“Selfish”. This word gets tossed around a lot when discussing suicide, and most often by the people who have never been suicidal. “That is just so, so selfish.” It doesn’t even hurt when people say that to me, because a.) that would mean I would already have to have some positive feelings about myself and some ego to wound, and b.) after a while, nothing sinks in. Depression becomes your lens to look through, your force-field, your wall shutting the world out of your mind and shutting you out of your world. So it’s not a big deal to me, and yet… I wish people could hear themselves sometimes.
It’s kind of impossible for someone to kick you when you’re already so far down, but people can push you over the edge. And let’s face it, there are a lot worse things a suicidal person can hear (for example, “why don’t you just do it then?” which I thankfully have never heard) than “That’s so selfish!” But, I will state my case regardless…
Common mistakes people make when talking to suicidal people (and what those suicidal people might be thinking in response):
*just a note…I’m not going to sugar coat this. Depressed people are often irritable and cynical, so…you’re warned.
#1. “It’ll get better.”
I have two reactions to this, and they depend on voice inflection. If spoken in a quiet voice with a sad look in their eyes, I think/say, “Yeah, it will,” or “I hope so…” If spoken in a strong, determined voice that you can picture saying “Buck up, soldier!” then it will be more along the lines of: Easy for you to say, you ignorant fuck.
An Explanation: The thing is, if someone’s thinking about committing suicide, then that generally means they don’t think it’s going to get better. Suicide is last resort, people, if someone thought it was all going to turn around tomorrow, they wouldn’t be thinking about this shit.
#2. “You just need to think positive.”
If it’s someone I love…“Yeah…” If it’s not…Gee, if only I would have thought of that before! *mentally flips them off*
An Explanation: Suicidal thoughts are often the product of depression, and depression is an illness like diabetes or high cholesterol, etc. If someone needs a shot of insulin, you don’t tell them to think positive and hope they don’t pass out/have a seizure. If someone needs therapy and medication, you don’t tell them to think positive and hope they don’t off themselves.
#3. “Suicide is not the answer.”
Than what is?? Easy for you to say, because you’re not in this position.
An Explanation: This is just me, but the only thing that really comforts me in a situation where the other person has zero experience in depression or suicidal thoughts/attempts, is when they hug me and say, “I’m here for you, I love you.” Otherwise, we both just sit there knowing there’s nothing they can do.
#5. “Why didn’t you come talk to me?”
I hate this question. Well, if I didn’t know I sucked before, now I’ve hurt another person’s feelings, so…guess that makes it level 83 of hell.
An Explanation: No one wants to have this conversation. No one wants to make their friends and family sad and worried. No one wants to be that needy, suicidal, desperate, fuck. It’s not exactly an easy conversation to have.
#6. “That is so selfish!”
If I love them: I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that. If I don’t love them: Go. Fuck. Yourself.
An Explanation: I understand being upset and angry. You don’t want your loved one to leave you. But taking it out on them isn’t the answer. Keep calm, but let them know you’re concerned. Be proactive. Ask them what they need from you, look up resources for them and offer suggestions. Don’t yell at the suicidal person. They don’t need another reason to think they are a terrible person.
I’m not trying to criticize here. It’s a tough conversation to have with a loved one, and it’s hard to hear how much pain they’re in. But if you find yourself at a loss for words, don’t say anything…hold them. If you can’t hold them, keep these things in mind. Be gentle with your words. Remember that depression isn’t logical, you can’t reason with it. But you can love the person it effects.
My friend Ashley is the one who told me I was selfish. I’m not mad at her, and I will always love her. But I hope this can be a lesson to people like her, who have good intentions that can be interpreted negatively. You don’t have to understand depression or have experienced it, but nevertheless, tread lightly my friends.