Can Suicidal Tendencies Cause a Traumatic Reaction?

I went to the hospital for having suicidal thoughts for the first time in 2014, after a breakdown. They released me in less than 24 hours later with no help at all. I wasn’t ready. I had to keep myself alive, with the help of the tiniest speck of hope I had. One wrong move or one quick and impulsive thought would’ve ended my life. It was terrifying. I would’ve gone back, but I thought, “They don’t care about me.”

Everything was a trigger. Everything would make me cry. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I wouldn’t smile. I had flashbacks, and even a few hallucinations. For example: whenever I crossed the street, my mind would show me jumping in front of a car. Sometimes it would take a few minutes to figure out if it was real or not. I also had all the signs of major depression and anxiety. Being in that state of hopelessness, trying so hard to keep myself alive after I was released, was too hard to put into words.

One thing that I think made it even worse was that I had to pretend I was fine, live my daily routine and go to school, because no one knew I went to the hospital besides my best friend. I isolated myself from everyone but her, unfortunately ruining my other friendships. She made me feel safe. I only felt safe when I was with her, which became the root to attachment problems for the next year or so. I would just hide my face in her arms or hold onto her arm. I wouldn’t go home after class. I would either stay at school, go to the mall, or go to my best friend’s house until late in the evening. My relationship with my mom was rocky back then, and I knew any conflict between us would make me feel worse – if that was even possible.

This lasted about a month, then it slowly started to fade and I slowly became stronger. In December of the same year, I went to the hospital again. After they released me, I actually ran across the street and almost got hit by a car. The cops took me back to the hospital, but then I just had a nap and was sent home. I didn’t have to worry about school since I was on holidays. I felt the exact same way as before, but the flashbacks were even worse. Since it was Christmas, I missed out on traditions. I had to skip them because I was too sick.

Both events were so traumatizing that I might’ve had Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). It is similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but the only big difference is that ASD only lasts a short period of time. PTSD can last for at least 6 months, and in some cases, a lifetime. I am writing this to spread awareness that PSTD and ASD are not just for veterans, abusers, and victims of terrorist attacks – as most people think. It can be caused by anything an individual can consider a trauma. In a blog from the Huffington Post titled PTSD: It’s Not Just for Veterans, the author writes, “Not everyone experiences and perceives an event the same way, so there is no concrete list of events that can cause traumatic responses.”

Why was I traumatized if this is something I wanted to happen? I was the one thinking like this. Could suicidal ideation or attempts even cause a traumatic reaction?

The answer is yes, because the truth is, those who are suicidal usually don’t want to die; they just want their suffering to end, and being in that state of hopelessness is terrifying. In my eyes, it WAS a near death experience – even if I was the one who would’ve committed the act.

There is not much research on this, but I did find an article by David Conroy, PhD, on the subject. Here’s what he says:

  • “People who suffered suicidal conditions, particularly conditions that were chronic, recurrent, or included one or more attempts, may also be victims of PTSD.”
  • “Suicidal people meet the formal criteria for PTSD.”
  • “Many of us are haunted by memories of acute crises, acts of self-injury, or extended periods of severe depression.”
  • “We suffer PTSD simply from having been suicidal, independently of whatever particular traumas may have contributed to our becoming suicidal.”
  • “The idea of dying is terrifying…The idea of dying violently simply by forces generated from within ourselves is in some ways almost too horrible to apprehend. How could anyone survive such a prolonged siege of pain and terror – and remain unaffected?”[1]

Unfortunately, I did go back to the hospital July of 2015. My best friend and I got thrown into a small room with a mattress and very thin blanket – the room itself was traumatizing. We cuddled, talked and cried the whole eight hours we waited. It was horrible.

But, something came from it. I realized I can’t leave her. Leaving her and never seeing her again would hurt too much. I told her to just hold me. She did as she stroked my arm. We stayed like that as we talked for hours. It felt nice. If I were to leave, I would never experience anything like that again. I also saw how much she cared about me. If I died, she’d be devastated. She actually said something to me. She said, “This is where you can’t be selfish.” I will always remember that.

I haven’t been back to the hospital and haven’t had a suicidal thought since that day. It was really life-changing.

Now, I am no longer living just for her – I am also living for me.


References

[1] Conroy, D. (2014). Why is it hard for us to recover from being suicidal? Hinton Victim Support Services. Retrieved from http://hintonvictimsupportservices.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Why-is-it-hard-to-recover-from-Suicidal-Thoughts.pdf

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