“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do”-Brene Brown
It started in 5th grade. I took my mom’s iron pills. She thought I was trying to get high. All I really got was constipated. I say this lightheartedly but it’s pretty serious. It took me decades to learn to manage the thoughts and feelings of wanting to die, to disappear. I’m still learning every day. I say manage because that’s what I do, manage. It isn’t just going away for me. Depression can be a lifelong roller coaster ride that goes up, down, fast, slow, and sometimes it’s a smooth, steady ride. I really want people to know that the negative thought cycle that is common in depression isn’t always a one and done victory. Survival is definitely something to celebrate but so is the journey.
In my late teens, the suicide attempt was passive through drug use. I didn’t care if I lived or died because I didn’t feel like I was worth living in this world. I was able to come off the drugs through a 6 week drug class that was offered to me to expunge an arrest. After getting through the program, I worked on seeing my own self-worth. Even after this work, I later had 3 episodes of serious ideation from my 20s to 40 years old. I don’t want to focus on the whys- that’s for my therapy sessions- yes, I go to therapy and I take medication. What I want to focus on is how to help yourself and others, what I think works for me and others.
First, let’s go through the thought process of a person that considers taking their own life. I want you to imagine a bike trail. Every person that rides that trail falls into the same groove in the ground either for the whole ride or at least parts of the ride. There’s not much thought that goes into this unless there is a puddle or something blocking this groove in the ground. Also, the more it is used, the deeper it gets, and it becomes easier and easier to fall into. This is how our thoughts work, particularly negative thoughts. It takes real effort and attentiveness to create a new trail and avoid the old one. When the trail gets real deep, it morphs into a bad drug that the person didn’t consciously choose to take. Reality gets distorted and thoughts become irrational but the person doesn’t see that…they see and feel their reality. They may have uncontrollable dark fantasies of how to end their life.
It may help to know these patterns in others to decrease anger and hurt and increase understanding when dealing with someone struggling with these difficult thoughts. Now that you know a little about what’s going on inside the mind of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, let’s go over what actions you can take for a person that is having these thoughts:
If you just want to help but aren’t sure if you know anyone that is struggling with suicidal thoughts; you want to be part of prevention:
· You are becoming part of the solution just by reading this. Thank you.
· Watch your words and reactions- they may affect people that are struggling and not telling you.
· Know that depression looks different on everyone, especially in public.
If you know someone struggling with suicidal thoughts:
· Recognize that this isn’t a choice or something being said or done to hurt you.
· Listen and be there without advice, judgement, or expectation.
· Don’t dismiss the subject or take it as a manipulative threat- take it as a condition that needs treatment and care.
· If needed- don’t just tell them to go to the ER or just send the cops- go to them, speak to them, if needed- drive them to the ER with compassion.
· If you cannot go to them and feel they are in imminent and immediate danger- call a welfare check on them by calling the cops to check on them.
If you have struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past:
· Make a mental note of 2 to 3 safe and supportive people that you can tell these thoughts to if they come up again.
· Don’t stop therapy or medications because you feel better- you may feel better because of therapy and medications. They are important.
· Take care of yourself in the best way you can. This includes surrounding yourself with uplifting people and doing things that uplift you.
If you are struggling right now:
· Tell your safe, supportive friends. Talk about it. Don’t isolate yourself.
· Tell your therapist and/or psychiatrist. Set up appointments if you do not have them already set up.
· Call the Suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
· Starting in July of 2022, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
· Go to the ER if needed. Call an ambulance if needed.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story, the opportunity to be brave and show myself love. In helping others, I help myself. I encourage others to do the same.