Talking About Suicide

Talking with Enoch Li


A young woman named Enoch Li found me from Beijing. Julie Hersh, the author of “Struck by Living” and a fellow attempt survivor, kindly pointed Enoch my way after they chatted about book projects. Enoch blogs about her recent experiences with depression and is working on a book about them.

I was curious about her name. “The name Enoch comes from the Bible,” she said. “It’s a man in the Old Testament who walked with God for 300 years and then went away. He’s one of the two in the Bible who didn’t experience death. My parents are Christians and thus named me Enoch so that I may walk with God.”

We spoke by e-mail and chat, and the notes remain in their original form.

Let me start with two questions: Who are you? And what happened?

1. Who am I… hmm… in a way, no one in particular, one of those Gen Yers who’ve had all the opportunities possible in my life, not too bad education, top of my basket wherever i was and most people looking at me would consider me one of those “successful young women who has her life together”, with a high paying corporate executive job and all its perks, expat package everywhere, speak a few languages, awesome fiance…. Special in my own little pond as a big fish, but otherwise, too many ponds out there and in the big ocean, i’m just one of the little fish. i dont discount my achievements, but at the same time, it’s not as special as people think they are, if you know what i mean.
more personal data wise, i grew up in Hong Kong and Australia, mostly educated in HK, with a year in Paris. studied International law and international politics in university, with a stint at the International Criminal Court at The Hague which I loved. i love psychology and literature but wasn’t allowed to study them as they weren’t very “useful” subjects, as my teachers and Tiger mum deemed them. i started working in the finance industry as an international executive straight out of under grad…. worked in London, Paris, Tokyo and now Beijing
hmmm… all I can think of right now, let me know if you want more details
2. what happened
i’m not sure. it feels as if over night i went from a confident me to someone who had no motivation and no interest in life whatsoever
but in retrospect, it’s been building up. i think i was stressed out and burnt out. i always thought my dream was to get a good paying job and rise up the corporate ladder and i’ll be happy. i was happy in my job, and i enjoyed it. i had good bosses and great opportunities. i did well and always rated top every year.
so i thought i had it all too
and didn’t really pay attention to my body. i thought i was invincible, esp in my mid 20s
after moving to Beijing mid 2009, one weekend i got an extremely bad migraine, and I’ve never had one before. it was excrutiating. i threw up, couldn’t stand lights or sound, was dizzy
it kept coming back. and i went to every single doctor possible (after some delays too because I dont like seeing doctors, somehow thinking i’m stronger than that), did my xrays MRIs etc and nothing was wrong with my physically, except that my blood vessels etc were too expanded in my head and neck, spine area, which caused the migraines, doctors think
and their diagnosis boiled down to stress as the main cause
i couldn’t really accept i was stressed, and thought i could cope. i took holidays, went to the spa etc. eventually my GP said i have to go see a psychologist
i delayed that too till my boyfriend (now fiance) decided it was too much and i had to go see one. i did see one, but i didn’t like her. so i didn’t return
it dragged on. i kept goign to work till it was impossible for me to get up from my migraines. i was taking advil everyday in the afternoon when migraines started, and struggled to concentrate at meetings, pretending everything was ok
eventually GP said i had to take 1 month off work
one day i had a dream / or daydreamed and isualized my self drowning myself in my bath tub. i decided something was wrong, and i went to see another psychologist my GP recommended
i came out of the shrink’s office and he said i had major depression
i had no idea what that meant. and i felt so ashamed of it
eventually, 1 month off work became another month and then a whole 6 months as my condition worsened. i’ve been on sick leave since jan 2010
i’m trying to leave my company now
between dec 09 and first few months of 2010, i think i tried to kill myself 3-4 times. each time my boyfriend caught me. i tried to jump out the window of my apartment. i sat on the sill and my bf dragged me back, just n time as he arrived home
another time was OD on sleeping pills and my painkillers
another time i tried to cut my wrist but that didn’t work and i was really weak and just fainted. i lost about 15-20 kgs in the midst of depression, not eating anything
i even googled the best way to kill myself so i don’t die grossed out. i read your blog post recently about the article which asked people to think carefully before killing themselves. i kind of did that too and analyszed how best to die. i didn’t want to jump and then end up alive but paralysed rest of my life, or end up having liver or stomach problems from pills
i decided jumping off from 30th floor or above was guaranteed success…
here’s a start….
We migrated to chat:
and then what happened?
