Approximately 92-95% of suicide attempts end in survival.
I didn’t know this, though, when I tried to end my life almost eight years ago. I’d only ever heard of stories that ended in death or in hospital beds. I’d only ever seen them as a plot twist on a television program or tragedy porn in the news. To me, people who attempted suicide overwhelmingly ended up in the ground, or on occasion in psych wards, but there was never any life to be lived afterward.
There was never a single story that said to me, “You can survive. And then you can truly live.”
Imagine my surprise, then, when I woke up alone, head pounding, room spinning. There was no point of reference. What do you do when you survive? Where do you go? Later that night, I googled “suicide survivor,” but back then everything I found was for people who’d lost someone – never for someone who’d nearly lost themselves.
I went to bed. I got up the next morning, went to class. When I saw my therapist a few days later, I mentioned it in passing, ashamed of my failure, trying to remain casual and unaffected and distant. She asked me how I felt now and I said I felt nothing. 92-95% failure rate – I know that years later – but in that moment I thought I must be the only one who could fuck up something that should be so straightforward.
Stop your own heart. There must be a thousand different ways to do it. I’ve seen this on television a million times, I told my therapist, teenagers like me who dramatically and precisely erase themselves. She asked me how I did it, and I told her just like a teenager I saw on Dateline. It was supposed to be quick. It was supposed to be simple.
“I don’t know how I messed this up.” My hands curled into two perfect fists.
She asked me if I was going to try again and I told her, “What’s the use?” I was embarrassed. And you can’t 5150 someone who’s too embarrassed to try, who’s treating the whole ordeal like nothing more than a terrible faux pas, something to be forgotten. Someone who isn’t dangerous anymore, just humiliated.
Television, with its drama and sensationalism, didn’t prepare me to live. It didn’t prepare me for the next morning, when my life was still the same as I’d left it.
Television only prepared me for trying. It allowed me to imagine the vindication and justice of succeeding – portraying suicide as triumph, suicide as revenge, suicide as release, suicide as justified, suicide as beautiful tragedy, suicide as an art form, even, as the answer – but it never prepared me to survive, for everything after.
No one told me how to rebuild my life. No one told me how to take the fragmented pieces of myself and thread them back together. I was only taught how to die, and never how to live.
Find me a story of a survivor who’s glad to be one. Give me a survivor who gets their own damn show, where suicide isn’t just a plot twist for shock value but the genuine truth of their struggle.
Give me the 13 Reasons Why of the 92-95% of people who wake up and have to face a world they weren’t expecting to see again, see a reflection they’d already parted ways with.
Give me the stories of teenagers like me whose lives aren’t sensational because of how they died, but instead tremendous because of how they survived, how they lived. Give me more than trauma porn. Give me more than triggers that exploit their traumas – more than the blood in the bathtub, the wailing of the ambulance, the walls of the psych ward.
Give me their full humanity. Give me recovery, give me relapse, give me resilience.
Give me back my humanity.
There are youth like me who wake up to a spinning room, posed with the question of how they will rebuild. They’re looking for stories like theirs to help them engage with trauma and reimagine their lives – and they’re only finding this in the form of tragedy, revenge, descent.
If the overwhelming majority of us will survive, why do our only representations confine us to madness or death?
Every single day, people like me survive. People like me live, and along the way, discover something worth living for. We grow up, we get older. We find ways to become whole. We’re so much more than our proximity to death and the pain that we’ve held in our bones. And our singular trauma doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of entertaining you, nor is it designed for your consumption.
We’re more than this. We’re larger than this.
When will I get to see a story like mine on the screen? Show me someone who lives. Show me someone who survives and goes on to truly live.
We’re still here. We’re still waiting.
We need you. You need you. If you ever need support, please consider the following crisis resources:
The National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-8255
The Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQIA+ youth: 1-866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
Or check out my favorite mental health apps at this resource list.