Suicide…it is not something people want to talk about because it is scary, dark and ugly. As a person who has experienced such desperation, sharing these feelings and thoughts is frightening. It is not easy to confess to having entertained committing such an unthinkable act. No one wants to face the possibility of a loved one feeling such agony that they would rather end their life than face another moment trapped in hopelessness. It seems so selfish and drastic and PERMANENT. But the reality is, most of us probably know someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts. Yes, I’ve been there so I’m hoping I can help by exposing the thoughts that lead up to crisis and share what ultimately helped me get through. It is not easy or pleasant to hear about, but we all have to be willing to face the fact that more than 1.1 million people attempted suicide in 2014. One in five people with bipolar disorder will be successful while half of those diagnosed will attempt it. We have to talk about it and be willing to hear things that are unpleasant because it’s the only way we can start to lessen the shame and stigma that ultimately prevents people from getting help.
During bouts of depression the thoughts that consumed me were — “I just want to disappear. I want the bed to swallow me whole and I don’t care if I ever wake up again.” I would pray to die in my sleep or for someone to kill me. I had no energy though, to act on these desires. It was a much more passive existence. I would lay there and obsess about dying and imagine how I’d do it. I just wanted this existence to be over and I couldn’t see any other way out. There was a numbness that took over my body and a fog that enveloped my mind. However, I possessed no actual motivation to do anything, let alone kill myself.
But…one of the most difficult parts of my illness is when I’ve experienced a “mixed state” in which I still have the dark thoughts of depression but suddenly there is an increase in energy and agitation that comes out of nowhere that ultimately can provide the fuel and energy necessary to actually carry it out. My thoughts become more intense and actively desperate. My mind speeds up and thoughts of escaping the pain fire rapidly, one after another, and echo throughout my mind. The deathwish intensifies and the obsession with suicidal thoughts is no longer just a wish, but more of a NEED to act. It seems so NECESSARY.
Then there comes a moment when it all becomes unbearable…the darkness of the pit, the pendulum of emotions, the turmoil that is both physical and emotional, the apathy of those around you, and the certainty — yes, absolute certainty — that it will never get any better…that’s the moment of rashness and impulsivity that can ultimately lead to death. Nothing else matters except ending the torment. You will do anything to make it stop so the thought of doing so becomes an obsession. You’ve already decided everyone around you would be much better off without you (and you wholeheartedly believe that to be true) so ceasing to exist would be doing them a favor. The isolation from being left alone inside your head leaves you frantic as you believe there isn’t a soul who can empathize with you or stop you. Why would anyone even want to? All of this leads up to one critical moment of intense hopelessness that consumes all rational thought and in an instant it could all finally be over. This is the moment of absolute crisis.
When a person is at this level of despair, giving a voice to these thoughts can be terrifying because to an outsider it is incomprehensible. There is fear of judgment. You realize how terrible your thoughts are so you are certain that expressing them will scare everyone away for good. Keeping these thoughts silent gives you a false sense that you are actually protecting those around you, people who you already believe would be better off if you were no longer there. But make no mistake…the thought of leaving and potentially hurting loved ones is excruciating and the guilt is intense. There is an honest belief you are a burden so if you disappeared everyone would finally be off the hook for having to take care of you. You are convinced that it is your responsibility to give them the opportunity to find someone better than you; someone positive and happy; someone they deserve.
The times I have found myself in crisis situations there have been specific things that without a doubt saved me from my desires. Fortunately for me I had — and still do — a strong support system. There was always someone aware when I was becoming withdrawn and anxious which was the first sign I was becoming a danger to myself so they would make sure I was safe. When I was consumed by these thoughts, having contact and interaction with others absolutely saved me. A hug would comfort the sensations ripping through my body and give me permission to collapse and let go. Human contact can be so comforting. I needed someone to sit with me and talk to me to disrupt the thoughts racing through my mind. Even if it meant watching me cry or being at the receiving end of words that made no sense or were hurtful, sometimes just having the opportunity to break down or scream would force me to get some of what I was feeling out. I was definitely not easy to be around but those who loved me did not give up on me.
Hearing that I was still loved and that my family NEEDED me in their lives (which seems as if it should be obvious but it is not to a sick brain) and that they would not give up on me helped to break through to the real me who was still hidden deep within the thoughts. Yes, I WAS STILL IN THERE! I was just hidden beneath a sea of darkness I did not willingly jump into. Having people in my life who were truly sincere about me being able to reach out to at any time and who made it a point to check in on me whether by phone, email, text or in person made such a huge difference and ultimately when the feelings became too intense I was able to then reach out. But it was because they constantly showed genuine support and compassion. The key is they never gave up on me despite how frustrating and useless their attempts to help seemed. It can be exhausting, especially when your words seem to fall on deaf ears…but you never know when the moment will come that your act of compassion, empathy, love, acceptance and willingness to support unconditionally will be the moment that breaks through the deception taking place in your loved one’s mind.
In hindsight I am so grateful that I failed. I don’t typically like to fail at anything, but thank God my desire to die failed miserably. NEVER, in any of my most painful moments, did I EVER believe things would get better — not even a little bit. But those moments DO pass and life IS possible —sometimes even beautiful. Now with a clear mind I can see and understand just how devastating suicide would have been for those around me. I am finally able to grasp the effects it would have had on my family. Today I cannot imagine wanting to kill the mother of my children. All of MY pain would have ended, but THEIRS would have just begun and they would have to spend the rest of their lives trying to figure out why. I look at their faces and am so grateful for every moment I get to share with them and I never want to miss a moment. That is why I will do whatever I can to stay well and I will continue to lean on others for support. My husband and close friends know the signs to look for and are aware of what helps me. They refuse to give up on me…regardless of how difficult it can be.
If you know of someone who may be entertaining thoughts like these, or even if you just suspect it, do not wait to reach out. It is uncomfortable and means taking a risk, but the repercussions of keeping silent are far worse. Call them. Text them. Be there for them. Tell them you may not understand what they are going through but you love them anyway and will always support them. DO NOT GIVE UP! We all have a purpose in this life even if we can’t quite see it yet. Maybe you’ve been placed in someone’s life so you can show them the light. Maybe you are going through this nightmare so you will be able to tell someone you GET IT! You are proof that there is hope and there is another way out that is worth taking. I know that’s why I’ve gone through this. I am able to use my experiences to give voice to the thoughts making them less scary to those who share them and to help others get a glimpse of what it is really like so understanding can begin. And despite all the fear, there is HOPE. There are ways to help and things we can do to make it better. Do not hesitate to reach out whether it’s to help someone else or to get help for yourself. Use your voice and be strong. Listen to the voice inside you nudging you to stay strong or to take a risk. Your phone call could be the one that interrupts the plan or train of thoughts leading to disaster. Your reassurance just might be the thing your friend needs to realize they do matter and that you do need them. Ask God to help you and remember…He loves YOU and He wants us to love one another. When we take that to heart, that’s when healing begins!