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How an Insight From My Therapist Changed How I Thought About My Suicidal Ideation

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Most people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) struggle with strong, frequent suicidal urges. In fact, BPD has one of the highest rates of suicide among all mental illnesses.

My therapist recently asked me when I first experienced suicidal ideation, and my answer astonished her. Why? Because I told her I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t experience suicidal ideation.

As our discussion continued, we came to a somewhat startling conclusion: I’ve spent so much of my life with the hum of suicidality in my ear that it’s a comfortable, automatic response to almost every emotion I feel.

Basically, my mind has created a funnel labeled “suicide.” As my neurons fire and I begin feeling an emotion, I toss it directly into the funnel. I don’t stop to label the emotion, nor do I consider what I could do instead of jumping to suicidal ideation. In other words, my body associates any emotional response to a horrible thing, and its only solution to feeling an emotion is to die.

While this may not be why everyone with BPD struggles with frequent suicidal urges, it’s definitely a great insight into why I wrestle with them so often.

But if I’ve trained my brain to respond to any emotion by jumping straight to death, how do I make these automatic suicidal thoughts stop?

I’m not completely there yet, but I think the first step will be spending lots of time in a mindful headspace where I can check in with myself and (hopefully) label my emotions. By labeling my emotions, I can not only add a step to the system in place, but I can also create a moment to truly stop and utilize my emotion regulation skills from dialectical behavior therapy before my brain simply starts down that funnel of suicidal ideation.

Then, once I can better identify my emotions, I can start creating new pathways in my brain for each emotion I feel. Instead of lumping everything into one output, I can build numerous shoots and trails to follow. Hopefully, that will not only help lower the intensity of my suicidal thoughts, but actually reduce their frequency as well.

Although I don’t know if I’ll ever live a life where suicidal thoughts never cross my mind, I do hope this new insight will ultimately allow me to reduce the number of times I consider suicide as an escape.

If, like me, you constantly wrestle with suicidal ideation, I encourage you to truly stop and think about why you encounter those thoughts so frequently. Perhaps that tiny bit of insight will ultimately lead you to answers, and eventually a way to reframe your thoughts. We all deserve a life full of experiences. That includes me, and most of all, it includes you, too.

Getty image by amoklv

Originally published: September 9, 2019
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