Choosing Life

Trigger warning for discussion of suicide and suicidal ideation.

People trying to stop suicide on Twitter are admirable; hell, people trying to stop suicide anywhere are admirable. There are some pretty brilliant Twitter projects out there, like Don't Lose Your Grip, that have helped me and a lot of other people out there in our recoveries, and some pretty brilliant support networks too - as well as the admirable #opstopsuicide, which does exactly what it says on the tin.

All the same, I've noticed that a lot of anti-suicide tweeters rely on platitudes. Pretty pictures. Things you can fit happily into 140 characters. Given that you can only fit that many characters in a tweet, this is not particularly surprising.

All the same, I still take issue with it. This isn't because I love encouraging people to commit suicide or because I hate new media; I certainly don't hate Twitter.

Rather, it involves me and my personal experiences with suicidal ideation and intent, and with the deed itself. I won't go on about them, because if I wanted to harp on that much about it I'd bash out a misery-lit manuscript about my tortured teenage life for people to flick through on the plane, but suffice to say I have spent the best part of the past four years feeling like I want to die, planning the best ways to take my own life, and actively trying more times than I care to discuss right now.

I can safely tell you that for me at least, suicide is a compulsion. It's not rational; I just feel...well...compelled to do it, sometimes. I got used to the suicidal feelings; I would rationalise them, try and hit on reason after reason, because admitting there's a part of you that wants to stop you from existing and has no goddamn reason to do so is pretty scary. Hell, I wrap them around me like a blanket sometimes, because they might be shitty, but I know them better than I've ever known happiness, and knowing something that well is comforting. (Unhealthy habit, I know. Deal with it.)

Nyan cat
Nyan Cat thinks life is awesome.
The point I'm trying to make is that it gets you into a mindset where death is anything between a) awful, but still better than life, and b) awesome. People are at different points on this line at different times. Convincing them that life might be anywhere between c) not great, but still better than nonexistence, and d) so amazing it makes cats grow poptart bodies and crap out rainbows, is not a matter of tweeting platitudes. Actually, it might just piss some people off more - I know that platitudes don't work on me at all. Even truth has failed to work on me before, because some truths need to be experienced to be believed by the cynics. It's not a matter of some kind of magical epiphany therapy where a clichéd statement you ripped off Facebook suddenly helps every suicidal person on Twitter.

Here's one area where Twitter does come in useful, along with social networks in general: letting you know that even if you feel alone, you're not, because some faceless stranger on the other side of the planet knows exactly how you feel. More importantly, this faceless stranger cares about you, sometimes platonically, sometimes less so (it's more common than you might think). A strong support system can help along a recovery immensely, and even the so-called "weak ties" (the people you might be passingly acquaintanced with online) play an important role. Just please, please don't expect instant results. Ever. Even with medication, therapy or both plus a strong support network, suicidality is a stubborn bugger and won't budge for at least a few months.