Surviving a suicide attempt can be a very difficult time filled with lots of different emotions. Your decision to try to kill yourself likely didn’t come out of the blue. Perhaps it developed over time as problems in life became more overwhelming. Many stressful life situations such as the loss of a loved one, relationship issues, financial problems, health problems or depression can lead to suicidal feelings.
While the type of problems leading to suicidal thoughts can vary, most people who have survived a suicide attempt agree that there is a common theme among them: a need to feel relief. When it feels like nothing else is working, suicide can feel like a way to get relief from an emotional pain that grew over time, and ultimately felt unbearable.
Likely, you may still be facing the problems and feelings that led you to try to kill yourself, and now you are also trying to figure out what to do since you survived. That, in itself, can feel overwhelming. The good news is that there are often ways other than suicide to find relief from your pain. Sometimes, just talking about the pain you are experiencing can be the first step in feeling relief. Knowing that you are not alone, can ease your pain as well. Connecting with resources, especially resources that are knowledgeable and sensitive to your suicidal feelings can be a lasting step in easing your pain and living a life free of suicide.
The time after your attempt can feel very chaotic and out of control. It’s important to focus on simple things to help yourself feel better, usually this is a focus on taking care of your physical health and emotional well-being.
Taking Care of Yourself Physically
Depending on the details of your attempt, your first focus may be on your physical health. Your attempt may have required a visit to a hospital or primary care provider to ensure your physical needs have been attended to. This can be daunting and other survivors have had a variety of experiences in these situations. Some have indicated that professionals they have encountered were supportive and accommodating, others have said that staff were insensitive, untrained or unhelpful. Likely this stemmed from their own comfort level in talking about a sensitive subject like suicide. They may have their own attitudes and beliefs that affected their reaction or perhaps they simply were unsure how to help.
Taking care of yourself emotionally
After your attempt, it is likely that you are feeling lots of conflicting emotions and you may find that you’re feeling change quickly. Not matter what you are feeling it is okay. You may be thinking things like,
“I didn’t expect to be here. Why am I still here? What am I supposed to do now?”
“I had enough problems before my attempt, how am I supposed to deal with this?”
“What do I tell people? What will they think of me?”
“Maybe now someone will help me. I can’t do it alone.”
“Perhaps there is a reason I survived. How do I figure out what that reason is?”
Immediately following their suicide attempt, many people who have survived said that the pain that led to their attempt was still present. In addition, they were now dealing with the feelings related to their attempt. Some felt angry that they survived. Others were embarrassed or ashamed. Some felt guilty that they had put their family and friends through a tough time. At the very same time, some survivors were grateful that they survived and determined to find a way to keep on living.
In the first few days after your attempt, you may want to give some thought to how you will deal with others’ questions about what has happened. This can be a scary time for your family, friends and colleagues and they may have a lot of questions for you. Their fear of losing you may cause them to be anxious, scared or angry and can affect their ability to be the kind of support you need. When possible, it is a good idea to have at least one person with whom you feel comfortable being honest about your attempt as it is much easier to face the future when there is someone you can talk to.
Ultimately, it is your decision who you tell about your attempt and what details you tell them. You may want to consider what you will say to those closest to you so they can be the kind of support that you need. For example you might say, “I just need you to listen right now, without judging me” or “it would be really great if you could come to my doctor’s appointment with me.” You may also want to think about what you will say to those that you don’t want to be involved in the details such as, “I really appreciate your concern, but I am not ready to talk about what happened.”
Suicide attempt survivors often feel alone in their recovery. Perhaps, prior to making your suicide attempt, you may have already started to feel isolated or alone. The stress or depression that can accompany suicidal thinking can be exhausting, and may have left you with no energy to do the things you once loved. Maybe the shame or stress of telling those closest to you how you were feeling caused you to pull back from your relationships.
While it may seem overwhelming, it is important to try and incorporate the things you once loved back into your life. Be it spending time with family or friends, doing activities you use to enjoy or perhaps rediscovering your spirituality – finding a connection to things that are meaningful to you is significant. Even if you take just one small step at a time, remembering what was important to you before you started to feel suicidal can help you to remember who you were and build hope for your future.
Identifying a support person can be an important step towards recovery as well. It can be hard to think clearly after a suicide attempt. Making decisions can seem daunting or overwhelming. Responding to people’s reactions can difficult. Identifying someone that you can trust, that knows what happened and can help to support you in your recovery is important.
Confidentiality can be an important topic for suicide attempt survivors. You may have experienced a situation where you felt your trust was violated or that you lost control of the decisions related to your care. In most cases, the interactions that you have with health care providers, mental health professionals and crisis hotlines are confidential. However if any of these individuals believe that your or anyone else’s life is immediate danger they are required by law to do what they can to make sure everyone is safe. For this reason, it can be especially helpful to work with individuals who are trained in suicide prevention as they are more likely to be comfortable in working collaboratively to help you to find the support you need to stay safe.
If you have questions or concerns about confidentiality, it is important to ask the professional involved in your care about their confidentially policies and standards for working with individuals who are dealing with issues related to suicide.