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How to Stay Alive When You Want to Die

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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.

For some people, it might seem like a strange question to ask.

For others, it’s an intense and all-consuming demand: How am I ever going to stay alive? How am I going to be able to survive these feelings?

When difficult stretches of time spent struggling with challenges come around, some of us have brains that have tricked us into thinking we’re never going to get out of it.

Some of us have urges to give up the exhausting fight of trying to stay positive and not downtrodden with depression. While, yes, some rough times last longer than others and some are way more damaging, all of them have one thing in common.

They will end.

Suffering is not everlasting. But when those feelings of struggle come along, it can be so intense and isolating, it can feel like minutes turn into hours and hours into days and like nobody would understand.

Feelings like these can make people fearful of themselves and what will happen to them if they said it aloud.

Sadly, this means sometimes we don’t have the support we need to overcome things in the exact moment we’re thrust into it, so we have to rely on ourselves.

Relying on yourself is a difficult thing. It means not having someone to reassure you when you may need it most.

So, how do you live through those dark moments? What is it that people do to help themselves regain some internal steadiness and perhaps even a modicum of peace?

Most importantly, it is absolutely acceptable to call for help. So many options are there for you when the feelings of darkness overtake you.

Calling a hotline, running to someone else in your home to sit with you and even calling 911 are options.

It can all sound so embarrassing and isolating sometimes, but there are other people who understand the big feelings, even if they don’t know an individual’s situation.

If nobody is immediately available, or reaching out sounds like something you’re not able to do yet, there are some things you can try to help mitigate the sense of overwhelm.

One thing many have found useful is to ask a hard question: Is it really that you want to die or is it more of a feeling you just don’t want to live like this anymore? Is it really death you’re wanting or more of a break from the heartache?

Sometimes, in the midst of our pain, our real core thought becomes clearer, and hopefully, that thought makes it clear to you what your answer is. Obviously, it’s most hoped for you want a break and not a funeral, but if you’re still feeling like the latter is the better, it’s not over.

Try telling yourself you’re just going to wait. Wait 10 minutes. Wait 10 more minutes. When that time has passed, tell yourself you’ll wait until the next hour, the next day. Remind yourself as you go along you’ve survived these feelings before and if you’ve made it through those minutes, you are strong enough to get through it again and again.

Obviously, the end goal is to not do it at all, but sometimes just those 10 minutes or one hour can help reset yourself into a more comfortable and peaceful state.

Many people who have feelings of suicide don’t have these feelings for no reason, so it may be helpful to remind yourself you’ve survived 100% of all your bad days so far and you didn’t come this far along in your journey only to stop now.

If you’re an animal lover and you have a pet, remember that pet will be confused without you. Your pet is a friend that doesn’t understand and only wants to love you.

Even if you have a pet snake or gerbil, those little creatures need you. And starving to death after seeing your owner take their life is not the way any critter deserves to go out. Whether loving or not, you’re their person.

One strange sounding option is to make a bucket list. Try to think of something you’d want to do if you knew you’d die in a week, a month, even a year. Forget the easy stuff, think of stuff that would make you feel good. While also recommending keeping it as legal as possible, don’t be afraid to add things like, “toilet paper a house.” The idea here is maybe you’ll find something you could feel good about doing (which will ideally take some time to set up … see how we’re doing that?).

The point is, no matter what you do instead of taking your life, it’s still better than taking your life. Sure, it might be an unhealthy coping mechanism, but at some point, if your life really hangs that closely in the balance, doing something a bit unhealthy isn’t as harmful as actually dying.

Growing numbers of people are finding help and support from others who feel the same in online communities and in person all over the world. Although many people don’t talk about it, lots of people have felt the same kinds of feelings before. There’s no shame in reaching out.

Be kind to yourself when you feel your battery running out.

It will come and go. Just don’t make any decisions while it’s here.

Getty image by francescoch

Originally published: May 11, 2021
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