I’m hesitant to share a post regarding the topic of suicide and suicidal ideation, but it may give others an insight into the “struggle/fight for life versus the wish to die/to end the suffering” of so many of us who live with depression. It is most certainly NOT my intention to trigger others into a similar mind-set, only to share what this line of thinking entails. A common misconception about suicide is that talking about it might give someone the idea. While this is not true — talking openly about suicide can often be one of the most helpful things you can do — I’ll err on the side of caution by stating: consider this a trigger warning! Please, keep yourself safe if you are easily triggered into suicidal thinking or behaviors. Other common misconceptions about suicide include:
“People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.”
Not True. Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
“Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.”
Not True. Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They may be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing. Extreme distress and emotional pain are always signs of mental illness but are not signs of psychosis.
“If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop him/her.”
Not True. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waver until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to end their pain. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.
“People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”
Not True. Studies of adult suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help within six month before their deaths and a majority had seen a medical professional within 1 month of their death.
“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”
Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
I do feel that it is necessary to educate the general public on the many facets of depression, one of which is the fact that depression can lead to suicidal thoughts/suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides. Remember, it is NOT helpful to shame or guilt the suicidal person into changing his/her mind. Just listen. Remind the person of his/her worth. For help in caring for someone who is suicidal, please, visit: Suicide Prevention — How to Help Someone who is Suicidal:
“If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.”
If you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are experiencing, what you are feeling does not have to be fatal. Please, seek help. I know, easier said than done. If you find that you cannot call, wait it out, just wait it out.
For months, I’ve weighed the pros and cons of sharing such a personal admission of suicidality. I wrote this back in February of this year and placed it on the back burner because:
- It felt too personal to share.
- I didn’t want to risk being “forced” into medication again. As I’ve said before, I understand that psychiatric medications have helped some people; but my experience with them was arduously adverse.
- I didn’t want people to think I was being overly dramatic or attention seeking (I still don’t because that is NOT the case; more on this in a moment).
To be clear, I wrote this on February 6th, 2015, in regard to January 31st, 2015:
I wondered if I sat there long enough, would I freeze? How long would it take? Would I simply become tired and close my eyes, allowing the elements to finish a task that I could not myself? I stopped shivering. I had already been outside for more than 20 minutes, cigarette long since finished. The sunrise growing more beautiful as the sky lit up in a fiery blaze, would this be the last thing I saw? A perfect end. I closed my eyes no longer wishing to fight the cold, the temperature hovering right at 0°F. Could it really be this simple, so easy to die?
I heard his voice saying something or another, urging me to go inside. “Just let me sit here, please,” I begged. I smoked a second cigarette. My thoughts lost; my memory of the next few moments broken as I struggled to fight the impulse of giving in to one or the other.
In the end he somehow managed to get me inside, stripped of clothes, snuggled for warmth, as the shivering returned, until I fell asleep in his arms.
Seriously, I doubt that I would have frozen to death that night; but the fact was that I felt like ending it all for whatever reason — the emotional pain felt too overwhelming. I’ve experienced this type of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness for the majority of my life. One of my earliest memories from childhood, around the age of 5 or 6, involves these emotions accompanied by the thought, “If I jump out of this window, will I die?” I removed the screen from my second-story bedroom window and contemplated this thought on more than one occasion as a child.
As a teen, shortly after I was diagnosed with Lupus, I remember a moment when I stood in front of the medicine cabinet contemplating whether or not to down a bottle of Tylenol. Thankfully, I didn’t. I told no one how I was feeling. My family didn’t discuss emotions. I remember feeling mortified that I would even consider thinking such a thing.
Yet, the four suicide attempts I survived as an adult were all overdoses: #1, #2, #3, #4 (I didn’t provide much detail about each incident, only the events surrounding them). There was another instance that I held a gun to my head, praying for the courage to pull the trigger. I am so thankful for the thought of my son that stopped me. Numerous other instances come to my mind with detailed plans and other methods that crossed my mind. Years and years of emotional pain and turmoil built up with seemingly no end to the suicidal thoughts and my obsession with death.
