One thing I would like to address: Suicidal thoughts and ideation.
I want to start with the usual disclaimer whenever anyone talks about suicide. Get help when you need it. National suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255. Also, you are warned now about the content in this post. It's about suicide.
I’ve rarely felt like I could openly talk about suicide with anyone. That's not ideal. So that's why I want to address this in a post.
I’ve discussed this with many people over the years and it's crazy to me how hesitant society is when it comes to talking openly about suicide. I think it's important to be able to have somewhere to talk about suicide where you don't fear judgement or concern about scaring someone.
Talking openly about my suicidal thoughts is something I’ve never felt comfortable doing. I didn’t want to make people around me worry that I was planning anything. I’m not; and when I was, I wouldn't talk about it. I’m not worried that I will act on the thoughts (anymore). But that doesn’t stop the thoughts. They are still there. The thoughts depend on how I am in life – sometimes that’s daily, weekly, yearly... It changes. Sometimes I get really down and I don’t want to exist. I just want to run my car off a bridge and plunge into a fiery doom and not have to worry about existence anymore. Not have to be anymore. Sometimes that’s all I want. But I get past that. I move on. I let those thoughts float around, I notice them, I acknowledge their existence and then I move on.
When I started talking about the thoughts more openly, people around me started telling me that they were having similar thoughts. Some didn’t know how to handle that, or if that meant their depression was worse. Are they going to be able to get out of this? Some were scared, why am I having these thoughts, I love life and being alive, I don’t want to die. But my brain is there telling me I want to. In these situations, it's important to know yourself. Will you act on it? If you're worried at all, get help. Talk to someone. There are suicide hotlines you can call or text.
If you're like me and you're not worried about acting on it, then know you're not alone. I have had harmful thoughts for most of my life. I'm 28 now and I've yet to act on them.
I've had a few times where I was legitimately worried I would, though. When I know I'm in a bad place and I get worried, I shut down. I have no idea where I will be years from now. I do not discount that in the future I might be in a place where I may act on it. Because of this, I think it's really important to be able to talk openly about the thoughts when they come. It helps me understand myself, and makes it a little less scary. I hope to be able to tell someone in the moment I feel like I may falter, that they won't judge me, and they will understand that I want to talk about it so that I won't do it.
Not talking about makes it feel like you’re keeping a secret. That it's wrong, that it's not a thought you should ever have and if you have it you’re broken.
I want to get away from thinking we're broken when we have mental health issues. We're not. Our brains are just wired differently. We might have different hurdles to get through in our life. But we're not broken.
That doesn't stop me from feeling broken, though. But that’s okay. Acknowledge that and then move on; work on it. We are all a work in progress. I want to make sure everyone knows that they can talk to me openly about their thoughts, and I will not judge them based on that. Those thoughts are allowed.
Make sure you get help when you need it, but trust yourself to have power over your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. You are you.
Feel free to reach out to me if you ever need to talk to someone about your thoughts. It's okay to have them, and know that you deserve help, even if your brain tells you that you don't.
I got my general thoughts out. Now I'd like to share from my personal experiences. First of all, I didn't want to add this part. I didn't want to make it more personal. I was perfectly fine with stopping the post and not adding anything further. But if I want to make a point about talking about suicidal thoughts openly... I should probably tell you a little bit about my experiences. So here's a little background on me. I hope it helps someone.
When I was in middle school, I had many suicidal thoughts. I wrote my notes, I planned how I would go about it. But I think a lot... and in that introspection I started thinking about what would happen after I died. I was fine with the fall out with my parents and older sister, they would be fine. Eventually.
I have a younger brother, 7 years younger; at this time he was a toddler. I started thinking about my parents having to explain to him why I was gone. I thought about the case of my brother being the one to find me. I thought about the impact that would have on him... in that moment I decided, I wasn't going to do anything now, I could make it until he was older. I didn't want him to be the kid whose sister died by suicide. So I came up with a new plan. I would get through high school, graduate and then move away somewhere. Cut myself off from friends and family, and eventually just drive my car off a bridge, or make it look like an accident in some way. In middle school, when I was maybe 11 or 12, I decided that I was not living for me anymore, I was living to cause the least harm to those around me. I can get into that in a later post with how that changed the way I thought, and my perspective on life.
This was my first experience with intense suicidal thoughts. I haven't considered myself suicidal since then. Personally, I know that in the moment, if I had access to a gun or a pill bottle, I probably wouldn't be here today. But fortunately I didn't have access to those. I was planning on using a knife. A knife was way more personal and was going to take me having to actually break skin. I got close enough to doing it, but I was never able to get myself to apply the pressure needed – which I'm glad for now.
After that, I started self harming. I traded planning my death for trying to see if I would be capable in the time when I wanted to actually go through with it. I used to hit my head on things. Desks, walls, the metal box they put around the thermostats at school. I hit my head on the corner of a metal box and broke skin. I bled some. I don't know how hard I hit my head, but sometimes I feel like I bruised my scalp. But again, it was easy to hide under my hair. When I was in class I would use my fingernails. I left marks all over my arms and legs. The pain reminded me that I was alive when I was feeling dead inside, it brought me back to the moment when I would start drifting in my head.
I still have the occasional period of time where I am aware that the thoughts are becoming more frequent. Like when I was working 70+ hours in engineering with a 30 min commute. Mornings and evenings when I was driving I was constantly imagining what it would be like if that 18-wheeler just ran into me. I would be okay with that, please kill me. I don't want to go home, sleep and do this all over again. I just want it to end. I ended up leaving the field so I could focus more on my mental health, because I knew it wasn't healthy for me. I was more depressed than I had ever been since I start my medication and the thoughts were getting scary. Since then I have only had one instance when I became worried for my safety. I was driving home after some family emergency. I had a long drive, about 4 hours, and various times during the drive back my brain started taking note of all the pills I had at home. I had started planning my death again, but this time was something that I could see doing. I managed to get past it. But I'm still haunted by that.
Over the years I have told various people small bits of my experiences. Of course, I'm the only one that knows everything. I'm the one that shares the little bits here and there about what I think might be relevant to someone. What that person I am talking to can relate to. But I don't know their experiences, and if I'm scared to talk about my past, and present, with suicidal thoughts and my past self harm, maybe they are too. I want to open up the dialogue about all this.
You're not alone. I know I'm not.
The so-called "psychotically depressed" person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote "hopelessness" or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling "Don't!" and "Hang on!", can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
- David Foster Wallace