Content warning: Frank discussion of suicide affecting schizoaffective disorder.
After I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and then schizoaffective disorder, two of my friends, Josh and then Aaron (not their real names), died by suicide. Their deaths were tragic, unnecessary, preventable, and painful. And their deaths triggered a new direction in my schizoaffective disorder—dying by suicide became an option.
Suicide Triggered My Schizoaffective Symptoms and Suicidal Ideation
Josh, suffering from depression, died first, in September of 2003. Aaron, who had bipolar disorder, followed in February of 2004. After Aaron’s death, life got more unbearable than it had ever been. I started having gruesome nightmares about Aaron’s corpse walking around. The only thing I could read was graphic descriptions of self-injury (Can Self-Injury Lead to Suicide?). And I felt all alone. You see, I’d been grieving with all of Aaron’s friends who had flown in from different parts of the country. After the burial, they left.
Aaron had been a drummer. When the casket touched the bottom of the grave after it was lowered down, a peal of thunder rippled through the sky. One of Aaron’s friends who was there said it was his last drumroll.
By the summer of 2006—after I had completed graduate school—I was suicidal. Ten percent of people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder die by suicide. It was possible I would have become suicidal in any case. But those thoughts and feelings started with my friends’ deaths.
Schizoaffective and Thoughts of Suicide
I’ve asked my husband Tom to drive me to the hospital twice for suicidal ideation. The first time, in 2008 when we were engaged, I actually stayed as an inpatient in the psychiatric ward. The second time, February of this year, I went through the hospital’s outpatient program.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m really suicidal or if I just scare myself into thinking I am because of my friends’ deaths. I don’t really want to die, I just want the pain to end. But there’s so much pain, and it is often overwhelming. Tom pointed out that my wanting him to drive me to the emergency room when I feel that way shows that I don’t really want to die by suicide.
Even so, I’ve had more than my fair share of long nights wondering what would be the best way to end it all. Actually, I think one night going through that is one night too many. No one should have to weather that.
Suicide Is Not Selfish
I don’t think Josh or Aaron were selfish. I’ve experienced their feelings. I’ve heard the choice of suicide being compared to the choice of staying in a burning building or jumping out a 20 story window. I think that’s a good analogy. Nobody chooses suicide. Sometimes the pain is just too overwhelming. But, as bleak as this may sound, it helps me to remember that, as my mother says, it’s much better to stay alive where there’s hope that things can get better.