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28 Unexpected Coping Techniques for People Who Recently Attempted Suicide

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

When you attempt suicide, there’s not supposed to be an afterwards. It’s supposed to be an ending, not the beginning of a whole new horrendous chapter. No one tells you what it’s going to be like to live through the aftermath.

These are the words of Mighty contributor Lucy Dimbylow, from her piece, “Returning to Life After a Suicide Attempt.” Her experience isn’t an uncommon one. It’s impossible to prepare for something you don’t expect, and perhaps nothing feels as unexpected as living when you planned to die.

But people survive suicide attempts, and when they do, they have to live with this “aftermath.” Luckily, there are things you can do during this delicate period to make the healing process a little easier.

To find out some unexpected coping techniques that helped people after they survived a suicide attempt, we reached out to people in our mental health community who’ve been there.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “While I was in the hospital, I heard my son out in the hallway saying, ‘I want to see Mommy, I want to see Mommy,’ and I thought to myself, what if he were to say that and I wasn’t there anymore? So when days get hard, I hear his voice in the back of my head and I fight those urges. Because regardless of how I feel, I know he needs me.” — Jessica G.

2. “Humor was huge for me. I know it’s not for everyone, so I keep my dark humor pretty low key, but knowing I’m still able to laugh means life isn’t all that bad.” — Sam T.

4. “Running was the only way I could get out of my own head.” — Claire C. 

5. “My rebellious attitude. My negative voice in my head said I was trying to take the easy way out, the ‘loser’ way to deal when things get tough. My rebellious attitude told me to fight for myself, to prove to others they are wrong about me, to show them I am not the loser they think I am. That I will become someone worthy, that I will amount to something greater than nothing, that I can do things right, that I will and can succeed at school/education/job/career/life and anything I put my mind to. I am not the failure and disappointment they think I am.” — Samantha E.

6. “After I left the hospital, I was given space which really helped. Nobody was pestering me or hounding me with questions. My husband stayed by my side and checked on me, but he was understanding and didn’t push me to talk until I was ready. I’ve heard people say talking through it helped them, but the silence gave me time to reflect on everything that had just happened. I think if I was pressured to talk about it right away, I wouldn’t have been able to see my reasons to go on. The time my family gave me helped more than they know and I’m super thankful they gave it to me.” — Aspen A.

7. “Picturing my father’s face when I woke up. The relief in his eyes that I had survived, just imagining that replaced with pain if I didn’t. Sometimes you can’t keep going for yourself and you stay for those you love. Sometimes that’s all you can do. It kept me going through some really tough times. I also cut some really toxic people out of my life and that made a huge difference.” — Amy C. 

8. “Reading ‘Harry Potter’ helped me through; knowing there was a place that would accept me and that I just had to find my ‘Hogwarts.’ Knowing there were obstacles, but that I could find my ‘magic.’ Helped me more than anything else. I remember picking up the book after I cut and feeling accepted in a way I hadn’t felt until then.” — Krisha K. 

9. “I would look at the sky and gaze at the beautiful clouds and see the sun shining. The smell of grass and trees helped me. I thought to myself its beautiful to smell something that’s growing.” — Alan B.

10. “Writing. I kept a journal up until that time of the attempt that was filled with pain. I didn’t know how to write about anything else. After the attempt, I wrote down quotes and thoughts that brought me hope. I found a way to write about more than despair.” — Phoebe M. 

11. “Music. I listened to classical and some slow indie songs. Some rap and metal to drown out my thoughts. It helped me so much to pass the time and I carried it with me through everything. On the bus, driving, working out. It’s always there.” — Gabriela C.

12. “A strict, hour-by-hour schedule. I never thought about schedules aside from the classes I was taking. Now, every block needs to be filled; doesn’t mean I need to be busy, time can be scheduled to relax. But a schedule is key to stability.” — Denise L.

13. “Anger. I found my anger and my fear were much more powerful motivators to try something new than my sadness and feelings of helplessness ever were. Imagine my surprise, that allowing myself to get angry was the key to alleviating the thing that caused the pent up anger in the first place! Not to be discounted, the key to this success equally came from my ability and desire to move forward and away from this emotion — something which I was able to do only after fully allowing myself to feel it and process it in the first place.” — Jennifer S. 

14. “I found this quote that said something like, ‘If you feel like giving up, remember why you’ve been holding on.’ I printed it out with a picture of my son and grandson and they have been my reason I’m still holding on. Hard to think that way when you’re in a really dark place — but when I’m not — it helps me me out.” — Lisa M.

15. “Fishing. A friend took me fishing almost every day. We spent a lot of time on the lake or river just fishing and distracting my mind from multiple traumatic events I wasn’t handling well. If it wasn’t for him getting me away from my path of self-destruction, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.” — Beth D.

16. “Watching ‘The Office’ on reruns. Comedy made me smile again.” — Kari T. 

17. “I told someone. I thought they’d call the police or something, but instead they told someone I trusted. I was mad at first because it was supposed to be confidential, but her telling meant there were other people who cared. I can’t say it changed my life for the better, but it helped me understand I didn’t have to go through this alone.” — Shayna K. 

18. “I cried all the tears I had been holding in for so long (which was part of the reason for my attempt in the first place). The staff told me numerous times to quit bawling. So I used humor and sarcasm to cope. If I can’t joke about my situation, it’ll eat me up.” — Damaris M.

19. “Remembering my parents’ faces afterwards and being told my Mum exclaimed, ‘Thank God she still has some spirit left!’ when I told the nurse to ‘@#$& off’ because she called me a ‘silly little girl.’ I could never again convince myself they would get over it and they were better off without me. Now if I start feeling that way, I remember I have to keep existing at least for those who love me.” — Jenny H.

20. “Singing. I don’t really sing a whole lot in front of people, but it was the only thing that can calm me down. Even now if I feel stressed or like I’m getting back to that point, I start singing.” — Carolynn H.

21. “I wrote down every little thing that happened while I was in the hospital. Whether it was what I ate, what another patient had done, if I had slept well… Everything. It was like I was getting it out of my body. It helped tremendously.” — Lizzy H.

22. “Being around people, particularly friends. The biggest mistake was isolating myself, allowing my depression and anxiety to slowly drive me to a tipping point. They were there for me when I came out of the ward. They listened to me and helped me connect with professionals. Just by being in the presence of loved ones who know all of me and care is the best comfort I could ask for.” — Michael R. 

23. “My coping technique would be a schedule. I was surprised to see how badly I wanted to get back into my ‘normal’ routine while being hospitalized… My suicide attempt made me count and recognize the things I should have been grateful for all along. My simple, everyday routine was a coping technique that helped me stay on the right track to recovery.” — Kara S.

24. “After my attempts, I’ve gotten tattoos. It’s definitely helped me cope for sure. I see them every day. It’s a reminder that no matter what happens, everything will be just fine.” — Cliff M.

25. “Space and a safe environment. After the most recent attempt (yes, there have been a few) I finally was admitted to a mental health unit for a few days. Stopped me trying again.” — Missy S.

26. “Community. I was hospitalized, and being around people who cared and knew how to help, as well as other patients going through the same thing was really helpful.” — Emalyn T. 

27. “Turning off my phone. No distractions. Let my mind and body rest for a couple days. I needed peace and quiet for awhile.” — Lynn K.

28. “My animals. I held onto them for hours after, bawling. They made me feel when all I felt was numb. They made me want to stay.” — Kacey K. 

Getty image via Benjavisa

Originally published: April 11, 2018
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