When Your Brain Makes You Think Suicide Is a 'Solution'


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.

I was 10 years old the first time I tried to kill myself. Nothing happened though. I went into my backyard, sat on the roof of the shed and waited. And waited. Eventually I got bored and wandered off to play with my brothers. And so life went on.

But it wasn’t the last time I thought about my own death or suicide.

It started off in a normal enough way, I think. Anytime I was in trouble, I’d imagine my own funeral, and how horrible everyone would feel for being mean to me, and how they’d weep on my grave, and maybe Amy Grant would come, unexpectedly, and lament how now I’d never be her backup singer.

But it changed. It changed from funeral planning in times of duress, to automatic thoughts about being dead, to recurring thoughts about how I could make that happen myself.

It became the go-to solution my brain provided anytime things went sideways. Or anytime it got bored.

Get a bad grade on a math quiz? You should kill yourself.

Cool kids made fun of your flannel? You should kill yourself.

Brothers calling you names? You should kill yourself.

Can’t think of anything else to do? You should kill yourself.

I’ve since been diagnosed with a handful of mental illnesses, and all of them have suicidal ideation as a possible symptom. It’s just part of life for me. Most of the time I can shut it down pretty quickly. I can even laugh about it.

Sometimes.

Other times it’s harder.  Plans start to formulate. Letters are mentally drafted. I have a running mental list of reasons why I should just do it already. Most of the time I ignore it. I put my headphones in and get lost in a podcast or audio book. When nightmares or insomnia keep me up into the wee hours, though, it’s almost unbearable.

Almost.

And while, yes, obviously it sucks (who wants to feel this way?), if I stop to give myself credit, I feel like a total badass. I have a brain with a hair-trigger self-destruct switch, and I’ve successfully kept it at bay for decades. Decades of fighting an invisible foe and winning.

It doesn’t necessarily get easier. It ebbs and flows. But, for the most part, I can see the pattern of how it always goes away. Maybe just for a few hours, but it’s still a reprieve. If it went away this time, then I can trust that it will go away next time.  That’s about as far into the future as I want to look — sometimes the thought of decades more of the fight is too much to handle. But one more fight? I’ve got one more fight in me.

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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Unsplash photo via Tanja Heffner


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