One of my longtime best friends called me the other night with a horrible heartache. She needed someone to talk to. Their daughter is said to be suicidal, and she was stuck on a business trip until the following night.
Her husband was at home dealing with the situation, but she would not be well until she could hug her daughter. She needed to look deeply into her daughter’s eyes to get a “reading” of what was going on inside her mind.
Until she could sit and talk to her daughter, she could at least get my brain on what to do. We talked a little about when we were seventeen and tried to commit suicide.
Now, all these years later, what I could tell my friend or daughter to make it better, I grew up in a very dysfunctional home and had no reason to believe that I was loved or that I had some kind of emotional support system.
That was not what excited me, despite looking back, I think it set the stage, ensuring low self-esteem when entering high school. I wanted to die because I was in love with two boys who were best friends, and I knew I had never been able to choose between them. It was more than I could take.
I wanted to escape the pain of dating one and wishing the other. Both were wonderful, beautiful souls. I had met them once when we were fifteen, and we instantly fell into a beautiful relationship. One was my first true love. He was struggling with his mother’s new husband and became very distant and moody.
In my insecurity, I assumed that he was no longer interested in me. To test my theory, I scribbled a heart that he drew in his notebook with our names. He understood that I was ditching him and seemed at peace with the idea. I was too hurt and insecure to admit that I was just testing him, and I didn’t want to finish.
He was also hurt and shy to stop me. None of us knew how to speak openly about our hearts. He occasionally asked me out after that.
I would have thought we were about to get back together, and then he would be gone again. He moved to a nearby city to live with his father and stepmother. He gave me his best friend’s phone number to call if I needed to reach him.
One night, after a year when he came in and out of my life and stole my heart every time, I finally called his friend to find out when he would return to the city and, more importantly, he would rejoin me, according to his best friend, the love of my life thought I was a slut, even though I was a virgin.
He had no intention of coming back with me. However, his best friend was there to pick up the pieces of my broken heart. The best friend was as beautiful and amazing as the first but in different and unique ways. We loved each other. We were sixteen years old, and we plan to get married when we turn twenty.
Since they were best friends, my ex would visit and leave. It was a challenge for me to see him during these visits. My head said that I should hate him, but my heart still danced every time he entered the room.
My ex and I ended up having a long conversation one night. He confessed that he said I was a slut, but that he regretted it and never felt that way about me. They were just stupid sixteen-year-old emotions linked to our past together. He thought it was better to date his best friend and gave his blessing. It killed me.
I was still in love with him, and he was telling me to be with his best friend. Her best friend was the kindest and sweetest boy I’ve ever dated. None of us would ever dream of hurting such a beautiful soul.
I could not tell either of them that I was in love with both, and for months I was slowly mad, unable to speak openly with both, terrified that they would both reject me.
Eventually, I crashed and couldn’t take the pain of wanting one and the guilt of never wanting to hurt the other. I suspect it is some kind of primitive fight or flight mechanism that is triggered when negative emotions bombard us. When we feel that the situation is hopeless, and we cannot change the dynamics, we cannot fight it.
So, we need to escape, and suicide might look like the best way to avoid it. It is difficult, during this period, to stop and logically realize that emotions are always changing and, as such, they do not need to be combated or avoided.
You just need to wait and make positive choices and changes to bring about the difference in the dynamics that are creating the overwhelming emotions that we want to escape from. At seventeen, I couldn’t see that.
I also think that if a teenager doesn’t believe that someone is going to cry for them when they’re gone, then suicide becomes a genuine consideration.
Years later, when I had two small children, and my life was a mess, I found myself laughing to escape the pain of life again. It was completely different then. I knew that my two children would be heartbroken and psychologically spoiled for life if I committed suicide.
As a single mother, I was their only sense of security. I was their whole world. I could be depressed enough to want to get away from my problems, but I could never seriously consider suicide as in high school. Someone needed me and would be destroyed if I left. Perhaps that is where the answer to teen suicide lies.
Does the teenager believe that someone else’s life will become unbearable if they die? Almost two years ago, my son came to me in tears and told me he was suicidal. The idea of life without my son was more than I could bear. I knew firsthand what it’s like to feel so much pain that you just want to die.
Imagining my son’s feeling this way was worse than anything I have ever endured. We talked a lot about the things that destroyed his will to live. We talked a lot about the “feeling” of being suicidal.
We mostly talked about how bad it is to have someone you love dying unexpectedly in a car accident or something. It is an entirely different thing to lose them because they chose to leave.
I told him to imagine how he would feel if I committed suicide. The pain he felt at the thought of him brought him almost to tears. He said he couldn’t take it if I did this to him.
I told him with tears in my own eyes that I felt the same way. My daughter got together, and, in tears, she put aside all sibling rivalries and poured out her heart on how incredibly painful it would be for her if he died. We became very close in the coming weeks, as we worked together to make many changes in his world and his perspectives.
He’s doing wonderfully now. He is delighted with a new school, with a girlfriend who is the love of his life and has found his old enthusiasm for life’s adventures again.
So, I think my advice is this: tell her what her death would mean to you.
Does she know in your heart how much you love her?
Don’t assume anything. Yes, you have to take her to some kind of therapist. But, whatever you do, don’t make it feel like some kind of rotten nut. And don’t ignore that. Even if she is just talking about suicide to get attention, find out why.
She may be testing the waters, looking to see if anyone would care. There is nothing more depressing than discovering that no one would care if you died tomorrow. Find a way to make her see that emotions are temporary and that together, you can fix whatever life gives you.
Does she know you’re in her corner? Help her to change her life. Find out what she is struggling with and train, guide, help her create positive changes. Teach her to overcome the pain instead of succumbing to it.