The Mighty Logo

17 'Red Flags' People With Chronic Illness Experienced Before They Were Suicidal

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

You expect to feel certain physical side effects due to your chronic illness — pain, fatigue and cognitive challenges to name a few. But if mental health effects like depression and suicidal thoughts begin to creep in, it may catch you by surprise. After all, doctors don’t always warn you that chronic illness often leads to mental health challenges, or that chronic illness actually increases your risk of dying by suicide. And if you constantly feel tired, in pain or foggy, it’s not always easy to determine where your “physical” symptoms end and your mental health symptoms begin.

Knowing your own “warning signs” that indicate when you’re feeling suicidal can let you know that it’s time to get help. So we asked our Mighty chronic illness community to share the “red flags” they experience that let them know they’re starting to feel suicidal. If these ring true for you, you’re not alone, and it’s OK to reach out for support.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “My warning sign is when I start thinking that the world would be better off without me, that I am a huge burden to my husband and he would be better off married to someone healthy, and that I just cannot bear to live another 30 years or so with so much pain… those thoughts and feelings tell me that I need to get help, fast.” — Barbara R.

2. “I’d slowly begin to talk less and less. It was like what I had to say wasn’t important, and that made me feel unimportant. That feeling would just grow.” — Kayla H.

3. “I felt nothing. After the longest stretch of just misery, I had run out of emotion and just felt nothing. I felt hollow, like my soul had shriveled up. I was an empty husk. I will never forget that feeling. When I start to feel so drained I’m losing my emotions, when instead of sadness I just feel nothing, that’s when I worry.” — Shauna C.

4. “It was one afternoon that I felt the urge to let down the blinds of my living room I was sitting in. I could’t exactly tell why, in a way I couldn’t stand the outside world because I didn’t feel I was a part of it anymore. This marked the beginning of a depression that ended up with panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.” — Alexandra S.

5. “I try to make people laugh… I mean really laugh, I push boundaries and crack jokes every minute just to make someone laugh, so either I feel useful and wanted or just to bask in their happiness for a bit because it’s a beautiful distraction seeing someone so happy even just for a moment before the darkness sweeps me off my feet again with a cold hard thud.” — Lauren S.

6. “Being stuck in a loop of thoughts I feel I’m not in control of, feel my anxious mind takes over and I have no control. Distractions and affirmations don’t work, I just think of made up situations I believe I couldn’t handle because of the exact reason I’m even thinking about these things. Self-worth disappears and impending doom takes its place.” — Kevin W.

7. “When I don’t want to talk it out with anyone anymore and I just pull myself away from others. When/if they try to ask about it, I feel annoyed and want them gone. That’s how I know it’s wrong because usually I like to talk everything out.” — Ana A.

8. “Mine is always the same. I notice I get angry at myself for the pain in my body. I want to stop the pain and the pain it causes others around me.” — Gerald R.

9. “My ‘warning sign’ was when my fur baby, who is normally my whole world, didn’t make me smile anymore… He has been right by my side for nine years and I still didn’t want to be around anymore. One day it finally dawned on me that those feelings weren’t the true me. I admitted myself into a hospital program to get help shorty there after.” — Stephanie B.

10. “Before I had even realized how dark my world had become, I started giving away and selling all of my possessions. Things I loved or that made my home feel comfy and cozy… just gone for no reason I could ever recall. My house quickly became bare white walls void of all warmth. My husband noticed the emptiness before I did and encouraged me to get the help I needed.” — Amanda M.

11. “Deliberately turning the TV off just so I can stare blankly into space for three hours. I always know that when I choose nothing over something I’ve watched a million times, it’s time to call my therapist.” — Dawn-Marie W.

12. “Could not and would not eat, and if I did I wanted to throw up afterwards. For some reason eating made me want to cry — can’t explain it. Don’t have an eating disorder. Just wanted to be as ’empty’ as I felt I guess.” — Ashley W.

13. “When I stop singing in the car I know I need to actively do something to benefit my mental health. It’s usually one of the very first signs that depression is trying to sneak back into the driver’s seat.” — Ashley S.

14. “When I purposely don’t take my medication or use anything to alleviate my chronic pain, I know something’s up.” — Mattie M.

15. “While everyone prepared eagerly for the total solar eclipse, my only excitement was the small possibility it might be the end of the world.” — JamiJo S.

16. “I tend to get impulsive and spontaneous, when I otherwise think about and plan things out. I start getting nervous when I feel like it’s OK to do anything at any time and it won’t be a big deal.” — Tanya Z.

17. “Becoming detached from the world, and disinterested in anything I usually love. There are some things that will always make me excited, and when those things fail to brighten my day, I know it’s time to call my psychiatrist.” — Ansel T.

If you identify with any of these warning signs, please reach out. You deserve to get the help you need.

Visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Thinkstock photo by Grandfailure

Originally published: September 8, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home