Let the conversation begin.
“Mom, How Would You Feel If I Killed Myself?" Asks An 11-Year Old Daughter with Bipolar Disorder and Suicidal Ideation
Note this is the third part in a 3-part blog series by Kristian Keefer-McNeil, mother of two children with special needs, mental health advocate at specialneedskids101.com, and volunteer for Hope Xchange, and Kerry Martin, CEO and Founder, of Hope Xchange. Part I, Why Does My Suicidal 11-Year Old’s Mental Illness Matter Less Than Another Child's Physical Illness? can be read here and Part II, "As Field of Psychiatry Grapples with Diagnosing Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder, Our Children and Their Parents Pay the Price," here.
11-Year Old Daughter Confesses “What I Mean Is ... How Would You Feel If I Killed Myself?” To Her Mother
Hi my name is Kristian and I have an 11-year old daughter with bipolar disorder. She may be young, but she has already experienced suicidal thoughts. As a parent, knowing your child sometimes thinks they would be better off dead is devastating with feelings that cannot be fully put into words.
The other day my daughter asked me, “Mom how you would feel if I died?” This question caused my stomach to drop and heart to pound. The thought was so terrifying. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant at that moment. I told her the truth: “I would want to die myself.”
She then said, “What I mean is ... how would you feel if I killed myself?" I couldn’t tell my daughter all the emotions I would feel or how much it would crush my soul. I again told her, “I would want to die. I cannot imagine life without you. That would destroy me. Having a child pass away is the worst thing I can imagine anyone ever experiencing.”
I then learned she asked a friend the same thing. He emailed me out of his concern for my daughter. Her questioning had me very worried and so I contacted her therapist. Her therapist talked to her and felt that for now she is safe and that we need to simply give her the increase in her current medication time to work.
But really is anyone ever safe when they are having suicidal thoughts?
As A Mother with Clinical Depression, Anxiety and Aspergers, I Had Been There And Understood As I Tried To Take My Life
I’m going to share something that I share with very few and now I may be sharing with very many. I am in my 30’s and it has been years since I suffered clinical depression. I do, however, have anxiety and Asperger’s. But in any case, more than a decade ago, I did suffer a severe depression. I had many negative thoughts. I thought that life was not worth living and that no one cared if I was still on this Earth. I thought of ways I would try to kill myself.
One day in desperation, I had a plan in place. I was about to put this plan into action when the phone rang. It was my best friend. She said she felt something was wrong. She asked if I was okay. Soon enough, I broke down and told her what was going through my mind. My friend stayed on the phone with me until my family could get there to help. I didn’t go through with my plan that day. But this was not the end of my depression.
Just a couple weeks later, I did try and take my own life. But this is not what happened. I became very ill but I did not die. I was in the hospital for a few days and in therapy for quite some time after. I have never walked that deeply into darkness again. I have never wanted to kill myself again. I have never made a plan again. Sometimes I have felt down and maybe even a little hopeless but not to such an extent.
So I understand to some degree what my daughter is going through but certainly not to the extent that she is going through it. I was also a few years older than she is now until I suffered from suicidal thoughts. But I know how deep your mind can take you into a dark hole that can be so difficult to climb out of.
If My Daughter Took Her Life, I Would Blame Myself But I Could Not Die As She Has Younger Brother With Autism
If my daughter killed herself, I could sink easily into that hole from well over a decade ago. I would truly want to die myself. I can’t breath just thinking about her ending her own life. If my daughter would ever succumb to suicide, I would blame myself. Because, in my mind, I would clearly have not done enough or not done it soon enough.
I could not die if my daughter committed suicide, however as much I would want to. She has a younger brother with autism and he would need me to stay around. He would need me more than ever. I would have to continue to advocate for the needs of children with autism and mental health disorders. I would continue to push for more awareness of depression in children and teens. I would need to continue my work and be an even louder voice for suicide awareness and prevention.
I Hope I Am Doing Enough But I Also Feel Guilt I Am Not
I hope that life is not one I ever have to face. I hope I am doing enough. I hope I say the right things and do the right things or at least I hope I never say or do anything to make things worse for my daughter.
I feel deeply in my heart for any parent who has ever lost a child to suicide. It’s a pain I can’t imagine and yet in some ways I can. Because the truth is my daughter does have suicidal thoughts. My daughter often does feel like her life is not worth living.
I feel guilt. I know this is just a symptom of her illness: the suicidal thoughts, hopelessness and despair. Yet, I feel such guilt. I love her. I advocate for her. I do everything the therapists and doctors tell me to do. And yet sometimes, it seems it is not enough.
Some days she is better and other days she is not. On days when she tells me she wants to die, I want to die too. Because my love, my optimism, and my steps to help her are falling short on those days.
But There Is Always Hope
Suicidal thoughts are lonely for the person experiencing them and cause loneliness for those who love them. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been suicidal themselves or who hasn’t had a loved one who is suicidal can truly understand what we feel as the parent, the loved ones, the best friends.
When someone you love hurts so deeply that they think the end of their life would be better than the life they have, it creates feelings of hurt, sadness, confusion and guilt. But at the end of the day, there is HOPE.
There are people who care. There is support out there for those who are suicidal and their loved ones. There are people who understand, who have been where we have been. And every time our loved ones thinks about death and chooses to fight to live another day, that is a victory. A small one and one they may need to achieve over and over again. But it’s something to build on.
If my daughter enjoys even one minute of her life today, then there is hope that she will enjoy a minute more tomorrow. And maybe someday, she will have less depression or fewer suicidal thoughts. Someday things may really be better. I know they were for me and so I have to continue to believe they can be for her.
DO YOU NEED HELP RIGHT NOW? You are not alone. If you're experiencing an immediate medical emergency and feel you may harm yourself, please reach out. Please do it right now. Toll free hotlines open 24/7 and others specifically for LGBTQ, transgender, teens, and veterans can be found RIGHT HERE.
DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO NEEDS HELP? If you know someone who needs help, please help them. At the very least, please pass along these HOTLINES. Better yet, please sit with them. Hold their hand while they call. Most people who commit suicide tell someone they're suicidal yet no one listened or took them seriously. You do not want to live with that guilt. Just do something ... anything. The smallest act of kindness could save a life.