Suicide has long been a particularly pronounced taboo in Egypt, leading to many staying silent on the subject. We speak to seven people who open up about attempting to take their own lives so as to understand what drove them to the brink and how they eventually overcame what had led them there.
If you are reading this then you might have been in the same place as some of these people; maybe you are contemplating the idea, or maybe you know someone who was in that place. These people have woken up alive. You might be a survivor who appreciates that your suicide attempt failed and ended up not being fatal. However, as cliché as this might sound, everything happens for a reason; there is a reason you are still here. There is a purpose. The scars will fade, and time will heal wounds both seen and unseen. Maybe you’ve put the pieces of your fragile self and broken life back together; maybe you haven’t reached that point yet - either way, there are several ways to find help. You just have to seek it. Depression is but a wolf that slowly sneaks up and pounces on you; the more you feed it, the stronger it gets. I should know; I was one of its victims. Depression that spirals into attempted suicide is a taboo that is not often discussed, yet something that happens to many; I spoke to seven people to understand what they went through and how they overcame this phase.
Trigger warning: Below are the raw and uncut stories of how seven Egyptians attempted suicide; these stories are true, personal, and graphic.
Farah, 20, Student
I was 15 at the time and I always used to compare myself to other girls in school; I always degraded myself. Being from a family of eight in Upper Egypt, it wasn’t easy doing what I wanted. From where I come from, girls aren’t allowed to go out alone; we basically had no life. I always felt like a bird in a cage - imprisoned. Whatever I did, I felt suffocated, and I didn’t like the living situation I was in since we weren’t very wealthy. I was never able to do the things I want, wear what I want, or act the way I want; I was always comparing myself to other girls. One night I decided to go out with my friends; I came back home to an interrogation as to where I was and what I was doing. I felt like I wanted to shut the whole world out.
At that point, I felt like it was the last straw, and I no longer wanted to live; life was too restraining. One night, while everyone was sleeping, I took the blades off my dad’s shaving razor and slit both my wrists; it was the only thing I had access to. I lay next to my sister on the bed; since I shared a room with her, she woke up from the wetness of the bed, which was a pool full of my blood. My parents took me, stopped a toktok, and rushed me to the hospital. From 1 AM to 5 AM, my entire family was waiting for me to get out of the emergency room. I was in there for a while, but they managed to save my life. I regret what I did because I know I was going to grow up, get a job, and eventually live the life I wanted.
Maggy, 37, Housewife
I have a heart disease, so I take several medications. I have two girls and a son, but life was challenging; the problems came tumbling one after the other like empty barrels rolling down a hill. My husband was a drug addict and he works in construction – that’s when he actually went to work. He didn’t make much. Any income he would get, he would use on drugs and give me nothing; he always told me to work and pay for everything. I wanted my kids to go to school, I wanted to be able to put food on the table, to be able to put clothes on their backs - I didn’t ask for much. I used to get money from church; but, of course, that didn’t help as much as I hoped it would.
I didn’t think in the moment; my only thought was that I couldn’t live this life any longer. I overdosed on 30 different pills, most of them of which were the medications for my heart disease; they were what I could get my hands on. One day I couldn’t take the suffering anymore so I tried to kill myself, but they saved me while I was taking my last breath – literally.
Youssef, 24, Computer Programmer
The girl I loved died right in front of my eyes; a car hit her. I quickly took her to the hospital, but they didn’t have her blood type so she ran out of time. She could’ve been saved, but she wasn’t. I buried her myself because her dad passed away years ago, so her mother considered me part of the family. I felt like life was meaningless after losing her; after seeing her die.
I was only 18 at the time; I was overweight and I had no one to talk to, so I tried to get over it alone, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t thinking when I decided to kill myself. I opened the window of my apartment on the third floor and jumped. Trees broke the fall so I didn’t die, but I spent a year in a wheelchair, and now I have knee replacement implants.
During that year in the wheelchair, I ended up being addicted to morphine, but my dad helped me out of it. My doctor used to give me plastic knives and forks so that I wouldn't hurt myself because the drugs sometimes made me unaware of what I was doing to myself. He isolated me in my own home; it was like rehab, I guess.
I kept myself busy - with exercise, for example; I got into drugs later because of this. It was extremely hard to quit. I’m not a person who depends on others, but I needed my parents at the time. I went to a therapist because I had anger issues, but I believe that only I can change myself; the change has to come from within. No one else can help if you don’t want to help yourself.
Amira, 28, Journalist
I was physically and verbally abused by my mother; she used to hit me with heavy objects and sometimes she would throw me out of the house. I thought finding someone to love me would be tough, until I met my fiancé. However, he abused me as well; he used to hit me until I would faint, but I loved him nonetheless.
