Why I Never Took My Suicidal Thoughts Seriously
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
During suicide prevention month, I am encouraging people to talk about suicide. What those conversations look like could vary, being anywhere on a spectrum of education, sharing stories or just checking up on people you may be concerned about. I’ve talked about suicide many times with people, but there are two very influential conversations I have had regarding suicidal that both radically changed my perspective.
The first was in middle school, I think seventh grade. I have been dealing with depression for as long as I can remember and my first suicidal thoughts probably showed up sometime in middle school. But I was over at a friend’s house, and I’m not sure how it came up, but I confided in her that sometimes, I thought about killing myself. I didn’t know what I was expecting her to say or even what prompted me to tell her, but her response was simple. “Oh, everyone thinks about killing themselves sometimes.”
That ended the conversation and her words have stuck with me for the last 10 years. Perhaps it sounds ridiculous to you that I would take the words of a seventh grader as fact, but what reason did I have to think she was wrong? I was reassured that I wasn’t so different after all and I didn’t need to be concerned by these thoughts. Besides, people often said or posted things like “I’m going to kill myself” in response to a homework assignment or a tough day, so I figured they had thoughts just like me.
Now fast-forward nine years. I’m in my first mixed episode (a combination of mania and depression that sometimes presents itself in those with bipolar disorder) and was very suicidal. One of my good friends knew things were getting worse and worse and was scared. I disclosed I was suicidal (which was a state of mind I was very familiar with) and brushed it off. She tried to explain to me that suicidal thoughts are serious and I dismissed it. I responded with the logic I had held onto for almost 10 years: “Everyone thinks about killing themselves sometimes.” Except she didn’t affirm me. She responded, “I have never thought about killing myself.”
I had been diagnosed with depression years earlier and was on antidepressants, so I knew I was different from other people, but I always thought it was just that I couldn’t manage my thoughts as well as others and that my thoughts were more persistent, not that other people didn’t have them at all. I had no idea my thoughts were actually abnormal.
I attempted suicide that same week. I was hospitalized for a week and diagnosed with Bipolar I. I still struggle with taking my suicidal thoughts seriously — I still have to be reminded they are a serious warning sign. I was hospitalized about six months ago for two weeks due to serious suicidal thoughts, but I didn’t even think I needed to be hospitalized since I hadn’t actually attempted. In my mind, I was just depressed, self-harming and planning a suicide. But my friends insisted I go to the hospital just to be evaluated and I was admitted because suicidal thoughts are serious, despite the ingrained logic I have that they are normal.
I hate being reminded I am different and that I face challenges and limitations many others do not. But this reminder, even if it isn’t one you quite want to hear, is worth sharing: suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously. Having these thoughts doesn’t mean you are beyond repair, broken or doomed, but it does mean you need some help to get through it. I am so grateful I am still here and so frightened by the fact that thoughts in my head had the potential to lead to fatal actions.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please tell someone and let them help you or guide you towards help. And to those supporting someone with a mental illness, ask them if they are suicidal if you are concerned, and help them understand those thoughts are serious. Suicidal thoughts can be treated and life can be lived focusing on living, not on dying.
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.
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Thinkstock photo via berdsigns