5 Steps That Helped Me Recover After a Suicide Attempt

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Since I’ve begun sharing how I went from a being a pastor to being hospitalized in a psych ward, people often ask about my recovery. Everyone wants to know, is there a single solution? Where does the magic lie? How do they get their own lives (or their loved ones’) back? Or, as others have said, “What is the one thing that made you want to start living again?”

The truth is, there’s no magic formula, but here are some intentional steps that made my life better. I’m not a professional therapist, and everyone has a different recovery story. I can only share from my own experience.

Here are five steps that helped me recover after my suicide attempt:

1. Accepting treatment. 

If I had cancer, you can bet I would take chemo. I might also listen to the naturopath’s advice to drink special juices and cut out refined sugars, or to follow the path of meditation to wholeness. But I would still take chemo.

Mental illness is a real thing. A disease. When the doctor says the chemicals in your brain aren’t firing correctly and a certain medication will help level you out, listen to the doctor.

It took a few tries to find the meds that were right for me, but it’s worth the hassle. Some made me too sleepy, some made me too grumpy, but eventually we settled on meds that helped me find my new normal.

Again, I’m no professional, but don’t rely on your primary care physician to help you sort out the complicated maze of mental health. You wouldn’t go to your family doctor for cancer treatment, so why would you do that for psychiatric needs?

Counseling was also an important part of my recovery. After my suicide attempt, spending time with a professional saved my marriage and, ultimately, my life.

2. Stop apologizing.

When my son was a toddler, he went through a very difficult time with his stomach. Frequently, he would vomit and make major messes. Each time, he would cry. “Dada,” he would say, “I’m sorry I frowed up.” My son couldn’t control having stomach trouble any more than I can control a panic attack in the middle of the work day. Both are inconvenient and problematic, but I wouldn’t choose anxiety or depression any more than someone would willingly choose to vomit.

I don’t owe anyone an apology for my mental illness. You don’t either.

3. Find a strong support system.

There are those who care about your soul, and there are those who only care to know what’s going on. It’s important to know the difference. Surround yourself with those who are willing to walk with you through the hard days. Be gracious with those who love you, but can’t help you.

4. Practice self-care.

Get good, solid, uninterrupted sleep. Don’t stay up all hours of the night to binge on your favorite show or read just one more chapter. I find when I’m tired, my symptoms are worse.

I’ve also learned to practice better eating. I’m a busy guy, and I’ve never been a big breakfast eater. See how I just made two excuses? No more excuses. Take your nutrition seriously. I’m not saying you have to join a gym, or post before and after pictures on social media. I’m just saying to eat as healthy as you can and as regularly as you can. It will help you feel better and get the most out of your day.

As a person with mental illness, there are so many triggers I can’t control — but I do have control over how I take care of myself.

5. Focus on the recovery, not the stigma.

The stigma of mental illness sucks. But worse is not getting better. And all any of us really want is to get better. Remember this: you are not your diagnosis. So, use your diagnosis to design a recovery plan and keep moving forward. Mental illness is not a death sentence.

Follow this journey on I Am Steve Austin. Click here to sign up for his free “Manifesto for Hard Days.”

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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3 Real Ways to Help a Friend Who’s Suicidal

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This piece was originally written by Princess Gabbara, a Black Doctor contributor.

In this country, more people die of suicide than homicide. That’s alarming. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes. That’s approximately 30,000 people each year. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to learn that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If 30,000 doesn’t sound like a big number to you, then think of it this way: In the past three years alone, nearly 1 million people have taken their own lives. With that many suicides, there’s a good chance you may know someone who’s committed suicide or someone who’s been affected by suicide in some way.

Here are three things you need to do if you suspect that someone in your life is considering suicide.

1. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Sometimes people fear that if they approach a suicidal friend or family member that it’ll somehow increase those negative thoughts. The truth of the matter is if someone already has suicidal thoughts, confronting them isn’t going to push them further to their breaking point. In fact, approaching them may do some good because it let’s them know someone cares. The sooner you intervene, the better. One approach to starting the conversation is to keep it somewhat vague. You can begin by saying something along the lines of, “You haven’t been yourself lately. Is everything OK?”

2. Say the right things.

Often times, people who are considering suicide are suffering in silence. There’s nothing wrong with approaching that person, but remember that suicide is a sensitive subject, so you have to be delicate and nonjudgmental. That said, avoid saying things such as, “Just be positive” or “Your family and friends will be so hurt.” Do, however, let them know they’re not alone and that you’ll be there to support them every step of the way as they get through this difficult time in their lives. Use the conversation as a way to educate them as well. Inform them that help is out there and there are even anonymous suicide prevention hotlines they can call. More importantly, let them know how much their life means to you – be sincere, be genuine.

Read the rest on BlackDoctor.org.

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Ronda Rousey Has Powerful Words After Media Frenzy Over Her Suicide Comments

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On Feb. 16, in an interview with Ellen Degeneres, Ronda Rousey revealed she experienced suicidal thoughts after her crushing loss to Holly Holm at the UFC 193 MMA match in November.