 Enoch:  nothing much. i sat at home all day. esp during the winter months. i had no interst in the DVDs i had bought before to watch
eventually the shrink started cognitive behaviour therapy with me
that might have helped eventually to get me out of the rut of thinking
but for the longest time i was very ashamed of being depressed and havig tried to kill myself
i didn’t tell anyone save my boyfriend and my best friend from hk
i hid from everyone
went off the social radar
stopped taking care of myself
and wondering why i was depressed. what did i do wrong. a lot of anger and negative emotions came out. i would cry uncontrollably. i’d flip from feeling really lucky and blessed to be alive, to whats the point of it all
i saw no meaning in what i did. i didn’t like my job anymore, smiling at clients, and even though i got promoted, i was so tired of it
somehow though, i seem to walk out of the major depression after about 8 or 9 months… i was taking antidepressants too all along. and was embarassed of that too, as if i can’t control myself
but towards end of 2010, my mood became more stable i think. and also after i started my blog in sep 10, and writing down all my thoughts, i seem to be able to get a grip better and control my thoughts, and also confront a lot of suprressed issues with growing up, having a Tiger Mum
i tapered off anti depressants end of 2010, but still recovering. doctors still dont think i’m read for work yet. as i’ve developed anxiety attacks from this whole thing
feels like i’m stuck under snow 50 ft down, and can’t move and can’t breathe sometimes, want to run away but can’t
one day i decided, ok i need to take care of my health. so i started chinese medicine after anti depressants to find a “balance”. i started taking calligraphy classes and being a bit more zen. a bit of exercise here and there when i can muster up energy
 me:  am reading
 Enoch:  ok
 me:  you say “i decided jumping off from 30th floor or above was guaranteed success…”
was that when your boyfriend dragged you away?
or is that another attempt?
 Enoch:  that was another attempt. i live on 6th floor, so first time was 6/f, and i wasn’t “analyzing” suicide so much
 Enoch:  the second time i happened to be on my friend’s open balcony on 25th floor, and decided it was high enough. this was after my “analysis”. i was at my friend’s place with my boyfriend just chilling, and trying to keep a bit of social contact. also this friend dragged me out of my apartment, said i needed some “fresh air”. so i went to his house. i remember hiding under my jacket and hoodie so no one would see me. they were inside, i was outside, i climbed up on the chair and peeked over
boyfriend caught me
i dont know if i woud have jumped or not really, had bf not interrupted my thought
i think i was more like, “i’m going to see if this works” instead of “i’m jumping now”
 Enoch:  oh i remember, my best friend thought something was wrong when i emailed her my will and details of bank accounts back in nov /dec 09, and to my bf too. and said it’s just for their recrods. that’s when my bf really dragged me to see the second shrink
 me:  how are you doing now? how comfortable is it to talk about this now? is it over?
 Enoch:  i’m much better now. i’m more active so to speak. migraines still trouble me. and i developed this thing called Meniere’s disease, which is a middle ear problem. ENT specialist thinks its from the migraines. i get ringing in my ears and feel dizzy and can just throw up out of nowhere on even a normal day
but i’m more opened about my experience now. i’m totally comfortable talking about it
in fact, i’ve noticed that people seem less comfortable hearing about it if i just casually bring it up in conversation that yes i’ve had major depression and “in remission” now
i dont think its over tho
i fluctuate still a lot
even lat night i was in one of those “life sucks and i’m really tired of trying” moods
but i’m more aware of them and better at distracting myself from my suicide ideations
my shrink is working on them with me
 Enoch:  as to why i want to die. he thinks the suicide thoughts now are not a result of my depression as last year was. but almost an escape for me becasue i dont know where my life is going yet. and i’ve kind of lost ability to be happy or passionate about something. for instance, i enjoy immensely my calligraphy classes, and in the moment, i feel “happy”. but once i walk out of my teacher’s home, i feel like, “oh, then what?” it’s not sustainable
also another thing i struggle with is hallucinations. i see a man in the corner in dark cape every now and then and he just watches me
i think i know it’s in my head
but when i see him i freak out
 me:  i’m not familiar with hallucinations, but perhaps your therapist is?
why are people less comfortable with you talking about depression?
