Welcome to a blog post you’ve never seen before. This is about suicide and how to actively resist suicidal thoughts whether this be for you or a friend. Unlike my original post about Depression, this is more about the ‘suicidal thoughts’ aspect, which is really the worst and scariest symptom of depression, in my opinion.
Suicide is consistently in the top ten causes of death in the US. After suffering from Depression and suicidal thoughts since I was about ten years old, I’ve helped a few people overcome their suicidal thoughts. I’ve lost a few friends and family members to suicide. The thoughts are terrifying whether they are happening to you or a friend of yours. They come up randomly, or after days, months, or years of consistent Depression. They could come up from a terrible event or possibly an accumulation of a few. At any rate, these thoughts will pass (I promise). You just need to know how to get through them while they’re happening.
Suicidal thoughts aren’t some voice in the back of your head that tells you to do something horrible to yourself, but they may as well be. It’s more like a feeling – a deep sinking feeling. It’s like a dark, black pond you come across in the middle of the night, crickets chirping, as it beckons you with some magical force to walk in. You don’t know what lies beneath, but you know it’s not good, you know you’re going to drown, and you don’t care. Here’s how to resist that force, how to power through it, and maybe also how to help a friend:
The first time I combated suicidal thoughts was for myself. I was about ten or eleven and this was completely new to me. I had never felt this way before. It came on randomly, in waves, and I don’t remember how or when my first thought came. It was just this nasty sinking feeling that came up for no reason. A few times I was in class, riding in a car, hanging out with my friends, and my mind would retreat from the conversation, lesson, or whatever replacing the laughter of my friends with a clear dreadful feeling, a skip in my heartbeat, a metaphorical ringing in my ears.
The first time I planned a suicide and was actually about to do it, I was fourteen. I hated everything about my life and the worst part was that I couldn’t change anything about it since I was a little baby youngin’. I couldn’t even drive a car. If I had the ability to change it, perhaps things would have been different. Maybe everything would be fine. I planned the “suicide” super poorly, of course, perhaps knowing subconsciously I wouldn’t go through with it. With music blasting on my stereo, I prepared in my bedroom closet. The lights were on in my room, but off in my closet and I kept the closet door closed. I could see right through it. I looked out into my glowing empty room, listening to music that was quite soothing, and thought about my future. I knew in just short of four years, I would graduate high school and go to college. College could be as far away as I wanted and I could make my own decisions. I could finally live a life I wanted to and be happy.
1) My first piece of advice when you’re suicidal is this: think about the future.
Remind yourself (or your friend) that you can change your life, even if you have to wait for a bit. A few years may mean that promotion you’re looking for, enough savings to buy a car, or a way to move to Bali (like, who doesn’t want to move to Bali?). As a currently non-suicidal person, I also give you this advice: Do not romanticize the future. This may be helpful when you’re suicidal, but it’s detrimental to romanticize the future when what you planned for the future wasn’t what you expected. I focused so much on the future for those four years, that when I was happy, I didn’t focus on the present. Romanticizing the future put me in a bad place in which I always expected the future to be better than the present. I didn’t take time to appreciate the here and now, which eventually made my depression worse. It’s difficult to make changes when you’ve planned something for years, romanticizing it in your brain as perfect happiness. When you reach it and it’s not what you expected, it’s easy to put the blame on yourself and keep yourself from trying out something else that may better fit your needs. So many people think they want a desk job and they end up unhappy for many years before realizing it’s not what they want. Pay attention to yourself.
The next time I dealt with suicidal thoughts/intentions was with a stranger. After experiencing a few years of these terrifying thoughts, I started to get the hang of controlling my depression. Meeting absolute strangers on tumblr and online support groups to discuss these feelings with them tremendously helped me with my own problems. In the support group, there were three different types of posts you could make that mimicked the colors of a traffic light. The green one was just casual conversation – not a big deal. Yellow meant that the person was somewhat in danger, depressed, etc. The red posts were emergencies: that person was feeling so horrible and they were ready to off themselves. One of the red posts was written by a young girl about thirteen. I talked to her back and forth for hours, showing her that I too had those feelings and that she can overcome them. There’s something about a complete stranger caring about your life and understanding what you’re going through that’s very therapeutic. Giving that advice was therapeutic for my own depression. I gave this girl my phone number and told her to call me or text me if she ever needed me, that I would be there.
She called me and texted me a few times, never with the urgency of the first time we spoke. I saved her number in my phone and every time she had those feelings she would text me and we would talk until she felt better. At one point, a few months went by without hearing from her. I was concerned, so I texted her and asked if she was okay. She told me that she was, she thanked me for saving her life, and told me that we didn’t have to speak again. She said she was strong now.
2) So my second piece of advice is to listen.
Listen to people when they tell you that something’s wrong. If they make a suicidal “joke,” they’re probably not joking. They may not be planning to kill themselves, but maybe they’ve thought about it and continue to think about it. Be there for them. It’s so important to be there for someone when they need you, especially when they actually think they’re going to die and worse – that it’s going to be at their own hand. If you’re there for someone and you show them that their emotions are valid, that you care about them, it can make all the difference. Don’t try to make them feel bad saying something like it will hurt you if they kill themselves. It will just make them feel like more of a burden.