One night, I got a call from him saying that he wanted to end things; I was heartbroken and felt sorry for myself for having gone through all of that and then being dumped. I woke up the next day to find out that he got engaged to another girl. I tried calling him several times to take me back, but he was harsh with his words and said he didn’t love or want me anymore.
I went into a state of depression, and I would go under the table every day at work and cry while rocking back and forth like a child. That was when I broke down; I shoved a lot of pills down my throat while I was at work. I wanted to die; it was the only way I could stop the pain. My boss rushed me to the hospital and I was there for a while. Eventually, when I got out, I relapsed when I bumped into him with his new fiancée. While walking to the car after seeing him, I fainted. My friends took me to the hospital and the doctor tried to give me pills to calm me down, but nothing worked. With time, I eventually got out of this state; it took me a few years, but I got over it. It’s true what they say: time heals all wounds.
Peter, 24, Art Director.
I thought I would never lead a normal life because I'm gay, so there was no point of having a life in the first place - at least that’s how I felt when I broke up with my ex.
A big part of me believed that I needed to be punished for being gay and so I decided to punish myself either by hurting or killing myself. I just wanted to end the agony, shame, and pain that I constantly felt; I just wanted to get it over with.
One day I was walking through the streets and my thoughts got louder and darker; they suffocated me. I saw a glass soda bottle and, the next thing I know, I broke it and slit my wrist until it started bleeding. I started to feel dizzy and felt like I needed to be at home. I was very close to where I live, so I walked for two minutes until I got home.
The blood was not that much because the wound was, thankfully, not that deep, so it didn't take me much time to physically recover. However, it took me quite some time to recover from the trauma I had caused myself to endure. I would say it took about a month. Then I started to going to the therapist who was supposed to 'cure' me from homosexuality.
When I think about it now, I'm not really sure if I was trying to kill myself or just hurt myself. I now realise how much of an idiot I was to even think of ending my life. I know now that nothing – absolutely nothing – is worth wasting my life for. I have to say, going to therapy did make me feel better. It didn't cure my homosexuality, but it did cure my depression.
Karim, 26, Artist
I was 23 at the time. It all started out with the sudden realisation that all the goals and dreams I planned were, realistically speaking, not going to be achieved. It was sad to recognise the fact that you’re in a world where people are selfish, hypocritical, and without boundaries. I started dealing with different kinds of people and that’s when I realised that this world is deceptive. It’s the system.
Being a person who plans every step, I had my life all planned out. By 20, I wanted to reach the checkpoint of being the person I wanted; but, I never got the job I wanted. At 25, I wanted to have my own business; then I realised that it was never going to happen. It was a constant series of disappointments that lead to depression; my world came crashing down.
I tried to cross the highway twice while looking the other way so I could let cars hit me – it didn’t work both times. I waited for the biggest car and when I saw a huge tractor-trailer, I crossed. I chose to die this way because there was always news about accidents on the highway; I figured it would be easy and quick, and no one would get in trouble for my actions. I needed a big punch from life and this was the biggest one I could get.
I wasn’t scared but, in that moment, it was like my legs had a mind of their own; I was walking very quickly. Surprisingly, I didn’t get hit the first time, or the second time. If I didn't die, I wanted to at least get hit; I felt like I needed it. I could feel my blood pressure rise as I reached halfway across the road, then I found myself back on the side and running for 6 km next to the cars – I was running home. I didn’t feel like I needed that punch anymore; life was already hard enough.
Ahmed, 28, Musician
I was 24 at the time, and what led me to attempt suicide was depression. I didn’t see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel, even though there was. When I look back, I see how childish I was because there had been so many opportunities that life gifted me with and I was concentrating on a few small things, thinking that it was the end of the world.
I wasn’t happy with my life or work, and I had just ended a relationship with someone I loved a great deal. It was all a state of mind; I started to become more and more self-destructive, and that was when I overdosed on Xanax. My parents were really upset about it; they called doctors. I woke up to my mother crying and doctors around me. I felt like every day was getting worse and worse, and I thought this would be the easy way out. I thought I would just sleep...forever. I did it in my office, which shows that it was more of a cry for help.
I found that, if you don’t want to change and make yourself better, you won’t. You need to be positive. I felt that if I go to a therapist, I’m just going to talk about how depressed I was. I would be going around in circles and then become more depressed. Rather than doing that, I just manned up. Rather than talking about my problems, I just solved them.
Dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts is often an unbelievably heavy burden that is difficult to carry alone. Forms of help can be found through the International Association for Suicide Prevention, or through Egyptian non-profit organisations for suicide prevention, awareness, and support. In addition, the Behman Hospital provides services and vast gardens, providing a calm and tranquil atmosphere where anyone can go to receive help or treatment.