A lot of people attempt suicide. In fact, someone commits suicide every seventeen minutes in the US. A male is four times more likely to succeed than a female. Poisoning is the second most successful method overall, but is by far the method of choice for women.
Many people who use poison, get their stomachs pumped and go back to trying to cope and putting their lives back together with little lasting evidence. When I tried to commit suicide, too much time had elapsed from when I took the pills to the time I got to the hospital, and my stomach wasn’t pumped. Over 90 pills, mostly brain drugs: sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antidepressants, Tylenol, and other assorted chemicals went all the way through my system.
When the the paramedics busted through the ER doors with me on the stretcher, I was coded as a triage acuity level one, the worst designation a person can receive and still be alive. In acute respiratory failure, a breathing tube was forced into my windpipe. I wasn’t responding to anything – even pain, and had an abnormal heart beat.
At some point later that night, the hospital staff quit monitoring or doing anything for me so I am told. My fever raged to over 107 degrees Fahrenheit, and my mother, literally, pitched a fit to get me a cooling blanket and doctor’s care. (Eternally grateful, Mom!) I was on a respirator, had seizures for hours, and my heart stopped multiple times. My mother witnessed a nurse stomp into my room, slam down the charts, and start frantically scribbling notes for the time she hadn’t been checking on me.
I was seething mad about this lapse in care for a long time. Yes, I had tried to kill myself. I was messed up, no argument from me, but, once I got to the hospital, the hospital personnel had a responsibility, at best, to do everything in their power to help me and, at the very least, do their jobs. There was a time when, seeking vengeance, I wanted to sue the crap out of that hospital.
In the years that followed, instead of pursuing a lawsuit, I invested my energy into healing. Even if I did win a lawsuit, would the victory change anything? I’d have more money, sure. But, I’d still talk funny and my other deficits would remain while I would’ve expended my resources, physical and financial, towards a negative pursuit instead of bettering myself and my situation.
With time, I learned to have compassion for the nurses and doctors on duty that night. Gurneys lined the hallways in the busy ER . Because I don’t know the reasons behind the negligent behavior, I can pick a perspective that causes me pain or one that brings peace. I choose to think that the hospital personnel had finite resources and, thinking I was going to die, allocated their attention to others with better odds. Therefore, making a logical and understandable judgement call. I can only imagine the “holy shit!” look on their faces when they realized I was going to pull through.
I’ve found that, with effort and practice, you can take any situation, put some distance between yourself and it emotionally, and look at it objectively. I didn’t say it was easy, but it can be done.
Over time, because of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change form and function based on behavior, experiences, and thoughts, this new way of thinking can actually become the default in your brain. However, you do have to consciously make a disciplined effort to switch the habit and circuitry, at first. Repeatedly reinforcing these pathways and activating this loop in your brain permanently rewires your brain.
In The Work, Byron Katie explains exactly how to do this. The Work will alleviate struggling and anguish, in any situation. According to Katie and many philosophies, all suffering is caused by our own thoughts and judgments about what happens, not by what actually happens. The goal is to change your thoughts. The Work consists of four questions and a turn around. The questions are:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
After you’ve analyzed the situation with the four questions, you turn it around. Each turn around is an opportunity to experience the opposite of your original statement and see what you and the person you’ve judged have in common. Katie says the turnarounds are the prescriptions for happiness. I would agree! For example:
Thought causing pain: “The hospital workers should have done more to help me” turns around to:
- The hospital workers should not have done more to help me. They had to make a judgment call here.
- I should have done more to help myself before ever getting to the hospital.
This exercise can help to alleviate your anger and suffering about any situation and give you a new perspective. You can find a full explanation of The Work and worksheets at http://www.thework.com. Give it a try about some situation in your life and turn it around.