A survivor’s testimonial
By Ritu Guglani, Contributor
Last month, I was surprised to see mom wearing my 20-year-old sweater. She told me it was the one I had vomited on after gulping down an insecticide bottle to kill myself at the age of 23. After passing out, I had thrown up incessantly, and expelled large quantities of the poison, reaching the hospital barely alive in the arms of my shocked parents. Mom had knitted the teal sweater for me, and I had patched a red teddy bear on one sleeve to stamp it as mine and save it from my sister. Mom told me she had washed it with tears (and detergent too, I hope), and she wears it in gratitude.
At 23, I had a major crush on my classmate Paul. Paul was handsome and nothing I did was impressing him. Preparing for my final undergraduate exam, I sat there thinking about him all night. Thoughts of Paul distracted me so much that I could not study for the important exam the next morning. As I sat with my textbook and class-notes, failure was staring me in my face.
Then the insecticide bottle stared at me.
Three days in the ICU and multiple antidotes flushed the insecticide out of my system. I woke up in the ICU, tubes going in and out of me. I was too drugged to stay awake for anything, and I asked my dad if the exam was over—it was. Sometime in those three days, the psychiatrist visited me and asked questions.
My allies supported me in the days and weeks that followed, with everything they could. A very real fight against Mr. Depression started once I had gotten out of the ICU. I won’t tell you it was easy. It was an uphill battle. My allies in this battle were my psychiatrist, counsellor, and my mom and dad. My most important ally was myself. There were days when I almost gave up my fight to defeat my depression. Of course, there were times when nothing seemed to work, but then there were days of sunshine and delight. Gradually, the sunny days increased in number.
Fast forward 20 years —I have lived a time-tapestry of successful romances and heartbreaks, good jobs, bad jobs, pregnancies, miscarriages, marriage, divorce, dreamy vacations in the sun, and mundane household chores. I am a proud mom of two handsome teenagers.
Vomiting out on that sweater saved my life 20 years ago. Each day of this wonderful life has been worth living, because I know I’m valued by friends and family. None of this would have happened if I had succeeded in the attempt on my own life. Paul was not worth it, and neither was the undergraduate degree that became the catalyst to my suicide attempt.
In Canada, Approximately 11 people will die by suicide each day according to the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada.
The following warning signs may point to your loved one being suicidal:
- Low self-esteem
- Sense of hopelessness for the future
- Loneliness and isolation
- Aggressiveness and irritability
- Access to lethal means like guns and lethal drugs
- Feeling like a burden to others
- Mood and behaviour changes
- Frequent mention of death
- Self-harm behaviours like cutting
- Planning for their own funeral
- Donating their prized possessions
- Substance abuse
- Threats of suicide
If you or your loved one is fighting depression or anxiety, or feeling suicidal, help is just a phone call away. Call the Fraser Health Crisis Line at 604-951-8855 or -800 SUICIDE anonymously. Professionally trained volunteers respond at the other end, and they are available 24/7.
The compassionate voice at the other end will walk with you through your emotional crisis, and give you valuable community resources for the days and weeks that follow. Depression is not your fault. Twenty years ago, I was shy and felt stigmatized because I was depressed. You don’t have to feel ashamed of depression or any other mental health condition. Show strength and pick up your phone to seek help from friends, family, and professionals, because you are worth it.