When a Friend Threatens to Commit Suicide (Trigger Warnings)

Trigger Warning: Suicide, Self Harm, Relationship Abuse

Being on the other end of a suicide threat is an awful experience; it leaves you feeling vulnerable, out of control, guilty and like any action you take will be futile – especially if there is a great physical distance limiting just what you can do for your friend.

This is not going to be an in-depth post about what you can do for them, how to save them, how to be their rescuer, how to protect them.  I would love to write a post like that, but sometimes there really is just nothing we can do; either they are too far away, you do not have the means or they are so set on harming themselves that there is nothing that you can do or say that will change their minds and that, unfortunately, is the harsh reality.  This post is about protecting you.

It is three-thirty in the morning here and over the past twenty-four hours I have learnt a harsh lesson.  It is a lesson that has left me feeling tired and drained, vulnerable and hurting, awful and selfish.  Around twenty-four hours ago, a close friend (an online friend if you feel the need to know) threatened to commit suicide.  She posted in a group saying that she could just not handle life any longer, that it was too much and that she was going to kill herself.  This is a small group; many members in the US or in other places around the world and with it being the early hours of the morning here in the UK, anyone remotely close to her was not awake to offer her any help and support.

Between a handful of us, we were able to find her address and ring the police to get her support as soon as possible.  She refused to answer the door, pretending that she was not home and the police left.  She came back online a little later, posted a few lyrics in relation to her abusive partner and then deactivated her account.  We spent the entire day fearing we had lost her completely until she came back online a complete mess and very much needing support.

But you see, that rendition right there is a complete lie.  There was no “us”, there was no “we”.  I had no part in any of this.  I was not the one who found her address or rang the police, I was not the one posting all day saying just how worried and anxious I was, I was not the one that was so stressed and anxious about her that I was engaging in unhealthy behaviours.  That is just the version I want to tell in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, I will not sound as awful and as selfish as I do.

You see, whilst I was worried I was also painfully aware of where I was emotionally and although I hated myself for every moment that I was not desperately worrying about her well-being, I knew that I had to take care of myself first and foremost.  I knew that there was a sea that separated me from her (she is in Ireland whilst I am in England), I knew that there was physically nothing that I could do and I knew that even if I did have a way to contact her that there was nothing that I could say.  She has been adamantly refusing any form of help for weeks on end; whether it be from Domestic Abuse services, mental health services or medical services, she has refused it.

For weeks on end I have seen her make posts about her partner abusing her, about her pressing charges, about her dropping the charges, about her leaving, about her going back and I understand this process thoroughly from my own experiences – I know from my own experiences that until she is ready there is absolutely nothing that I can do or say.

Basically, it comes down to this – there was nothing I could do for her and whilst I could care and I could worry I could not let myself invest all that remains of my emotional energy (because hey, things have been tough and I am running seriously low) into worrying about her.  I could not burn myself out, leave myself with nothing and potentially in the same place as her when there was nothing I could do.  If I did that then I either would be in the midst of a very dark, suicidal depression myself, all ready dead or left with the very dregs of my emotional energy and unable to offer any help and support to anyone else or myself for the foreseeable future.

It is harsh and it is cruel and it is a horrible reality, but the fact of the matter is is that if we barely have the emotional energy to keep ourselves alive and if we do not focus on our own healing and our own well-being so as to restock some of that emotional energy then we have nothing to offer to others.  Sometimes, we just need to put ourselves first.

And that is OK.  That is why I am writing this because I really just want to say that it is OK.  It is OK to think of our own needs.  It is OK to take care of ourselves.  It really, really, really is OK to put ourselves first.

It may seem incredibly harsh and selfish and cruel when there are others around us that need and want our support, but we are just as important and we deserve that same care and support and we especially deserve it from ourselves.

This was a harsh lesson for me; I have done the exact opposite so many times before – thrown myself into supporting others and completely neglected my own needs and ultimately reached the point where I burnt out, broke down and found myself on the very, very edge.  It was a hard lesson to learn and I am still filled with guilt, but it was a good lesson to learn and one we must all learn…

We are important too and we deserve to take care of ourselves.

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