 me:  i’m always curious how people respond and why … and why people either choose to talk openly or keep quiet about it
 Enoch:  i used to have (well, still do, but less frequent) really bad nightmares, waking up screaming in the middle of the night 4 or 5 times, scared someone was trying to kill me or eat me. a monster or something. or my bears (a collection of Gund snuffles) were leaving me and dont love me anymore. apparentl, afterwards my shrink said those were first symptoms of delusions and hallucinations. and he talked me through my dreams to help me dispel some fears
so i didn’t have to take meds for that
i’m not sure why some people are less comfortable. it’s more just in the last 6 months i started talking about it more. not as in, every time i meet someone i tell them. but if it comes up why i’m not working now and why i’m trying to leave the bank
i’ve noticed it more with guys though. they usually dont know how to respond, or look away, or if by email, they just dont reply
girls seem to be more sympathetic. and a lot of my friends i’ve found out afterwards, also suffered from similar symptoms, though no one i know have been so serious as me. except one friend, who did in fact succeed in ending her life in february this year
i guess people don’t understand it
it’s not like a common cold, where people can easily respnod and say “drink more water”
they probably dont know what to tell me to do or how to help, so avoid al together
those who know how it feels are more encouraging. usually they say, “i’m sorry, i’ve ben there, i know how it feels”
those who dont hae the experience try to be sympathetic
or encouraging
i i didn’t want to talk about it at first because i was ashamed i was “weak”
but as i confronted my own thoughts, esp via my writing, i decided tehre’s nothing weak about it
its a state i’m in
and thats just too bad
but it’s become part of me now. and i’m learning to embrace it as part of me
so i decided if i talked more openly, it’d help me confront the issues
 Enoch:  and then people started to respond. and said they feel a lot of the feelings and thoughts they read on my blog
at first blog was more just my friends reading it
now as i’m more vocal also on other blogs, i’m getting more traffic too
so the more people responded the more i thought, ok, a lot of us actually feel the same or go through same struggles, but no one ever wantst to talk about it
so i will
i’m trying to write a book as well about my experience
working on a proposal
to target Gen Y executives like me
i think we all have some hidden fear inside, or things we are not happy about and we spend too much energy putting up this front and happy face in front of people
 me:  you’ve mentioned Gen Y a couple of times. is it easier for younger people to talk about this? or are there other factors that make you more comfortable talking openly (international background, education, work status)?
and then i wonder what your family thinks about all of this
 Enoch:  i think the interntional background helps a lot. i guess you’ve been in china and probably know how taboo mental health is
so i guess for those who’ve not had the opportunity to see things from international perspectives, it’s harder to break through the taboo
i think younger people also more inclined to talk about it. mental health is more accepted these days and i think our generation are those who like to induce change in society. so i think lots of us want to be more vocal
work status i think actually might make people less inclinced to talk about it. many professionals esp avoid it. it could affect the “climb” up the corporate ladder. i read somewhere that the CEO fo Lloyds or some UK bank admitted to having depression only after he retired because he was worried he’d have to leave his job
funny how work is the crux of our lives sometimes
my family, hmm… my younger sis is sympathetic. she probably doesn’t really get it. she’s a go getter like me. and an investment banker. so she’s more the invincible me i used to be a few years back
and she said “i will NOT end up like you” despite her taking her life to even more extreme in terms of stress. i have no comment. we all live our own lives
my dad and i dont talk much. i know he’s worried, he just tells me to take car of myself whenever i see him
my mum used to be “why are you depressed?” as if accusing me of doing something wrong again
and she kept askng me when i will look for a new job
i think shes’s more worried that i dont have money to take care of her than about my situation or what i want to do
but after a year or so, i think she’s mellowed down a bit
i never told her i was depressed or suicidal. but i think she can guess
my best friend in hk told her duing end 2009 to “stop bothering me and pushing me”
dont know. we never had a in depth discussion with my family
 me:  your sister’s comment: “i will NOT end up like you” … where does she think you’ve ended up?
does she think you can’t come back (or go on) from this?
 Enoch:  she thinks i’m messed up, and i think she means she wont end up trying to kill herself or stressed out
i dont really know what she thinks. we dont talk so much in depth
 me:  ok
what would you like to accomplish with your book?
 Enoch:  my book is going to be narrative non fiction, not a self help
i want to tell my story blatantly and honestly
and be opened with the experience
so people can draw some inspiration from it, and catch themselves before it is “too late”
too stressed out or unhappy about life
honestly, is ometimes still dont know why i need to be alive
but whilst i am,
then i hope others will also find some reasont o stay alive
so if all it takes is for me to tell them, “you are not alone”, then thats what i’ll do with my book
secondly, my book is my own confrontation of my own issues, with a Tiger Mum, my upbringing, religion, recovery methods, thoughts etc… so through it, i hope to give myself peace of mind
and as a new start to a new stage of my life
but i’m waiting for my company to release me contractually now
and hopefully in the near future i can start looking for agents and publishers, because now i guess it’s still sensitive. i’ve finishd the book proposal and now working on a few chapters to show to agents
also, i want to start writing for newspapers / magazines about my experience and thoughts. i feel that sometimes, mental health issues is too categorical in psychology or health magazines
but it affects everyonw, and so i want to give a dailly perspective of it, in just any newspaper /mag people could read,
 me:  let me go back a bit now
 me:  you’re clearly bright, and you googled the best way to kill yourself? how trustworthy did you think what you were finding was?
and how did you consider the risks, if at all?
