My name is Mia Chard.
I am a suicide survivor. I am not ashamed.
This is the face of suicide. This is the face that the world always saw from me – smiling, happy, helping, loving. No one would have guessed that I would have tried to end my life. No one really knew the depths of my despair and self loathing and I worked hard to make sure they never knew.
Depression, anxiety, sexual abuse, PTSD, suicide – these were all words to be whispered, if said at all. Why don’t we talk about them? Why aren’t we real to ourselves and others when we struggle?
Life is hard. Why is it so hard to say that? Why is my first reaction to say, “but it’s also wonderful”? Sometimes it’s just hard. Sometimes it’s weeks and weeks of hard but we run around pretending it’s not. We run around asking each other how we are without waiting for a response. When people ask me how I am, I wonder what would change if I swap out the word “fine” for “suicidal” or “struggling” or “depressed” or “lonely”? Would they continue on with a, “that’s nice,” because they weren’t even listening in the first place or would they look at me like a deer in headlights and not know what to do.
Are we listening to each other? Are we listening to ourselves?
The face of suicide is often a happy one. I feel like the media has trained society to believe suicide happens to those who look despondent, discouraged, or crazy. More often than not it is those we least expect, those who are able to put on the happiest exterior that end up leaving this world too soon and by their own hand.
I believe we can start helping others by trying to remove the stigma that is attached to suicide. The stigma is huge and comes from so many different directions, even those who claim to be seeking to help those who struggle. One of my worst experiences after my suicide attempt came from a psychiatrist who was suppose to be helping me.
I was in the psychiatric ward of the hospital more ashamed than I have ever felt in my life. I wanted the walls to cave in and the floor to swallow me whole. My entire first day was spent waiting for the psychiatrist to arrive so that I could let him know what a mistake everyone had made and that I needed to go home, I had to work the following day, I did not belong on that unit.
I was told by the counselor who checked me in when I was admitted the night that it was up to the psychiatrist if I could go home and that he would be in around 10am or 11am, at the latest, the following day. He mentioned groups during the morning that I could participate in – I wanted none of that. I asked if that was mandatory and he said it wasn’t, that I didn’t have to participate if I didn’t want to. I appreciated that because again, the shame was almost more than I could bear. I went to bed counting dots in the ceiling, trying to keep myself from panicking, and believing I would be able to straighten in all out in the morning with the psychiatrist.
The morning came and I had slept maybe an hour. Being there was the absolute worst thing for me at that time. It was hell. The issues from my past, the trauma from sexual abuse, had led me to be very afraid of places that I couldn’t leave of my own free will and choice. The trapped, not being able to leave feeling, is still one of the most difficult for me. I also had zero trust of people with any type of authority and combining those two made this experience my worst nightmare.
The anxiety was higher than it ever had been. I began to do complicated math (let’s be real, for me, that means multiplying big numbers together, nothing more complex than that, haha) in my head to try and stay out of my flight or fight response because the triggers were so intense for me. Fight or flight were a real possibility and I knew I couldn’t afford looking out of control. Ten o’clock came, then eleven, my anxiety increased and all I wanted to do was get out. The tech’s came by and asked if I wanted to go to group a couple of times but I politely declined, stating that I was waiting for the psychiatrist.
I can still remember that there were 2,467 dots in my ceiling, I don’t believe I will ever be able to forget how many there were; they were the only thing that kept me from completely losing my mind. Around 3:45pm the psychiatrist finally made it in. He got to me around 4:15pm and I was ready, I knew what I was going to say, but this was not going to go the way I had planned.
He came in and barely looked in my direction, staring down at what I assumed was my chart. He began our conversation saying, “Do you know the cops could have arrested you?” No introductions, no letting me know his name.
“Excuse me,” I said back.
“Yes, you took the pills in your car so technically that could be considered driving under the influence,”
“I was parked,” I stated.
“Doesn’t matter. They still could have done it. You’re lucky you weren’t arrested,” he said. At this point, he had still not even glanced in my direction.
I wanted out of that line of conversation so I said, “I wanted to talk to you about going home this evening, I can call my parents.”
“That’s not happening. You have to know what you’ve done is serious and there is no way that’s happening. We know what’s best for you, you aren’t in your right mind.”
“I know what I did was reckless but I really just was trying to get rid of the panic I was feeling,” I said while trying to hold back tears. This couldn’t be happening, I had to get out of here. “I really feel I would be best in a different environment.”
“Everyone always says that but we know best and our program runs for at least two weeks. So I believe that completing the program is what is best for you.”
Now I did start to cry. “I have a life and people that can help me, I have to work tomorrow. Isn’t, wasn’t it just a 24 hour hold? How can you hold me here?”
“Well, the police can admit you with a 24 hour hold, but once the ER doctor has admitted you to the unit it’s at least 72 hours not counting weekends and holidays and then after that it’s really up to me. It’s up to me and I can have you committed to stay longer if I believe it’s necessary, it’s what I believe it right. I was told you didn’t participate in any of the groups and so I believe you to be hostile and not ready to face reality and get the help that you obviously are needing.”
With every word he said I kept getting more and more panicked and feeling more hopeless and lost than I ever have felt. Here was a doctor, a psychiatrist, and he was treating my like I wasn’t a person, like I wasn’t an individual. There was no compassion, there was no dignity, there was no trying to understand who I was and what I needed. There was hostility, there was a criminalization of one of the worst moments of my life, there was him having to demonstrate his power instead of listening to me, and what I needed.
I remember him leaving my room and being overcome with one of the darkest feelings that had ever come over me. He made me feel ashamed and stupid. He made me feel like a liar and a crazy person. To me, he perpetuated the stigma that exists for those who try to end their lives. It took me four days to get myself out of there, it was the worst four days of my life. The stigma I felt being there and my interactions with that psychiatrist and others who treated me like a second class citizen were so horrendous that I have vowed to myself that I will never be in a place like that again, and that promise still stands for me.
We have to get better at how we treat people in my situation. We have to get better at how we treat people, period. I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t selfish, but I was afraid. I was afraid of what people would think if they knew that I struggled with PTSD, anxiety, suicidal thoughts. I was afraid of being labeled crazy or being seen as incompetent. I was afraid to talk because I was taught by society that there was shame in my struggle.
There is no shame in my struggle. There is courage, strength, resilience, determination, years of living with a pain that should have crushed me. Let’s stop hiding and start sharing. Let’s do it for all those who don’t believe they are worth it, who have been treated poorly by people who are supposed to be helping them. Let’s do it for the voices of those who are gone. Let’s do it for our friends, our family, ourselves. Please join me in trying to spread the word. In trying to stop the stigma!
I want to stop whispering, I want others to stop whispering. Let’s share our story together, let’s #stopthestigma !
My name is Mia Chard.
I am a suicide survivor. I am NOT ashamed!