Suicidal Ideation

Hello Old Friend:

Talking about Those Persistent

Thoughts of Wanting to Give Up

I’d like to begin by stating that I am NOT currently suicidal.  My children need me and killing myself would break their hearts in a way they may never heal from.  I could not do that to them.  I am writing not about any plan to kill myself but rather about those lingering thoughts that haunt not only me but others suffering from depression, as well.  Suicidal ideation is a taboo topic, not allowed in most groups for fears of triggering others and misunderstood by anyone who has not suffered themselves.

Anyone who has suffered from depression knows these feelings well.  It’s that little voice, that devil on your shoulder, that constant companion who overstays their welcome like an unwanted house guest.  It internalizes everything in my life and makes me feel helpless, my life hopeless.  It is that constant weight on my chest controlling my every breath, that elephant in the room I cannot ignore.

There’s times that I greet that little demon on my shoulder as I would an old friend.  It has been there more consistently than any friendship, and has been the only one to offer any real solution to my continuous suffering.  I know, however, that this demon is a bully.  It does not care for me and is not looking out for my best interest.  It is ever present, always badgering, forever insistent that giving up is the only way to stop the pain.  That demon is the personification of all the trauma and abuses I have endured and it wants me to give up.  It wants me to fail.  It wants to win.

I cannot tell you the times over the years I have written out my goodbyes to people I loved, apologizing for being me, the mess that I am;  Apologizing for not being strong enough, good enough, for just plain not being enough.  I have cried no more, no mas, please make all this pain stop so often that I am thoroughly convinced that if there is a God he is not a benevolent one because nobody could allow anyone to suffer this much in life.  I have begged for those I loved to not give me another thought because I’m truly not worth it.

I admittedly have daydreamed about giving up many times.  I imagine those final moments, knowing my pain would finally be over, drifting peacefully away.  Where other people fantasize about far off white sandy beaches or beautiful crisp nights under a starry sky, my bliss is simply a world where I am no longer suffering, no longer in pain.  When life feels unbearable, a piece of me longs to surrender to that inner voice, to say You Win! and just fade away.

Anyone who has not walked in my shoes cannot understand what it’s like to constantly battle my own brain, my own thoughts and emotions.  They cannot comprehend having that inner voice that is always poking at me, telling me I’m not enough, life will never get better, that this pain will never stop.  When I’ve spent years in that constant torment, any escape seems almost blissful.  I’m constantly haunted by these feelings while simultaneously being afraid to speak about them.

The hardest part about having these feelings is that I’ve never been able to talk openly about them.  The moment I verbalize having these thoughts, even if I do not intend to act on them, there’s the very real fear that people will want to lock me up for my own safety.  People are comfortable with me suffering in silence but panic when any of the despair I feel every single day spills out.  Rather than let me acknowledge and discuss these feelings, some will ultimately try to use my vulnerability against me, wanting to send me away so others can deal with those uncomfortable thoughts instead of them.

Perhaps worse than those who want to lock me away out of panic are the naysayers and the minimizers.  Those who have never suffered through depression assume expressing these thoughts is akin to having a pity party.  If I even bring up these thoughts, some people accuse me of wanting to take the coward’s way out.  I’m accused of being a drama queen, some swearing I’m not serious or even daring me to follow through, declaring that I only want attention.  Others cannot grasp that I’d even consider giving up on life.  They assure me that my life cannot possibly be as horrible as it seems right now and toss out cliches about there being a rainbow after the storm or encourage me to keep my head up, things can only go up from here.

There needs to be a middle ground where everyone feeling this way, myself included, can openly discuss our feelings, without fear of judgment, rejection or being locked away against our will for using one of those trigger words that make others uncomfortable.  Thinking about suicide does not mean we are actively planning to kill ourselves.  Finding bliss in the thought of there being an end to our suffering does not mean we intend to follow through with it.  Many times suicides occur because someone has been suffering alone, without a voice, for so long that their demons begin to make sense.  If left alone with our demons long enough, some will succumb to their will.  Those who still want to talk are still trying to survive their battles; Suicide often occurs when someone loses the will to talk or to fight.  Listening non-judgmentally to us venting our feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, while moderately uncomfortable to you, may save our lives in the long run. It lets us know we are not alone and validates our voices.  We would not be reaching out if we did not want help.  We would not be speaking up if we didn’t want to fight, want to survive.  We’re putting our trust in you by letting you see us at our most vulnerable.  Please do not let us down.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 8/6/16.

tspn

Republished in the December 2016 / January 2017 Newsletter.

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3 thoughts on “Suicidal Ideation

  1. As a psychologist I know how complex this topic is, both for the sufferer and for people who care about them. Much of what makes people uncomfortable hearing about suicidal thoughts is that it makes them feel responsible for keeping the person safe. That’s scary! Because on some level people know it’s not a responsibility they can actually fulfill — at least not as perfectly as such a crucial responsibility would definitely have to be fulfilled — which makes them feel helpless. Helpless people tend to do three types of things: either they struggle against the helpless situation (through panic, frustration, anger … ), avoid it actively (changing the topic, ending the relationship …), or mentally try to avoid it through denial (invalidating messages, like insisting that it’s not really so bad, “You’ll figure it out!” …). I’ve heard of relationships where people cycle among all three responses, even in the course of an hour. Of course, none of these scenarios feel supportive to the person in pain.
    The point of this article is well taken — just being able to talk to someone else about suicidal thoughts and feelings can be enormously helpful! I love that you feel empowered to ask for what you need and are encouraging people to talk and listen! That’s so important if we’re ever going to defeat the stigma around issues of mental health. AND people grappling with feeling helpless really suck at listening. So the best way to ensure that a caring listener can *hear* you is to relieve them of unrealistically assuming responsibility for your safety. You can do that by first sharing the coping plan that you intend to use if you think you may act on the thoughts and feelings you’re about to share, as well as anything else you’re doing to keep yourself as safe as you can. That way they can be present instead of panicking, pulling away, or minimizing. There are people who do care and want to listen and understand. They need your help to get out of their own way so they can do that for you.

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  2. After battling for seven months I have decided to give up suicidal ideation. I sought help from friends, family, spiritual mentors, crisis hotline counselors, and therapists. I did everything one is advised to do…and in many instances my situation was made worse, for all the reasons you have stated. At first I thought I would just “go silent” and not speak of suicidal ideation. I have now decided to eradicate it completely as a bad mental habit. If it brings comfort it is somewhat like junk food…not good in the long run. What comes up for me is a lot of anxiety. I am not on any medication to combat depression or anxiety. I would say that anxiety is more major for me than depression. Meaning I do find anxiety unbearable. It seems that suicidal ideation has been the lid. I am taking it off. I will try to combat it with a very pure diet (which I have already established) no alcohol (also established) and vigorous exercise, as well as CBT, DBT and meditation. I have a very poor social support network and will have to work hard if I want to establish one. Suicidal ideation developed because I was living inside my head — which although dark — was darkly cozy.. It is not comfortable for me to live a raw and more exposed existence, but that is my intention. Thanks for your well written piece.

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