When Suicidal Thoughts Are a Part of Your Everyday Routine
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
Make no mistake, I am not in any way minimizing the seriousness of suicide or suicidal thinking. It is never something to be taken lightly. But for some people with depression, it is just a part of everyday life. It’s something we live with, knowing we will never be completely rid of those thoughts no matter how “happy” we are.
For some people, thinking about suicide is in some ways a relief. It is an “option” if things get too hard. No one wants to say that; no one wants to admit or accept that. It’s understandable. The idea that someone could find “relief” in those thoughts is frightening to people who have never had them. But by not talking about it, we are making it harder for someone to ask for help when those thoughts become too much to handle.
For as long as I can remember I have had “suicidal” thoughts on a daily basis. I say that knowing full well that if family, friends or coworkers were to see it, they would not understand. But if even one person sees that and realizes they are not alone, it is worth it. Rarely over the course of my life have those thoughts led to even a semi-serious plan, and only twice have they led to a truly serious situation. “Suicide” is a word people don’t like to say because it is uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be. Talking about it shouldn’t make people worry what others will think, or fear losing their job. And yet, it’s a topic that is strictly off limits in many people’s minds. I won’t say I’ve “struggled” with suicidal thoughts because I haven’t. It’s not a struggle, they just exist. They happen throughout the day, not in a melodramatic kind of way, but in a very straight forward manner. I can picture myself with the means of suicide. The things is, those means are out of reach. That’s how I know I’m “OK.” It’s when things take a turn, and become thoughts of the means within my reach that I know I need to worry. In other words, I think about suicide every day, but I am not suicidal.
So why does it even matter? Because when those thoughts do take a turn, that’s when I need to know I can tell someone — that I can ask for help without fear. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people, both personally and professionally. I know I can talk to them; I know I can. But still, I worry. What will they think? Will they go tell other people? I make sure to keep the people I trust in the loop of my thoughts, so they can spot when things are going badly, often before I notice.
I’ve found that one of the most important things is to have someone you know won’t panic at the first mention of suicide — someone who will just help you ride it out, talk you through it, help you hold on for as long as it takes. I didn’t even realize my friend was doing exactly that until I had been in a very bad place for several weeks. I told him, repeatedly, that I didn’t think I could keep going — that I desperately wanted to kill myself. He didn’t call the cops or beg me to “get help.” He talked, he listened, he checked in and he treated me like he always has. He told me about his day, without expecting me to actually have any response. He listened to my pleas and cries and complaints. He talked about the future — next week, next month, next year. He let me talk about the past without pity or judgment. He supported me until I ultimately got through it. And that was all I really needed — someone who made it OK to not be OK.
Of course, there are plenty of times when suicidal thoughts are an emergency situation — times where someone needs immediate intervention to keep them safe. But sometimes what they really need is someone to listen. Someone to simply hear the pain and fear and make it OK to feel those things. Someone who can be strong enough to hear those things and carry that weight without breaking down and running away. But the more isolated people feel with those feelings, the less likely they are to ask for help when they really need it. The first step to changing things is by talking openly about them.
So yes, I have suicidal thoughts every day of my life. That will never change, and I’m totally OK with it. I’m a happy person who loves life and appreciates the little things. I am also a person with depression, and some things are simply part of how I am — like it or not. But if I wake up and those thoughts are more than I can handle, I know I can ask for help. I know there are people who will be there for me. I know I am not alone. I will never again be ashamed of the fact that I have these thoughts. They don’t make me a bad person. They are not something to be embarrassed about. And I refuse to let them win.
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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Unsplash photo via Myles Tan