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The Question My Therapist Asked About My Suicidal Thoughts

I don’t think bodies ever want bodies to really die. Michael Lee, my favorite poet who often writes about mental illness and addiction writes, “Death comes because the brilliance inside us can only be contained for so long,” but when our minds fool our bodies into thinking that death is at our own willpower, salvation from pain, a means to end the pain that eventually transcends us — we lose the chance at life. My therapist once asked me, “Why are you in a rush to kill yourself?” and her blunt question has been lingering in my head for quite some time since she first asked over a year ago.

Why are people in a rush to kill themselves? We can put pain into metaphors and pretty poetic stanzas, but a lot of it would translate to the same thing; sometimes life is really difficult to live. Sometimes the body feels like it cannot breathe. Pain suffocates our throats, fills our lungs with a feeling of heavy sorrow, clouds our minds making it difficult for us to see past these turbulent circumstances. I think in answering her own question, I realized I wasn’t in a rush to die — I know death is the reality of our mortality. Instead, I think I was impatient and desperate for change. I don’t think I’ve ever really wanted to die; Honestly, death has become a form of escapism for me and it’s definitely something I’m working on thinking in more truthful terms. Spiritual beliefs aside, I’m not certain about what comes alongside the arrival of death beyond finites for the person who welcomes it. Suicide is a painful thing; I once heard someone describe it as the person who dies by suicide doesn’t end the pain they feel, they just pass it on.

Michael Lee also writes, “We do not die. We pass on, pass on the lightning burning through our throats.”

If you’ve been struggling with suicidal ideation, I want to share a few things with you. Feel free to take what resonates and leave what doesn’t.

1. Pain is cyclical and it isn’t forever. If you can work through the pain in whatever form it manifests (grief, depression, isolation, rejection, a breakup, addiction, etc), you can transcend your pain into something less heavy, maybe even something enlightening or insightful, and end that cycle of pain.

2. You’re not a burden, suicide doesn’t have to be a solution to lessen the pain you think you cause people. We will all hurt people who we love, but that does not make our lives any less valid or valued. The pain we cause doesn’t equate to giving ourselves the death sentence.

3. That one thing that brings you joy, no matter how small, please hold onto that. We don’t need pivotal and groundbreaking reasons to keep living. If watching reruns of your favorite childhood show get you up from bed, hold onto that. If it’s the fact that if you hurt yourself no one would water your plant, keep that as a reason. If it’s because you’re really excited to visit your favorite cafe after COVID-19 ceases, keep holding on.

4. The act of suicide isn’t one drawn from love or hope. No matter what your rationale for leaning into suicidal ideation is, I bet you it doesn’t align with your value system because you would likely not tell a dear friend or family member that “killing yourself would be the right choice.” You’re the rule, not the exception.

5. When you can’t think constructively, imagine what you’d tell your closest friend if they confided that they wanted to hurt themselves. Sometimes it’s easier to step away from ourselves because we might think we’re the exception to our thoughts and our views about suicide or other upsetting topics, so if we’re able to give our bodies the kindness we share to others — it can help us think more critically and compassionately.

6. Ask yourself, “Why are you in a rush to kill yourself?” or if it’s too daunting or triggering of a question, consider working through it with a counselor or therapist if you have access to one. You can get through this. You will get through this, but you don’t have to do it alone.

7. A cool trick my friend once offered me is to ask yourself, “What if I get through this?” or “What if I learn something really amazing from this daunting experience?” and then imagine yourself coping through that. The existential questions don’t all have to be morbid, sometimes they can be hopeful and widen your imagination to what’s possible.

8. I’m not going to tell you your life will get infinitely better, but I do believe that if we stay here to find out we will experience better days and maybe the remembrance of those days will help us get through the bad ones.

I hope whatever is troubling you that you continue to keep your head above water and to remember to let yourself enjoy breathing. You will get through the crucibles you find yourself in; part of getting through the hard times is believing the hard times aren’t stronger than we are. You are strong, brave, brilliant and fierce. I hope you let the world bear witness to the brilliance inside of you no matter how much you think your light flickers.

Photo by Bach Tran on Unsplash