Tuesday, August 3, 2010
We get mail. Tuesday, August 3, 2010.
“YOU are NO better than anyone else. I don't give a rat’s behind if you attempted and survived ...What the hell does that have to do with anything? You have NO business at all, trying to help people.” – Part of a PM I received the day I started the SAS group
I remember how I felt when I was 16 and my best friend’s mom killed herself. My first reaction was shock, followed by red-hot anger. How could this woman care so little about her daughter? Didn’t she want to see her daughter grow up? I felt the same anger three years ago when a friend of the family killed himself. He’d left behind a grieving family, and I was furious at him.
But last year, overwhelmed by my bipolar illness and various life circumstances, I tried to do the same thing. Even now, I find it hard to believe. And last spring, as my year anniversary crept closer, I became desperate to share my experience with other attempt survivors. But I couldn’t find any.
Statistically, there are 20 attempts for every completed suicide. But all of the “Suicide Survivors” groups I found in my city were for grieving family members left behind, not for attemptors. Logging on to Facebook, I did a search for people like myself. I found four “suicide survivors” groups on FB, but they were all aimed at family members. So I started “Suicide Attempt Survivors.”
Within a few hours, I had some members, including one woman, “Leslie,” who ran one of the groups for family members. Leslie, whose mother committed suicide last year, requested to post information to help the bereaved. I explained that my group would be, specifically, for ATTEMPT survivors – since there were already several groups on FB for family members. Attempt survivors unique emotional needs, I said.
The response was a flurry of PMs in which Leslie called me “cold hearted” and a “bitch,” and reminding me I was “no better than anyone else.”
Since then I’ve received a number of PMs that I’d consider a kind of hate mail, many of them containing profanity. And I have to keep an eye on the SAS group wall, as occasionally someone will manage to squeak in as a member of the SAS group just to post something angry. One person said that just by having a place for attempt survivors to go, I was “causing people to commit suicide.” One warned we would all go to hell. One was furious that the group existed because it reminded him of his own attempt, and demanded me to delete it.
I also have members forward me PMs they’ve received, with sentiments like “If you want to die, then JUST FUCKING DO IT,” “You’re pathetic!!” and “Everyone is SICK of your WHINING.” One individual wrote a suicidal person to say “If you wanted to die so badly, you wshould (sic) have been killed at birth.”
Some of the people who send these messages are cyber-bullies, but not all of them. Some are simply people who have lost loved ones to suicide, and they are still overwhelmed with pain and anger.
When a loved one commits suicide, anger is a common response. After all, from the vantage point of those left behind, someone has chosen to leave them forever. Family members are mourning a death different from any other. And the object of their anger is no longer here. So they do the next best thing – they lash out at others who have made this choice but lived. Those who have made multiple attempts and are still suicidal seem to be the biggest targets of this rage.
I want the SAS group to be a safe place for attempt survivors. So if angry words are posted to the wall and I don’t see them right away, I apologize. Likewise, your private inbox should not be a place where you receive angry messages. Rather than taking it personally, or fighting back with your own venom, I ask you to delete such messages and block the senders.
Remember that this anger is borne from pain. To be left behind in these circumstances is a terrible thing. Surviving family members may not be able to understand the pain we have experienced, but we may not be able to understand their pain either.