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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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