When we look at suicidal ideation and the behaviors associated with it, I think it’s important to scrutinize each behavioral layer. Low self-esteem, and self-loathing, while not the typical red flags, can just as easily lead to one’s demise. Men are more at risk for completed suicides than women (According to the CDC, Men are nearly 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Women attempt suicide 3 times as often as men. See here for details.)
The following are some common warning signs to look for:
- Observable signs of serious depression.
- Unrelenting low mood
- Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
- Sleep problems
- Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
- Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
- Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
- Making a plan
- Giving away prized possessions
- Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
- Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
- Unexpected rage or anger
Suicide doesn’t have to happen. It is something we can prevent with awareness and compassion and recognition. If you or someone you love is thinking of suicide, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).
Sarit Rogers is a Southern California native, writer, and photographer, and social media maven. She is passionate about affecting change through words and art and is honored to share her creativity and writing in the Visions’ blog and various social-media outlets.
Sober since 1993, Sarit is no stranger to recovery and utilizes a myriad of tools drawn from the 12 steps, Vipassana meditation, and yoga. She infuses the Visions’ blogs with wisdom culled from all of these teachings. By utilizing information from scientific resources as well as different facets of her own life, Sarit hopes to reach a wider audience of addicts and alcoholics seeking sobriety by providing relevant and relatable recovery information which is accessible to teens as well as adults.