 Enoch:  well. i think some were trustworthy in the sense that it’s almost common sense, or bits and pieces from studying in scool
such as fallign objects from height, with its weight and velocity, can get broken. higher it is, higher velocity, higher impact and momentum etc
so these were more common sense
 Enoch:  gaspipes and chemicals and poisons i read about too. i dont have a car, and most poisons just too painful a death. i didn’t really research it. i just think, common sense, something bad goes into your system, will take a while to react. food poisoning experience and being on an IV drip is bad enough, i dont want a painful death. and i’ve been having too many IV drips from fainting in the alst year
i wanted a clean and quick death
i didn’t want to be a burden to anyone, like that article on your post, i dont want anyone cleaning up my brains so to speak
and the risk is that if i didn’t die and i was literally half dead, that’d be worse, esp for those taking care of me as a vegetable or something
you hear these stories of people breaking their neck from skiing or accidents, and i know if i jumped out of a building and ended up like that, i could be in coma for hte next 30 years. worse
i didn’t research it over one day. i read a bit on the internet here and there. when i was in worst state of depression. i had no motivation for anything. i didn’t even have energy to kill myself. it happened as i was sliding into it, and as i was slowly recovering
my shrink also says, the highest risk of suicide for a person suffering from depression is when they are slowly recovering, at that slight uphill climb, because thats when they have energy and motivation to think more, and think of ways to kill themselves, and also when thoughts are still very unstable and negative
i’m quite a perfectionist. and even in dying iwas trying to find a perfect way. sometimes i just can’t believe myself
 me:  even knowing the risks, or imagining them, why take them anyway? why aren’t those thoughts enough of a deterrent? why do people still it, as though they simply have to do something?
(that’s what i can’t figure out. it’s a heck of a way to challenge oneself)
 Enoch:  my humble opinion, is that, when someone tries to kill themselves, even if all these risks and analyses are at the back of our minds, we dont necessarily remmeber them when we are on the verge of pulling the trigger
i think a lot of suicides that are successful are impulsive
i read about that specifically for rural women in china
they dont plan it
and i think it’s applicable to a lot of cases
i just have all these risks and analyses in my head
and when one dayi decide to kil lmyself, i just use the best way and less risky way thats already in my head
not all suicides are linked to depression, and i can’t speak for those
but i guess when people are majorly depressed, thoughts of risks are nothing compared to the hopelessness we feel
so we still do it
 me:  so telling people that nothing is foolproof, they could end up incredibly messed up, etc., that wouldn’t stop them … ?
 Enoch:  it wouldn’t stop me
if i was determined to die
 me:  then i have a different question
 Enoch:  i think i wasn’t too determined in the end. just was a way out for me
 me:  this still isn’t the easiest topic to talk about. will that change, and how? will there ever be a day when people ‘come out’ about their suicidal experiences?
 Enoch:  just on a side note, talking to you giving me an inspiration for a post on my blog 🙂
 me:  aha. happy to help.
but the question above your last comment, what do you think? will it ever be that comfortable (or open) a topic? an identifier?
 Enoch:  it might take 10 or 20 year
my shrink said, in the “west”, it’s taken about 10 years for people to be comfortable with depression
suicides still not
because it’s such a thing of shame for the family and culture
as if, it’s equated to weakness
and people tell you to “snap out of it”. god how many people have said to me “don’t think like that”
so annoying when they say that
and because i think people shove it under the carpet, and they dont have an alternative or response to someone saying “i just tried to kill myself”
they avoid it
no one tries to understand why we tried to kill ourselves
and at the same time, it’s hard to ask someone to imagine what it feels like depressed or not being in control of our ownt houghts and emotions
i hope it will eventually be a comfortable thing
and i think your project helps a lot on this and its a good initiative
i think many people want to talk about it. but have no platform
and too afraid of what others would think
one thing coming out of my depression, is that i’ve placed too much emphasis on what others think of me in the past, and i’ve learnt, well, if i’m not myself because i need to put up an image, that’s why i was unhappy
so i just need to do what i wat, say whati want
and stop worrying about my image
and thats why i think i might be more opened than others to talk abt it
and somehow, i’m not worried i wont find a job if i needed to. my CV is polished enough. and i’m not as worried as some of my friends are that being sick on the records will mean i can’t find as good a job in the future
plus ‘m not looking for one in the medium term, so will worry about that later
 me:  what are you doing next, then, aside from the book? and apparently marriage?
 Enoch:  nothing. i’m learning to do nothing. been doing too much at the same time before. i’m learning to slow down
but still, nothing means, i’m working on my health. via exercise, calligraphy practice, reading, writing, cooking, just indulging in hobbies
and the next step is to rediscover my passions, so that whatever i do next, is what i actually love doing….