“I was like, ‘What am I anymore if I’m not this?’ I was literally sitting there, thinking about killing myself,” Rousey told Degeneres. “In the exact second, I was like, ‘I’m nothing, what am I going to do anymore? No one gives a sh*t about me without this.’”

Rousey’s admission shocked many, and when other pro fighters weighed in on the remark, the support wasn’t as strong as it could have been.

Mike Tyson told TMZ he believed Rousey’s thoughts were merely representative of a “moment in time.” At a UFC press conference in Albuquerque on Feb. 17, Holm commented, “In the long run, she’ll be stronger mentally from it.”

When TMZ caught up with Rousey on Tuesday in Los Angeles, they asked about the feedback she’s received since her appearance on “The Ellen Show,” and she held nothing back. Referencing the work she’s done with Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a free clinic in L.A., Rousey brought up that the organization’s last public event was focused on “erasing the stigma” of suicide.

“[T]aking the stigma away from everything suicide and making it actually acceptable for people to talk about and look for help and not feel ashamed of themselves for it — I think that should be encouraged,” Rousey told TMZ, adding that both her father and his father took their own lives. A family history of suicide is considered an increased risk factor, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It’s not about damning people, and I feel like there’s been an overly negative light on that,” she continued. “It’s something real people are going through, not something like a weakness that we should condemn.”

“I’ve never shied away from talking about suicide,” she added. “It’s really heavily affected our family, and anything I can do to make sure it affects as few people as possible, I’d be happy to do that. I don’t see why [my comments are] looked at as a bad thing. I only saw how big of a deal it was afterwards. I was just being honest.”

Watch Rousey’s interview in the link below:

Ronda Rousey is using her post-loss suicidal thoughts as a fuel under her fire.

Posted by TMZ on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

 

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

h/t Huffington Post

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A Letter to My Past Suicidal Thoughts

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You’ve plagued me for as long as I can remember. You’ve stopped me from doing things I wanted to do. You’ve stopped me from relying on friends. You and your friend depression have ripped away my confidence in everything.

Why am I here? I ask this on a daily basis. You come to me in the nighttime and steal away my energy. You never gave me the chance. You tell me to stay in my room when the sun is shining. You say I’m never good enough for people. You say I’ll never be worthy of the love people give me. You say the future doesn’t have anything to wait for. You say I’ll never fulfill my dreams. You remind me every day not to have hope. You say a man will never love me for who I am. You stop me from loving my imperfections and make me detest my faults, as if they were the only part of me.

This is what you tell me, suicidal thoughts. But this is what I want to tell myself:

You are special. You will fail in this life but I beg of you get back up. Ask for help when you need it. Turn away the pride. Help those in need because they will always be there. Always believe you are worth it and you will somehow change the world, because you will. Haters are always gonna hate, but believe in yourself. Don’t take the easy way out. Struggle, struggle with all your might and conquer. Remember you are loved, even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you feel like you could die today and no one would care. Never stop trying because you will do something incredible someday. It will be hard. It will hurt. It will feel like your bones are breaking and your soul is crushed. Be strong. I believe in you and love you. I can’t wait to cheer you on every day I can.

Suicidal thoughts, this is goodbye for now. I’m not as naïve to think we won’t meet again. That you won’t charm me with your army of falsehoods. It isn’t my choice to live in the world of mental illness. Life will always be up and down, but the reason I’m writing this to you is to say I will fight. I will fight against everything. I will fight you in the best way I can.

I will admit, some days I will lose. I will swim in the endless ocean of depression and the lies that come with it. However, there are battles I will win. Little victories that will add up in time. I don’t believe you anymore. I am worth it.

One day I will look in the mirror and love myself, and I hope you do, too.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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What Guilt Feels Like as a Suicide Attempt Survivor

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I often feel guilty because of my anxiety and depression. But most of the time I should not.

Recently I felt guilt for a new, heartbreaking reason. I am a survivor of a suicide attempt. But not everyone is.

I remember the morning after vividly. The white walls of the shared hospital room. The stiffness in the blankets. The metallic taste in my mouth. The brightness of the lights intensifying my headache. My sweaty shirt stuck to my chest. I don’t remember the actual attempt, but I remember — no matter how hard I try to forget — the feelings that brought me to that crossroad. The immeasurable shame. The insurmountable anxiety. The darkness of feeling hopeless. The physical aches. The heaviness of believing I was a burden. The desire to make it all stop at any cost.

Something else I remember about the morning after was feeling grateful. Grateful for waking up. Grateful for the hard choices of my loved ones. Grateful for the confusion and lapses in memory. Grateful for the nausea that rendered me immobile. I was grateful because on the other side of my attempt, in the fog of the withdrawal, I was able to see I didn’t want to die.

I did not want to die.

I wanted to have a moment where my mind didn’t degrade me. A moment where I trusted my instinct. A moment where I saw a future and looked forward to it. A moment where I wasn’t debilitated by anxiety. A moment where I had energy. A moment where I smiled without wondering if my mask was fooling others. A moment to feel alive. I wanted to live.

I wanted to live.

I’m afraid those who die by suicide may have felt the same way I did the day following my attempt. I feel guilty I was blessed with another day, another chance, when others are not so lucky. I feel guilty my family gets to tell me they love me when other families would give anything to say it one more time.

