Vytautas, a former civil servant, now works in the non-governmental sector.
After more than a year after trying to commit suicide, I have finally started to write a story about how and what happened.
Even though I was always able to speak openly, I realized that this time I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t write the words without feeling heartache and experiencing small panic attacks. It put a lot of pressure on me, because it meant that it was not over. I wanted to talk about it one day in public. It would be my next step, being strong enough to give my testimony.
I had shared some of it with the two therapists, to whom I had been going, but nobody knew the whole story.
That date in my memory is more significant than my birthday. It gives me the creeps when I consider that I could be in similar situation, even though, two years later I have come through it. I did a lot and now I am happy with my life, in ways which I could not have imagined two years ago, but that night still terrifies me.
When I talk about it to those who need to hear it most, the night is not so scary, though it isn’t something you talk about going up in the lift to the third floor!
I had a relationship with a woman that lasted for a seven years, after we broke up we remained friends for about a year until the evening I found out that she had a boyfriend. Then I realized that everything was over. That evening completely knocked me over. I was trapped with both of them in the same room. I could not get out. I didn’t know that she would be there, and when the guy came in it became obvious that she had found another man. I was forced to stay with them for twenty minutes, and then when I finally got out of there I went home and tried to end my life.
I did not feel safe in places where I should feel safe
My mother was a very angry woman. My father left us when I was ten years old and I was raised by a woman who shouted at me all the time. I never felt safe. I did not feel safe at home, where I should feel safe. I grew up and wondered why other people felt happiness and I kept asking myself, “What is this feeling?”
I tried not to communicate with people who loved their parents, because many questions and suspicions would be raised in my mind including, “What sort of person are you?” I was jealous and thought at the same time: “Who the hell are you? Is it possible to be happy and yet I am the only one not happy?”
All my life I pondered the question, why was I so unhappy. During the last year and half of treatment, I realized that I hoped that other people would make me happy – especially women. People think, “I want somebody to make me happy.” Rarely do they understand that this is not a source of happiness. Another person will not make us happy. Like the majority of people, I grew up without realizing that in order to be happy, you had to work at it.
I remember sitting on the sofa a few months ago and thinking: “I want to be happy.” I thought: “Oh… to be”. “To be” is a verb. If I want “to be”, I have to do something, that will make me happy. And I did it, because I followed the advice from my therapist. I exercised, I slept, and I ate healthy. At the beginning I did not realize that I would have to do this for the rest of my life. It’s not enough just to want to be happy, I have to discover something that is important to me and work with it.
It looks so easy! I don’t understand why we are not taught about this at school. Why isn’t it said to children that if you are not happy, you have to do something about it.
And it helped
For me, the group, Alcoholics Anonymous, helped too. I have never had a problem with drugs or alcohol. I went to that meeting because I understood that I had to go. My therapist had talked about addiction, even though I did not use drugs or alcohol. We talked about emotional addiction and after thinking about it, I went along to their meeting.
There were a lot of people who talked about what they did to feel happiness, in order to avoid their real problems. When I changed the word “alcohol” for the word “depression” it helped. I have never met people who could accept such people with forgiveness and empathy. I was overwhelmed. Then I found out about the steps and thought, “I will try to follow these steps. I will change the word alcohol with the word depression”.
For me it was a question of life and death. I knew that if I wanted to live another year I had to find something I could do physically. I went to that group because I knew that the mind, which creates the situation, rarely helps to solve it. I started to follow the steps. This meant that I had to do something. I had to talk, to write and be active.
Thoughts about suicide did not go away, but I didn’t want to give up, without doing everything that I could. I thought: “I will give up but only after doing something.” It proved to be effective. I didn’t care about what other people thought about me, it was more important to me that I avoided an emotional melt down. Alcoholics Anonymous helped me more, than I thought.
It is not usual to go to a meeting of twelve steps when you don’t have an addiction to alcohol or drugs. When I am there, I don’t talk. At my age it is strange thing to learn, but it helps.
During the year and a half when I was trying to recover I thought: “Maybe I will live and maybe not.” Nothing changed until I started talking about my attempted suicide and then realizing I had something to live for.