3) Go out with your friends/take your friend out
I cannot stress enough the importance of distracting yourself. Sometimes it might be impossible to think about anything else but how sad you are or how everything “good” in your life is crashing down around you, but a good friend will help you think of something else. What may help the most is something that will get your adrenaline pumping. A depressed person might not be down for a run or a few hours at the gym, but perhaps a ski trip or an amusement park will bring their spirits up. When your body is pumping adrenaline, it’s trying to trigger that fight or flight response. Your body might actually think its dying which makes your mind also go into fight or flight mode. You won’t think about those suicidal thoughts and the endorphins are going to cheer you right up. This is my favorite way to deal with depression. However, if you can’t do anything risky like that or you don’t have any friends interested, you can always do something else to distract yourself like get ice cream or go to a bar or someplace where there’s a chance you’ll meet new people. When you’re in a group of people or you’re meeting someone new, you’re forced to put yourself in “on mode.” You’re obviously not going to tell someone you just met that you literally just pictured what it would feel like to have a gun pointed at your head as you were washing your hands in the men’s room, so when they ask you about your hobbies and what you do for work, you’ll take your mind off of all that by staying in the moment and finding the answers to those questions. By the end of the night, you’ll be amazed how much fun you’ve had and how you didn’t think about suicide once…or not. Maybe that won’t work for you and that’s okay too.
4) Surround yourself with love/Love your friend
When I really nipped my hardcore suicidal depression in the butt, I was in high school and I was about 17. The hardest part about high school for me was that I had a lot of trouble making friends. Most of my friends my entire life (and still today) have been male, so going to an all-girls school made it really difficult for me to feel comfortable and make friends I felt like I could connect with. There was another factor at play too: I was very different from nearly everyone at my high school. They all seemed to fit a certain niche that I didn’t belong in. I made friends, of course, but never friends that I regularly hung out with, save maybe one or two I still talk to. SO when I started working at the local ski resort and met a bunch of amazing people who were so full of love and life, it was quite shocking in the best way possible. Not only did I feel included and loved for who I was despite who I was, but I finally had the ability to love back. We all had a love for skiing in common and I finally had friends I could surround myself with and distract myself from my own thoughts. I didn’t even realize I was changing until the end of the year when my report card came back better than ever and my mom noticed. People talked to me more that year, perhaps because I was happier and I would talk back rather than mutter. I had a better relationship with my family. Creating a loving, happy environment for yourself is a fantastic way to take care of yourself. If you already have that in a family, don’t try to distance yourself from them. Make yourself available. Agree to that random chess game your grandfather has been begging you to play. Maybe get a new job. Let yourself be loved and love back.
5) Create an anti-suicide pact.
I know, it sounds morbid, but it’s actually not. When I hung out with a friend of mine about a year ago, he confessed to me that he was feeling suicidal and that he was planning on killing himself sometime soon. Terrified because of how much I loved this particular friend, I told him that he absolutely could not do that. I then told him that I, too, had suicidal thoughts somewhat recently, but that I knew I couldn’t do it and so I trekked on, that he could get through this too. He looked at me seemingly just as terrified as I felt for him (seriously, his eyes dilated) and told me that I could not kill myself, that it would break his heart. We then had a back-and-forth about how much we cared about each other and how either person’s suicide would affect the other. It’s somewhat morbid when I write about it now, and it was super scary, but I also thought it was pretty cool because it has been SO HELPFUL. We made an anti-suicide pact – a morbid pinky swear, of sorts, that we wouldn’t kill ourselves for the sake of the mental sanity of the other. The assumption was that if one of us were to kill ourselves, the other probably would too shortly afterwards in a sick Romeo and Juliet twist. Don’t get me wrong. This whole thing still makes me cringe. I am definitely NOT, nor will I ever, romanticize suicide. Sorry, Lana Del Rey, but it’s not cool. It sucks for everyone involved and that’s the whole point of the anti-suicide pact. Now when I feel any suicidal thought creeping up, I think about how much I love my friend and the thoughts run away from me. I barely think about suicide ever now. Depression, maybe, but suicide most definitely not. I gotchu, buddy. I’ll never break a pinky swear.
As of right now, there’s no cure for Depression. There are pills that may make your symptoms better (or make you feel completely worse). There are lifestyle changes you can make and diet changes that may help. Mariel Hemingway, of the notoriously depressed and suicidal Hemingway family, has found multiple ways to combat her own Depression naturally. You can definitely train yourself to tame your Depression by recognizing the signs and symptoms, by looking for triggers. See a therapist, try yoga, meditation, a healthier diet, and definitely tell someone. In fact, tell a few people. Depression is so common that I assure you most people will be like, “Oh me too! This is what helps me…” rather than say something mean.
Please do not be afraid to call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 911. I know it’s scary and it’s weird and there’s such a stigma around it STILL that makes people uncomfortable to talk about it (I’m a little nervous to put up this post. I get it). You can also always contact me if you need to talk to someone (twitter over email if it’s urgent). I won’t put you on hold, I promise.
I’ve put up my own experiences in this post with all names removed. As always, I ask that you respect that. This is one of those rare posts on which I will not accept a comment if it is rude or detrimental to anyone’s mental health. Please refrain from trying so hard to make other people feel bad. It’s kinda weird.