Sometimes, on bad days, I picture it like a raffle. Everyone who attempts suicide gets a number, but there are only so many “winners.” If your number gets pulled, you get a second chance and if not, your story ends. Sometimes I don’t feel as if my number deserved to be picked. There are men who worked harder, women who loved deeper and children who grew stronger than I think I will ever work, love or grow. People who were heroes. People who bettered society. People who challenged others. People who were selfless. People who changed the world. People who could have continued to change the world. People who seem more deserving.

My heart aches for those who never got to feel grateful on the other end of their pain. I wish no one felt this pain and everyone’s number could be drawn so they too would have a second chance.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via alien 185.

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The Article I Wish I’d Found When I Googled 'Thinking About Suicide'

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Sometimes it’s just a thought that passes through. More of an annoyance than a statement filled with any intent. Like a bee sting. Or a flash of lighting.

Sometimes the trigger is obvious (stress, something I regret saying, more stress), and sometimes it seemingly arrives out of nowhere, disturbing a perfectly good drive or conversation I’m trying to hold with my roommate. At its most innocent, it’s distracting. At its worst, it gets stuck in my head. I sing it out loud to make it less scary. More than once, it’s involuntarily left my lips.

“I want to kill myself.”

But I don’t want to die.

And I didn’t want to die when the frequency of these thoughts was particularly bad my junior year of college. It was a broken record player that would start in class, follow me back to my apartment and swim in my head during work. It was glancing at my forearms, visualizing pain. I wouldn’t. But I could.

What was often worse than the actual thoughts were the those that followed: What’s wrong with me? Am I suicidal? What does this mean? What should I do? 

One day the sentence was swirling around in my head during a shift at my job. On my break I left for some air, and, sitting on the side of the street in the dark, I Googled, “Thinking frequently about suicide.” I found nothing concrete. A few forums and suicide prevention foundations. Unsatisfied and without any information, I buried the question away.

Now, I want to write the piece I wish I had found.

— — —

Dr. Ali Mattu, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, told me he sometimes holds a tissue box in front of his patients to prove a point.

“Think about the box falling,” he says to them. “Imagine it falling to the ground.”

So they do. And after a few moments, with the tissue box still in his hand, Mattu looks up and asks, “Why didn’t it fall?”

At this point, the person usually gets the point he’s trying to make: thoughts are thoughts, and nothing more. Thinking about something doesn’t make it happen.

But what about when our brains get fixated on dark thoughts like suicide?

“Suicidal thoughts, at their heart, are a natural response to specific situation,” he told me, when I explained my situation and — as professionally as I could –asked, “Am I normal?”

Mattu compared it to when he sometimes imagines jumping in front of the subway during his morning commute. Or any other quick thought that might flash through someone’s mind: What if I turned my car off the road? What if I wasn’t alive? These thoughts, in and of themselves, are just that — thoughts. It’s normal to experience them to a certain extent. But even if they’re not filled with intent — and although most people who contemplate suicide never actually try to kill themselves — Mattu said frequent thoughts of suicide aren’t random.

They probably mean there’s more going on.

He told me about a time when he had similar thoughts. He was in graduate school, and his dissertation had fallen apart. Something he had spent a year of his life on was gone, unusable. His stress shot through the roof. He developed a sense of hopelessness, and on top of that, it manifested in self-hate.

“So many of my friends were able to do this. I’m already behind. What’s wrong with me? What can I can do this?” Mattu said, recounting his thoughts at the time. “It was the first time in my life I experienced a suicidal thought.”

He said perhaps junior-year me also had similar fears of the future or had gone through a painful event. He said sometimes when we perceive a situation as uncontrollable, our brain generates suicide as something we can control.

This resonated with me. Back then, I was dealing with a break-up and unaddressed anxiety, while stress at home and at school built up. Maybe my brain was trying to tell me something.

If you experience thoughts of suicide, Mattu said a great first step is stepping back and looking at your situation. Instead of getting upset over the thoughts themselves, think: Why might I be having these thoughts? Is there a situation that perhaps I need to change or an issue I need to address?

Then — talk to someone.

To a friend, to a family member, to a professional. There’s no data that suggests talking about suicidal thoughts makes them worse. Recognize it’s normal to have thoughts that were scary, and talk to someone about them. Hopefully it will help you understand why,” Mattu said. 

Of course, if thoughts of suicide become more than passing thoughts  — or you have a plan — talk to someone about it. Go to your local emergency room. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Know the factors that put someone at a high risk for attempting suicide so you can help yourself or a loved one before it’s too late.

As for me, I wish I could tell myself to seek counseling sooner. That it’s OK to tell your parents you’re not “great” when they call. That just because you’re thinking scary things doesn’t mean you’re “crazy” or that there’s something wrong with you. It doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful or just can’t handle stress. And just because you know you won’t doesn’t mean you’re unworthy of addressing thoughts of suicide, that when your brain is trying to tell you something you should listen: I need help, and that’s OK.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Related: What to Do When You’re Worried a Loved One Might Be Suicidal

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