A Practical Guide to How I Survived 3 Nights of Suicidal Urges
I could have written part of this post on August 5th, when the suicidal thoughts and urges came back. I hoped it was a one-day thing. That it would go away. And I was really shaken up about it so I decided to wait. Writing about it would make me feel worse, I told myself.
So I did wait.
I saw my therapist. I saw my psychiatrist. And I hoped it was over. Then August 8th happened. Unable to sleep, suicidal thoughts and urges crashed into me over and over again. Once again, I made it through the night. The next day I felt better, but anxiety and fear permeated my thoughts and body as I worried the suicidal urges would come back. Part of me wanted to write a blog post — get it out and share with my readers the importance of having a safety plan, having skills to use and staying alive. But for the first time really since starting a blog, I hesitated. I was scared that if family saw my post, they would worry and they don’t need to know about this — not really. And do other people really need to know? I convinced myself to wait.
On August 10th, I had a verbal altercation with someone and, once again, my thoughts turned self-destructive. A few days later, another therapy appointment. And yesterday, another psychiatry appointment (this time with a medication adjustment). Something is obviously going on with me. I have no idea what prompted this sudden downswing in mood and increase in suicidal thoughts and urges. But, I’ve read some posts on the To Write Love On Her Arms website and they helped me so much I decided it’s time to write my own post.
If you don’t want to read about the individual days and struggles, feel free to skip down to “Having a Safety Plan, Using Skills, and Staying Alive.”
Has anyone ever wanted to just attempt suicide and yet not actively had the thought, “I want to die?” Because that’s how my suicidal thoughts and urges started out on the 5th. I had a great morning: brunch with my dad, as always, was comforting and fun. Nothing out of the ordinary. But by 2 p.m., I was visualizing myself self-harming and attempting suicide. I used some skills:
I made myself get out of bed and come downstairs.
I watched the end of a movie.
I did some crossword puzzles.
I played “Words With Friends 2.”
I got out of the house and ate some food.
The skills helped while I was using them, but by 7:15 p.m. I was feeling a sense of crushing hopelessness. So, I took a hot shower to relax. But by 8:30 p.m., I had looked up suicide method on the internet for what I had available. I realized I was forming something of a plan and so I jumped to using more skills:
I did some paced breathing.
I imagined my “safe place.”
I told myself, “I have a right to my feelings and I want to feel differently.”
I did some effective rethinking, a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skill:
“I can handle this… so… relax.”
“I’ve gotten through this before and I will again… so… relax.”
“I want to do more in life… so… relax.”
I told myself that I’m in “emotion mind.”
I called my sister and talked to her about her life, not mentioning my problems.
After all of this, I called my therapist, literally five minutes before coaching hours ended. I was feeling a little desperate and I didn’t know what else to do. She asked me if I could be safe and it took me a minute to be able to answer her “yes,” honestly. She recommended I give my methods to someone. She told me to focus on a life worth living, to make a list and write out things I want in life. And finally, she told me if I couldn’t be safe, to go to the hospital.
I followed her advice and gave my methods to my mom (which was kind of hard because I didn’t want to worry her). And I made my list. There are things that make my life worth living:
I want to meet my email buddy.
I want to see some of my family I don’t see often at a family event in October.
I have people who love me and care about me (including my therapist).
There may have been something that caused my spiral on the 8th — a conversation in the afternoon with someone that got me thinking about some negative things from my past. Then again, maybe my suicidal urges had nothing to do with that. They didn’t start until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. When they came back, I did the following:
Hugged my pillow.
I used “STOP” (a DBT skill) when I started to think about what a suicide note might look like. Instead, I pulled out my “Stay Alive” note I wrote myself last year and read it.
I listed off the people who care about me.
I told myself my twin would be devastated if I killed myself.
I listed off (out loud) the things I want to stay alive for.
I pictured a healthy me taking a suicide method and throwing it away.
I pictured a healthy, compassionate me holding me, telling me it would be OK.
After using all these skills, I was able to fall asleep safely and get through my night.
On this evening, I was thinking “Part of me wants to die,” “I want to die,” and “I can’t do this.” I was angry and hurt and sad. Then I turned to the skills again:
I sat and breathed.
I put my head into an ice cold shower.
I took a hot shower to calm down and relax.
By the time I got back into my room, I was calmed down enough to where I wasn’t a risk to myself anymore. The only lasting effect from this night is that I didn’t go into work the next day.
Having a Safety Plan, Using Skills, and Staying Alive
If you read the above part of my post, you’ll see I made it through three rough nights of suicidal urges without acting on them. At the time, it felt impossible. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. But luckily, I had something of a plan and skills in place in order to help keep me alive.
Having a Safety Plan.
I read a really great post the other day about having a safety plan. You can find it here. This can range from calling 911 or going to a hospital, if you feel you’re in immediate danger, calling the Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) to confiding in someone, reaching out to a therapist or having skills in place (things you can do) to keep you safe. You might notice in my above sections I didn’t do the exact same thing every single day I was struggling. What I did depended on the intensity of my emotions and urges at the time.
I’m in a therapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). In DBT, we focus a lot on skills. There are a lot of different types of skills that can be used and they depend on the situation and intensity of emotion. If my intensity is really high, I’ll use crisis survival skills. If things aren’t so intense, I might use skills to help me distract myself or relax. But the most important thing is to keep myself safe and try not to make things worse. If I don’t feel like I can handle things on my own or if I don’t know what to do, I’ll reach out to my therapist or someone else whom I trust (like my mom).
The most important thing is staying alive. As my therapist tells me, there’s no upside to being dead. There are things I still want out of life. There are people I want to meet. There are things I want to accomplish. And, in a To Write Love on Her Arms blog post, I read that “tomorrow needs [me].”
Fighting through the darkness can be one of the most exhausting things, but the light can be found again. Even though I hesitated in writing this blog post, there’s one thing that pushed me forward and convinced me to do it: the hope that even one person might read this and find hope or inspiration and the strength to keep fighting.
A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.
Image via contributor.