by Alyssa Armbruster
“Don’t argue with them. Don’t make the situation about you. Don’t lecture them or tell them what they are thinking is wrong. Don’t promise confidentiality or offer to fix their problems. And especially, especially don’t blame yourself.”
Through the endless tears, stress, long drawn out secrets and countless nights on the phone, this week has been a changing point in my life, for better or worse.
It began a few weeks ago, when a few evident changes occurred in my best friend. She went from happy go lucky, sweet and kind to everyone she met, to manic depressive, caught on a roller coaster of emotions. As time progressed, her smile began to fade and her hair was noticeably falling out. She had confided in me, months prior, that she was diagnosed with a mild anxiety disorder and had begun a new medication routine. We had come to believe that the medication was her saving grace from the panic attacks she suffered due to her anxiety.
We were so wrong.
In class, I passed a note containing a joke that I knew would make her smile. Instead, she shrugged it off and whispered that she needed to speak to me after class. I was expecting her to confide in me the usual problems, with her boyfriend, school, or her job. I wasn’t prepared for bombshell she dropped.
She had been experiencing fits of mania, followed by strong desires to commit suicide when the depression took over.
What do you say to your friend on the edge?
My friend was unwilling to share too much more, just that she had a plan on how she would do it. She refused to tell her parents, teachers, or anyone with any real authority or means to help her overcome the conundrum she faced. Since she wasn’t willing, I had to be for her. As days past, I found myself attempting to carry my friend’s burdens.
I tried to make everything better for her and essentially caudle her. I suggested she speak to her parents, secretly dying for someone else to know her secret. Every step of the way she fought me, saying they wouldn’t understand nor would they be capable of helping her. It was clear she was relying on me to be her crutch. Her secret was weighing the both of us down. At this moment, neither of us bore any resemblance to who we used to be. We wear matching dark shadows, bags under our eyes, and grimaces. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to continue carrying her, until I was told a statement that placed everything into perspective:
“Do you want to lose her friendship, knowing not only will she hate your presence, but be safe and alive. Or do you want to see her dead? It will end in one of two ways. Whatever one you pick will say more about you than your words.”
It breaks my heart to know that these are the last days she will call me her friend.
Since she wasn’t willing, I had to be for her. One of the first things I did was call the suicide prevention hotline. A national hotline dedicated to reaching out to those individuals who are struggling and in need of a confidant to ventt heir despair, and discover how to be brought back from the brink. I asked the woman who answered for advice on how to effectively communicate with my friend, on how best to convince her to seek help.
The pointers she gave me helped me come to the realization that I must be direct in confronting my friend and her parents.
To my friend,
I love you more than you know. I hope one day you will see that what I am about to do is to ensure you are happy and healthy one day. Maybe one day you won’t see me as the enemy for telling your parents. I’m sorry, but it had to be done.
At this moment, her mother’s cell phone is ringing… I only hope she answers…
To the reader,
Are you or someone you know battling with the beast, trying to overcome the call of suicide?
You are not alone.
Everyday those of every age come faced with this decision for a multitude of reasons. If you are suffering, let your parents, teachers, or any adult you trust know. Let them know that you need their support. If you need help talking about any aspect, visit the suicide hotline prevention website.
If someone you know is thinking about committing suicide, contact their parents, teachers, or someone who can do something for the person you know who is struggling. That person might be you.
Don’t argue with them. Don’t make the situation about you. Don’t lecture them or tell them what they are thinking is wrong. Don’t promise confidentiality or offer to fix their problems. And especially, especially don’t blame yourself.
Provide hope and support. Seek professional help, and make sure your friend is following-up on treatment. If the doctor prescribes medication, make sure your friend takes it as directed. Be proactive at offering assistance and encourage them to make positive lifestyle changes: a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and even getting outside for at least half an hour a day. Help that person develop a set of steps he or she can to follow for themselves during this time of crisis. Remove potential means of suicide like pills, knives, razors, or firearms. And continue your support through the long haul.
Don’t wait till it’s too late.