4 Things I Want You to Know If You're Feeling Suicidal Right Now
Last night was the first time in months I experienced overwhelming thoughts of suicide.
This happens to me from time to time. Every person has a threshold, defined by their own personal tolerance of unpleasantries, and it fluctuates depending on your state of mind, letting in more negative interactions when you are feeling weaker and blocking them out when you’re feeling more confident. When I got home from running errands on Saturday I could feel the sadness welling up inside me, and within two days I had slid hastily into the deepest waters of depression.
Typically, I’m frantic when these emotions arise — wondering why, how and when — but I’ve grown substantially stronger in my mental health since the last time I felt this low, and it was much easier to work through this time with the new understanding of a mood disorder diagnosis. Though I spent a large majority of the night struggling with my thoughts, I also learned a thing or two about these feelings and how to manage them when they do come. I found the trail of events fascinating, as if I was a subject being dissected in an experiment. It took a long time for me to be able to practice such control over these thoughts and every person is different, but understanding the following things helped me cope.
1. Give Yourself A Break
It’s often when you are at your weakest point when these terrifying urges start to take over, which may seem like an obvious fact, but when you’re in the middle of a breakdown I think this is the type of statement you need to replay in your head over and over to remind yourself there is a cause and effect to everything. This is important because even if you’re struggling with a disorder that causes you to feel depressed regularly, it’s important to remember you aren’t a disorder. We all experience different triggers or emotional swings that can bring out these unwanted feelings, but learning what got us there to begin with can help erase the motion that we are “just bipolar” or “just schizophrenic” and take back our power as individuals who have “normal” feelings.
I recognized my threshold for negativity had been weakened by disheartening situations that took place in my personal life throughout the week leading up to my breakdown and I was completely exposed by the time Friday hit. My father didn’t stop in to see me when he was visiting my city. My closest friend didn’t read my latest and most important blog post. An old co-worker blew off plans we had to get coffee and never rescheduled. If I was in a good place these things potentially could have rolled right off my back, but combined in a short period, they eventually wore down my threshold until my nerves were bare. Succumbing to those painful moments was almost inevitable for me, but realizing I was feeling weak because of those events allowed me to level with myself.
2. Think Hard Before You Act
You might be exhausted. You might be tired physically. You might be tired socially and you might be tired mentally to have reached this point. You probably want people to listen to your cries for help and take your pleas seriously because just the thoughts alone brewing inside you are life-altering. But just because you have thoughts of suicide, doesn’t mean you have to harm yourself or physically end your life, which is something I wish everyone knew about having a mental illness. Of course self-harm is a very real, very frightening experience that too many people struggle through, but it’s not a definitive symptom of being depressed or anxious. In my darkest times, I can be completely convinced that the only escape from all the pain built up inside is death. I can even stomach the thought of how I would complete the act. But I cleared my mind for just a quick second and asked myself, right here, right now, is that the answer to this? No.
When I realized I wasn’t actually in any imminent danger, I put down my phone and tried to get some rest. Understand that these thoughts — unpleasant as they come — can exist without action, and you don’t have to feel guilty or ashamed for having them. Determine the difference between thoughts and degree of willingness as fast as possible and react accordingly. There are a number of resources within your area that are waiting for you to reach out during these moments. And remember, you can always, always talk to me.
3. Remember Hope
Have you ever heard about a “feedback sandwich”? The premise is that if you need to provide a person with criticism that you should sandwich it between two compliments because people generally only retract the beginning and the tail end of most conversations; so if you present them strictly with criticism, the person will take little away from the interaction but defensiveness. Though the “feedback sandwich” may not be applicable in all cases, the point is this: our brains are wired to accept love and praise, but because dark thoughts are often much louder, we must present a denser supply of love and positivity to overcome the bully inside.
This sounds impossible if you are experiencing strong feelings of hatred toward yourself. Sometimes even the kindest words from others aren’t enough to rewrite the workings of your inner conflicts. The good news is that even if you can’t accept outside support, you have something much higher and more powerful than our conscious perseverance working on your side. There is always going to be a voice inside your head that wants you to love yourself and overcome your battles, but sometimes you can’t hear it because your sadness is screaming with all its might. No matter how long it’s been since you heard that voice, believe me when I say that it hasn’t left you. There’s no way — physical or spiritual — for that feeling to ever abandon you, even if you’re feeling betrayed by your own emotions. Keep that in mind.
4. Ride It Out Your Own Way
When I’m in a dark place, one of my rituals is to start googling how to get over feeling so blue and if that is what lead you here to me today, I’d be honored to be your guardian angel through this time. There is one thing, however, about most of those articles I dislike, and it’s that the people writing those helpful tips never seem to take into account that I don’t have the energy to go to the dog park or call up an old friend or exercise; especially because, as much as I would love to, I can’t even bring myself to get out of bed. I’m sure going to the farmer’s market and picking out fresh flowers or cooking myself my favorite dish would make me feel better, but I’m just not there yet, and that’s actually OK.
I feel like the most common misconception about dealing with mental health issues is that we are supposed to move on, get over it and feel better as fast as possible, but in reality it just doesn’t work that way. We want to feel better, but don’t you think if we had the antidote for recovery we would have utilized it before things even got to this point? In my cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions they use the word “force” much too often. For example, if you find yourself so depressed that you can’t get out of bed, they encourage you to force yourself to get up, make your bed and try to get on with your daily activities in a way to trick your brain into thinking everything is “fine.” I’m sorry, what? This is my second day I’ve been in bed for the entire duration of daylight and then some. My apartment is a mess, my hair is dirty and I’ve been wearing the same sweatpants for a while despite the mustard stain from the hot dog I inhaled for breakfast yesterday. It’s assumed that functional people “get up, dress up and show up” no matter how they’re feeling, but if writing this is the only thing I accomplish today, then that is perfectly acceptable to me and I’m proud I at least tried. I make no excuse for my behavior when I’m feeling down. My mental health comes first. It’s a process — sometimes a long one — but we must move through it at our own pace.
Trust yourself and you will know when you’re ready to get out there and start doing all those things you know will cheer you up. Don’t pressure yourself into feeling something you aren’t. One day you eat the breakfast hotdog in bed and then move onto the fruit smoothie on the trail the next.
One step at a time.
Follow this journey here.
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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
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