I say this as a father - the idea that my son would live without a father, was not convincing enough. It is an awful feeling when you are a father. That is why I get angry when people say that suicide is cowardly and selfish behavior. First of all, it is hard to commit suicide. It is a long process – creating a plan and imagining how you would do it right up to that moment. Nobody does it out of laziness. It is serious step.
I heard my friend tell the story about his suicide attempt and how he considered himself a selfish person. I was annoyed with him. He had only said it because society has this understanding of suicide. I wanted to say him: “Ok. It was very painful. You just wanted to end it. You were not being selfish, you were just trying to take care of yourself in the way that came to your mind at that moment.”
I know that it helps me when I talk about it, I just don’t know how long I have to talk about it. I know that I want to talk about it if it helps others. I want them to know that when they are standing in a queue in the bank or shop, they could be standing next to someone who felt it too. I want them to know that they are not alone, but I worry that people will think that I am doing it only for the attention.
I never thought that I could be happy being alone
Half way through my period of healing, I didn’t know that the next stage would start right after a new relationship. I didn’t know how I would react after a second heartbreak, if it happened. Of course, I am better now and I have experience and am stronger than before.
When I am in relationship, I feel as if we are on the same plane. When we break up, the plane disappears and I fall without a parachute. It is an awful feeling. I started to go out on dates, but during the last few months I had more break ups than during my entire life. For me it was always hard to jump from one woman to another without upheaval. Now I understand that for me it is important to learn to be happy without a woman, to be alone, even though, I had been saying before, “I really need someone who will love me.”
I had to tell him
Before sharing this story, I had to talk about it with my son. He did not know what I had been feeling. Back then, he was 23 years old then and he no longer lived with me. I had to tell him. I couldn’t tell my story to others if my son knew nothing about it. I was very afraid. “How do I tell him? How will we begin? What will he think about me?”
I invited him for a drive.
The majority of my life I thought that it was necessary to hide these secrets from children. They do not need to need to know everything about us. I also knew that if I wanted to tell others, I had to tell my son first. He should know what I am doing.
Somehow, we got around to the topic. He had a cousin, who had decided to leave a suicide note. Help reached her in time. For me it was good opportunity to talk about that. Fortunately, he was very understanding. He was not mad or angry with me. He was glad that I had put a lot of effort into healing and recovery.
I think it was very important for me to say to my son: “This is how you overcome it. You have to create something good from something bad. That is how your father did it. You cannot let that the bad thing stay inside you. You have open up and deal with it.”
I don’t think that I could have explained it without having experienced this myself, though it would be better not to experience such things in order to understand.
Faith – it is a choice. You choose faith. It is impossible to believe without doubt. You just decide to believe
Six months after my suicide attempt, I said to my therapist: “A lot of things rely on faith. I do not have anything to believe in.” One of the most important steps in Alcoholics Anonymous, is to find something bigger than you and believe in it.
I did not understood that for many years. I asked my friends, how did they find faith. One of my best friends became a Lutheran priest and I asked him: “How did you find faith in God?” But I did not get a clear answer from him.
My therapist said: “Faith – it is a choice. You do not find it. You choose it, because if you are looking for the proof, you will not find it. If you could prove it, it would be fact. It would not be a faith. It is impossible to believe without there being a doubt. You just decide to believe.”
I had never heard that before. All the believers that I knew tried to prove to me that I had to believe in a higher power, but it was useless, it was so ridiculous. Now I can choose to believe every day. I am pleased that I have discovered it now at the age of 47. Perhaps at the age of 17, if I had known it then, it would have changed my life, but I did not know that back then.
If have to say one thing to a person who is in torment and is suffering, faith is a choice. Sometimes a choice looks impossible, because it is hard to understand, how everything can change for the better. You just need to decide, that you will choose it every day and give this day to yourself. Sometimes it might only be for an hour when I didn’t see any good aspects in my life, but I would think, “I like my therapist very much. He is a smart person and says, that faith – it is a choice. I never thought about it like that so I will take up this opportunity for myself. And I will do it today.”