I attempted suicide when I was a teenager, and I'm so glad I survived
This is one writer’s account of her struggles as a teenager and her attempted suicide. If you or anyone you know is struggling, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. Everyone’s experiences are different, and this is just one woman’s experience.
Suicide isn’t easy to talk about. It’s a topic that makes many people uncomfortable, so we often try to ignore it or make jokes about it, and pretend it’s not an issue. However, it is an issue, and it’s something that countless people contemplate in their lives. Suicide needs to be talked about. People need to know how to cope if someone they know is struggling, and those who are struggling need to know that things can change and get better; it doesn’t have to be the end. This is why I’m writing this. If sharing my story can help even one person to re-evaluate their choice or another to be kinder to somebody who’s been through it then this has done its job.
I was an awkward but relatively ordinary teenager. I was bullied and made fun of; I was an easy target. It was mostly general teasing, probably because I was quiet and found it difficult to fit in. They thought I was gay, or at least asked me on a daily basis if I was; I wasn’t, which shouldn’t have mattered anyway but they continued regardless of what I told them. I was just weak and became a bit of a metaphorical punching bag for people that needed to feel big. By the age of 17, however, I had a great group of friends, and I was more confident than I had been in my early teens. I wasn’t being ridiculed as much by my peers. I was finally realizing what it meant to fit in and starting to think about finishing school.
But as exam time approached, one of my closest friends and I drifted apart and my state of mind started to deteriorate. I’m not an academic person; exams stressed me out and I realized how unprepared I was for this stage of life. I was never good at revising, and I just couldn’t focus. I’d sit down, open a textbook, and suddenly notice how untidy my room was or think I should probably take the dog out instead of studying. In hindsight, there were probably things I could have done to eliminate distractions, but back then it began to seem impossible and pointless. I felt enormous pressure to study hard but I also felt like it wouldn’t make a difference. I was going to fail my exams. I wouldn’t get the grades I needed. What could I do? What would people think? I felt helpless, and I think the combination of stressors at this time was the main reason for my attempt.
I felt like there was nothing special about me, and I just couldn’t cope; I couldn’t see how things would work out, couldn’t see myself passing my exams, and then what? What could I do? I began thinking about ending it all, and I started writing letters to the people I cared about who I was going to leave behind. I won’t get into details, but my attempt was merely that — it didn’t work, and I was found in time, something I’ll be forever grateful for.
When I returned to school after trying to kill myself, people made jokes and belittled my attempt. I’d never been taken seriously, and people weren’t going to start now. I felt like people were thinking that I had never been good at anything, so of course it made sense that I’d failed at this, too. They made jokes about me, and thought I’d tried to swallow Tums. I didn’t realize they were being mean, and I laughed along. They didn’t know that I’d woken up in an ICU, tubes everywhere and monitors beeping.They didn’t know how serious the situation was; then again, many people don’t.
Most of the goodbye letters I’d written were seized by the police while I was in hospital, but my mother kept some of the drafts she’d found in my room. She recently gave them to me, and I was amazed by what I read. The things that I had deemed important enough to be my final mark, my last words, have no significance to me today. One was to a boy — I talked of our budding romance, little moments that meant so much to me. Another was to a friend, and in it I talked about our falling out and making up. I don’t remember any of this. It’s irrelevant in my life now, and the thought that this was so important to me at the time, or could even have played some small part in the decision to end my life, is devastating. How many people have ended their lives over things that might have seemed trivial and unimportant to them a few years later, had they survived?
After my attempt, I retook my exams and went on to do a foundation degree in psychology. My grades weren’t good enough to go into a full degree at the time. With hindsight, I am so grateful for this. I moved to Taunton, settled into my shared house, and got a temp job in retail. I made some amazing friends here and, without knowing it at the time, I also met my husband.
Tom is the best person in the world. I’m admittedly biased on the matter but I’m also confident it’s true. Anyone who meets him instantly likes him (he’s annoying like that). We had a bit of a rom-com romance. He was about to go traveling around the world but he didn’t so he could be with me. We even had the heart-wrenching scene where I broke up with him, both of us in tears, and told him he had to go. The breakup lasted until the next morning; we were in love and nothing was as big as that.
Two years later, I finally graduated. This is something I never thought I’d do. Tom and my mother came to the graduation. I was one of the last students to go up and my shoe fell off; I could hear her roaring from the balcony as I awkwardly retrieved my high heel and hobbled off the stage. A few years later I secured my dream job, and Tom and I decided to try for a baby. We got pregnant almost immediately and nine months later, our son was born.
Now, married to a wonderful man, with a beautiful boy (and another on the way), I can’t imagine that I very nearly didn’t have any of this. My suicide attempt isn’t something I often advertise about myself. Very few people know about it, purely because I don’t want it to define me. However, I guess it does define me, in a way, and always will. It is something that I will always have done, something that not only had an effect on me but also on my family and friends. I will never forget what I put them through, and it will always be a part of who I am.
If my children ever find themselves feeling like I did, I want them to know that there is help; there are other ways to cope, and I want them to know that they can talk to me and I will understand. I also want them to know the severity of attempted suicide so if someone they know goes through it, they won’t make jokes and will shut down anyone who does. When my children are older they will know about my past, and they will know that their lives are precious. I will tell my children this and hope they will tell theirs and you might tell yours. Suicide is real, it’s serious, and we need to talk about it.
Dot Spalding lives in England with her husband, Tom and their son, Teddy. She watches an unhealthy amount of TV and eats more cheese in a day than most people eat in a week. Her dream is to slay vampires unmask ‘A’ in Stars Hollow with her best friend, Leslie Knope. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter