Monday

Women and Suicide: Things You May Not Know

When I was in my troubled teens, I used to threaten suicide to my mother.
Well, I'll just kill myself.
Her response?
Well, go ahead then.
I was always totally befuddled by her lack of compassion. Shouldn't a mother plead with a daughter that she not take her young life? No. My mother would never let me use words to lay a guilt trip on her.

But what if I had done it? What if I had actually proceeded?

I fantasized about how I would do it. There were no guns in our home, to my knowledge. Our kitchen knives always really sucked. I even tried slitting each of my fingertips, vertically, and I could barely produce blood. We had really sharp scissors though! But most of all, we had lots of medicines...nothing hardcore--just the basic pain relievers. A seemingly quiet way to go.

I imagined downing a bottle of chalky, white, bitter aspirins. How the hell could I overdose on those?! My tastebuds and gag reflex would not allow. But then there were those yummy-coated Advil pills. How much would I have to take? What if I didn't succeed? That would be totally embarrassing!

***

My mother tells a story of a Jehovah's witness visiting our home when we were children. They would come through the neighborhood with their colorful pamphlets and small bibles, asking for just a moment of your time. Typically, you wouldn't answer the door, but it was hard sometimes because these people were sooooo friendly. As my mother believed the Word was good, she let a small group of witnesses into our home to share lessons with my sister.

As the lessons progressed, my sister increasingly began threatening suicide in the heat of parental arguments. She wanted to go to a "better place."

What better place?

That wonderfully luscious place with deep and bright green plants and beautifully colored flowers where the weather was warm and fruits were on the trees and you could walk around on top of the clouds with a mere leaf covering your private parts and God was right there watching you. Wouldn't you want to go there? Don't you want to live forever in eternal bliss?

My mother stopped them from coming and threw all the pamphlets and bibles in the garbage.

***

I've never really understood what the big deal is about committing suicide. I mean, if you want to end your own life, isn't it your right? Why should you care about who you've left behind, you'll be dead? That is their problem, isn't it? I never understood how the bible could describe such a wonderful afterlife in heaven...the life that we've all been waiting for...but somehow, if we choose the jump the gun (no pun intended), we no longer qualify for the eternal reward. If you choose suicide, you go to hell. How is that fair? I am sorry to hear that people commit suicide, but it seems like their own personal right to self-determination. How can I convince you that the reward is greater if you stay here on earth? Maybe I can, but I can't make you any promises. Only you can do that. Just remember suicide is a solo act--meaning, no one else should be involved.

***

Have you ever thought about harming yourself, or others?

Um, well, not exactly *looks around the room, no eye contact*.........okay, well, yeah, maybe *fiddles with hands, shakes right leg* ...but I'm not going to do it.

Do you have a plan about how you would harm yourself, if you were to do so?

NO!! *rolls eyes, thinking, "And why the fuck would I tell you?"*

***

This was me in counseling, or at the doctor, or both, shit, I can't remember. This was during the height of the abusive marriage I was in. I hated being asked that question because I didn't know if I should tell the truth, or what they wanted to hear, or not hear. I vacillated between the answers frequently. It was a conscious mental battle. This is the problem with psych questions...psych evaluations...they can't evaluate you if you don't tell the truth. But you don't really want to the tell the truth, because you know the difference between right and wrong. And this was voluntary counseling for me--think about when people are forced to go ie custody decisions.

Yeah, I fucking thought about suicide. I was miserable, beat up, beat down, and felt trapped. But I also thought about homicide:
If I could only just take that bitch out who my husband fucked and impregnated.
Nah, that would never work for me, because I was always a woman who believed that the issue was never the other woman, the problem is your man. Now if only I could've taken this muthafucker out! Homicide was more attractive because even though I'd rot in jail, I'd get the benefit of seeing my child thrive in freedom. Then again, what a bitch look like sitting in jail...prison, rather? Not my thing. I didn't grow up destitute or in poverty. I know what the other side of the fence looks like. I know I can get to where I need to be. How do I free myself?

I will tell you what honestly kept me from suicide, was the thought that my kid would have to grow up telling the story about how mom committed suicide. How my kid would have to live with my decision. I could NOT deal with that. I would never see my kid grow up. I wouldn't be there to guide and encourage my kid if life got rough. And I didn't want anyone to be there for my kid, no one to do my job, except me.

And my mother also reminded me, still in her hardcore fashion:
If you want to kill yourself, Randi, then that's your decision. Your kid will live on, we will do the raising...but No one can love your child like you. No one will treat your child like you do.
A mother's love is irreplaceable. I cry as I wrote that. I still feel her words, as fucking mean as my mother was. I made a choice to continue my pregnancy. I made a choice to have this child.

(I am extremely pro-choice as a result of all of my experiences)

****

Men's rights activists will have you believe that suicide is men's issue. Every time we talk about domestic violence and the inequalities and injustices that women face, MRAs copy-n-paste their list of gripes which include the fact that most suicides are done by men. It's the only thing they will honestly claim--kindly leaving out the fact that most violent crimes, against women, against...anyone, are committed by men, period. I would like to thank a commentor on the John Daily spoof about Male Inequality for pointing out how MRA's like to misrepresent things--skew them in their favor (like the whole domesticviolenceismutualbullshit).

Did you know that women attempt suicide 2-3 Xs as much as men? We've got caught up in the hardcore evidence--the deaths, which are mostly men. Whether or not the act was successful should be irrelevant in the overall picture.
It is well-established that women attempt suicide with nonlethal means more often than men do, however it is also tru that when suicide attempts are defined as serious (ie, requiring medical attention), the incidence among men and women is equal.
Here is some more information that I pulled from Suicide Among Women: A Critical Review, by Linda H. Chaudron and Eric D. Caine:
Highest rates of suicide is between ages 35-64

Suicide methods, greatest to least: Firearms, overdose, hanging

Black women have the lowest rates of suicide

Alaska had the highest rate of female suicide...D.C. had the lowest

Violent behavior and aggressions have been shown to be significant predictors of suicide

Intimate partner violence has been associated with increased rates of suicide attempts, but its effect on suicide risk has not been studied (<--hint, hint, study it)

Data on suicide risk in lesbian and bisexual women are lacking, however, there is an increase risk of suicide attempt among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents

Female suicide rates appear to be unaffected by unemployment. Despite a rise in unemployment among women in the U.S. between 1972 and 1986, there was a decrease in the female suicide rate.

Women who died by suicide were more likely to have higher levels of education than women who died from natural causes...physicians, police officers Navy personnel are the top

The most compelling finding for men and woman who commit suicide is the high prevalence of psychiatric illness ie all major affective, psychotic, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders
There are some major issue with the last bit of data regarding "psychiatric illnesses." First, women have been the main subjects of psychology its experimentation so the data is skewed. Second, if you are to believe in all of these "mental illnesses" why is it that most depressed persons never commit suicide? Furthermore, what of all these men killing themselves who have not being diagnosed with depression? Would it be that depression is underdiagnosed? And third, "mental illnesses" do not operate in a vacuum. They are merely the symptoms, not the actual disease. What are the actual circumstances that cause people to exhibit signs of psychosis, anxiety, etc? Do you realize that medication does not change what actually occurred or is occurring in their lives?

****

I was medicated at the advice of my family practice doctor and my therapist was in agreement (read UN-medicated for another account). I was depressed but my doctor didn't tell me that he thought so--nor did I know so. I told the doctor I was having all types of body problems: chronic stomach and back aches, hair loss, migraines. My doctor didn't know what was going on in my household. Interestingly though, my therapist didn't know the details either (read The Counseling Dilemma for a better description). I chose what I wanted to reveal, even though I was the one who freely sought the help. Understand that. The fact that I was also a psychology student did not help matters. Understand that.

So I took the meds. One, and then the next, and then the next, and then the next....and I felt...numb. I just didn't care. I didn't care about being abused. I only existed to live perfunctorily...to live under my current conditions. There was nothing else. There wasn't a future, or a past. I felt nothing. Problems not solved. Situation unchanged...well, no stomach aches, fewer migraines...more hair :P

*****
Why Women Are Less Likely Than Men To Commit Suicide

"Women process their experiences with friends. They discuss their feelings, seek feedback and take advice," Murphy says. "They are much more likely to tell a physician how they feel and cooperate in the prescribed treatment. As a result, women get better treatment for their depression."

Although suicide rates are lower among women, women lead men two to one in suicide attempts.

Cognitive differences

Murphy believes women are less inclined to commit suicide because their thinking is more inclusive. While a man might tend to throw aside seemingly peripheral issues to get to the core of a problem, a woman might take more things into account. She may continue to seek input and process problems long after the point where men decide on a course of action.

"She'll consider not just her feelings but also the feelings of others -- her family, the children, even acquaintances, and how those people will be affected by a decision like suicide," Murphy says. "A man is much less likely to take those things into account. He makes his decision, and it's about him, so he doesn't feel the need to share it with anyone else."
****

Um, not really. When I was going through most of the abuse, I shut everyone off--ask my friends. I was already isolated from them by distance. I stopped calling. I stopped answering. I was short in my e-mails that I did respond to. I had no local friends, nor did I want any because I thought I had too many problems to have friends. The only person I occasionally spoke to was the one person who I never really liked, my mother. Remember though, what she told me:
If you want to kill yourself, Randi, then that's your decision. Your kid will live on, we will do the raising...but No one can love your child like you. No one will treat your child like you do.
I sought help from a fucking stranger, a therapist, because I couldn't bear tell my friends that I had made a mistake in marrying this lying, cheating, abusive asshole. I knew he was a lying, cheating asshole before the marriage. Everyone knew it. I didn't know it was abuse and that it would get worse. But you know, having a father in your child's life and marrying your babydaddy is much more important than the health and safety of you and your child...right, Black Church? right, AFDC (TANF)? right, President Bush?

***

There were too many things in life that I needed to accomplish for me to pull off a suicide: I needed to finish college, enter my career, raise the kid, share with my friends....I needed to live. I look back at suicide and homicide think about how ridiculous it was. Sure life sucks really bad some days, court kicks my ass and at the end of the day I have pain, I cry. My joy comes in knowing I will succeed as my abuser's life is sucked away...not by me directly, but by the mere fact that I am still somebody--not the person I once was and not the person I could have become had I stayed with him. I had to remember my strength, recapture that person and realize the potential that I always had. I don't have all the answers and I am frustrated that I can't tell you do to what I do because it works for me and there are no guarantees. For some of you you will believe in god and that works for you and I am happy for you. I choose not to pass my power to something else but instead I harvest that energy back into myself while thanking my ancestors for the courage, strength, and determination that they had which runs in me.

I also have the utmost support of my dear best friend who never judges and goes with the flow. When I wanted to leave the country, she was like, You need any help? When I made decisions that no one else understood, she defends me based on her understanding of how victims and survivors can think. If I were to owe anyone all the glory, it would be her. It is my greatest desire that everyone have a friend like this.

It is also my greatest desire that people free themselves from the realms of psychological diagnoses and medications. Life is so much more beautiful when you are running the show. Then again, you'd have to live to know that.