Even the bargain I made with all the parts of myself at some point in 2008 to end this relentless insanity that is suicidality was fraught with an end to my life when the conditions were met. Survive until I can no longer survive. At the point when I lost the SSDI and my reason for not fighting to keep it was “it’s time to pay up.” In my irrational state of mind, I felt the Universe had given me an ultimatum, “Your debt is due. Accept this loss (the SSDI) and mourn your death (suicide) because the bargain — freedom to be you for however long you’re allowed to keep the SSDI in exchange for your life — is complete. The conditions are met (no longer have the means to support yourself, publicly tell your story, closure with your son and family).”
An amazingly remarkable thing happened as a result of this ill-fated bargain. No, unfortunately, the suicidal thoughts never completely went away. I fear my obsession with death will always be there, even as morbid and frightening as that is. However, the impulse to act on these thoughts faded considerably. The more in touch with my creativity I am, the greater likelihood I can cope with the internal thoughts, voices, and pressures that lead me to rumination. The Universe gave me the gifts of nature, music, art, and writing to help me heal, not an ultimatum. That ultimatum was/is the demand of a raging inner critic, a younger self, who I’m learning needs far more compassion and validation than she’s ever gotten in this lifetime.
The pressures of external forces in my life are still cause for concern. External pressures are the “make it” or “break it” factor. I understand I have no control over anything or anyone but myself; but I’m still learning to put to use the coping strategies that mental health services have taught me. Some days are far more difficult than others. Implementing changes in behavior and thinking patterns take lots and lots of practice; and unfortunately, I’ve been struggling with this for many years with little to no emotional support. I still struggle to recognize what triggers certain responses in me. I often have to fight like hell to remain in the present moment.
Recent events shook me to my core, caused these thoughts to return after a brief two-month respite. Hey, at least I got a couple of months of freedom from the suicidal rumination. I’ll take what I can get! A couple of days ago, I would have rated my level of risk at “high.” It’s the high and severe suicidal thoughts that frighten me most. “I won’t have your suicide on my conscience.” KR’s words still haunt me. He spat those words at me with such contempt and rage despite me having said nothing about suicide that night. However, I’ve had some time to process a lot of the distress while gently testing my will to live. It’s still intact. At the moment, I would put my level of risk at “low,” so no worries. These are the usual passive thoughts that occur almost daily when I’m feeling more stressed. I’ve grown so accustomed to these passive thoughts that I can generally let them go without too much effort, now.
Another tidbit of useful information to know when supporting someone who is suicidal — from HelpGuide.org‘s website > Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone who is Suicidal:
Level of Suicide Risk Low – Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won’t commit suicide. Moderate – Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn’t very lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide. High – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide. Severe – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will commit suicide.
The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
- Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
- Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
- Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
- Do you intend to commit suicide? (INTENTION)
If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.
I read a blog post (How do you Cope with Someone’s Suicide Ideation) earlier yesterday that refueled my urge to finish writing this post as it related to my current situation.
The author of that post stated:
“What doesn’t sit well with me is when a person chooses to elaborate on the ins and outs of their half-hearted attempts at suicide without any apparent purpose to their testimony, other than to express how bad they’re feeling.”
One question I have for this author would be: Are there really EVER any half-hearted attempts at suicide? Thoughtfully, honestly consider this question.
Having been diagnosed with BPD in the past, I fully understand and acknowledge the point of view that borderlines use suicide as a method of manipulation or “attention seeking behavior” as I’ve heard so many people put it. The point is if you really think about it, suicide attempts almost always are attention seeking behavior due to the desperate measures that person is resorting to in order to scream out for help! This isn’t meant to “glorify” suicide. I’m simply expressing the human condition, the human necessity to seek out understanding, compassion, and love — a connection to another human being who is willing to validate the suicidal individual’s experience by simply stating, “I understand you are hurting. I’m here to listen.”
And “without any apparent purpose to their testimony, other than to express how bad they’re feeling?” Isn’t that enough? Contemplating and resisting suicidal urges is a life or death fight. Period. Saying it is anything but that is stigma and a huge factor in why so many people won’t discuss their suicidal thoughts and die by suicide each day.
Had I not read so many similar remarks to these online over the years, I probably wouldn’t have included this last section; yet I think we, as a society, have far to go in the fight for mental health and a better standard of care, not only from providers but also from our loved ones. It’s important that we treat individuals who are suicidal with as much respect as we would any other person, regardless of perceived motives which may or may not be part of the mask of their illness.
And once again, if you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call a loved one or visit My Mental Health Toolkit for a list of tips and tricks that I use to help me de-stress and self soothe.