What I Learned After My Last Suicide Attempt (by Dee Chan)

What I Learned After My Last Suicide Attempt (by Dee Chan)

If you are feeling depressed and suicidal this story is for you. I learned some very important lessons after my last suicide attempt – things I never knew before.The moral of this story is: Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it. Or, in my case, almost get it.

The last time I tried to commit suicide, I took every single pill in my house and used up every single Fentanyl patch I had in my possession. Then I laid down and waited to die. Except I didn’t die. A friend had been trying to call me for about 48 hours and when she could not reach me, she finally came over and let herself in with the key I had given her years ago. She found me. Or maybe I should say what was left of me. I went to the hospital in an ambulance where I languished for another two weeks in a coma. When I finally regained consciousness, I was in a sorry state.

You see, I had given myself what is called an Acquired Brain Injury. In my case, all the drugs damaged the left side of my brain and gave me what was¨ in essence¨ a stroke. The doctors later explained to my son that it was a demyelination of my brain nerves. It left me unable to speak, unable to read, unable to swallow. Recovery was slow and painful. I had to relearn how to do many of the things we all take for granted. I spent weeks and weeks in a wheelchair while I had extensive physiotherapy. Learning how to dress

Learning how to dress myself was an especially frustrating endeavour. I could not remember that the tag went at the back of the neck when putting on my t-shirt. Learning how to tell the difference between the right sock and the left sock was incredibly hard.And then, of course, there was the problem of waiting until my swallow reflex returned. I never learned to like a liquid diet fed through a nasal tube. My swallow reflex didn’t return for about three months.

The most terrifying thing for me was that I could not read anymore. You know how when you get to the end of a sentence, your eye has to jump down to the next sentence and go back to the beginning of the line? My brain could no longer do that. I had always been a voracious reader so the idea of never being able to read again was horrible.

The worst part, though, was not being able to speak. I had always been a very verbal person and so having that cut off from me was frightening. Because I could not use my hands, I also could not write. Even if I had been able to use my hands¨ I could no longer put any words together. I was trapped in my own dysfunctional brain.

I was lucky though. I had very good rehab. The Occupational Therapists taught me the skills I needed to know in order to regain some semblance of independent living. The physiotherapists taught me how to walk again. True I was using a walker but I could walk.Eventually after about six months I was deemed ready for discharge and sent home. I returned

Eventually after about six months I was deemed ready for discharge and sent home. I returned back to my home with my Executive Functions in shambles. My short-term memory was shot. I could not remember where I put my shoes¨ my purse¨ my dinner. I could not shop or prepare a meal for myself. I retreated into the back room of my house where I spent untold hours on my computer staring at the screen trying to make sense of my new horrible normal.I decided that I was going to try to recover as best I could and so I thought I would try to write

I decided that I was going to try to recover as best I could and so I thought I would try to write some articles for the internet. I signed up for a website called freelancer.com and started to write for them. At first I would merely copy other content and then re-write it in my own choppy words. Even though I was writing at about a third-grade level, my work sold. After about six months of doing this, I slowly started to notice that other things were getting easier. It was easier for me to put together a simple meal. I was having to make fewer lists to keep myself on track during the day. Eventually¨ I was able to branch out and started writing content for a man who had a wedding website in my home town.

It took six years of tedious¨ slow work but I began to recover. What did I learn? That the brain is an incredibly plastic organ. I had done such damage to my brain but it seemed to have been able to regenerate itself with only a little effort on my part.Eventually I decided that I wanted to start walking more than just from my living room to the

Eventually I decided that I wanted to start walking more than just from my living room to the bathroom¨,so I adopted a little dog and we went out for a walk every day. At first, we walked just around the block. After a while though, he stopped doing his business and so I added another block. Then another. Then another. Before I knew it I was walking between six and eight miles each day with him. And over a period of two years¨ I lost about fifty pounds.

But the most important thing I learned was that suicide is not the answer to my problems. Even though I attempted suicide many, many times, luckily for me I was never successful. Better to find different ways to cope with my emotional pain. I no longer consider suicide when I am feeling low. I’ve actually done a tremendous amount of work on myself and put my Borderline Personality Disorder into complete remission but that’s another story for another time. Do I still have days when I feel low? Yes, of course. Life is full of ups and downs. But the most profound lesson I ever learned was that feelings come and go. They are transitional. I have learned to wait them out while they pass. They always do. Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem.


About the Author: Dee Chan

Dee Chan was diagnosed with BPD more than 35 years ago back when the diagnosis was still fairly new and not very well understood. She has been living with it and coping with it ever since and finding ways to thrive despite it. She has been able to put it into complete remission and turned her life around completely through the practices of gratitude, forgiveness and accountability. Find out more about Dee’s work on her website bpdnomore.com.

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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