Trigger warning: This post talks about suicidal ideation. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide please know that you are not alone and helps is available. Information for The National Suicide Hotline is available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1-800-273-8255
This is a very old drawing and the proportion of the hands are completely wrong. But it seems appropriate for this topic.
Blog Start: If you know me (which I feel is true of anyone reading this) then you are probably aware I've struggled with suicidal ideation for a VERY long time. I talked about it a lot in a book I wrote this summer, and I was feeling like maybe (just maybe) I had finally moved past it. Guess not.
Don't worry. I'm not actively suicidal; and I'd get help if I were. I can't go through with it. Even at my worst I was never able to, which I know is a good thing. I just was hoping that working through so much of the sh*t I'd been carrying around would mean that it would finally be done. But, it's kind of like that dragon in that drawing. It follows me around and even when I'm doing well I know it's lurking in the background somewhere. I thought I had finally put enough distance between me and it that I could be done; but then I turn around and there it is breathing down my neck.
Why can't I get away from you?
It just breaths hot, ashy breath into my face instead of answering.
Here's the good news though. I figured out that the monster I use to represent suicidal tendencies in my thoughts and writing is a composite creature. Part of the problem is that at the beginning of summer I dealt with one, very large and powerful piece (yay!) but there is still at least one (maybe more) piece that is intact following me around.
This is actually the part I want to share because maybe one day someone will read it and build on it and it will actually be useful for professionals working with people who struggle with suicidal ideation... Most likely it will just be helpful for me to express this, but I like to imagine that one day something I write will have positive significance somewhere.. So I'll just imagine that it will and use that as motivation for writing.
Anyway, here are the two pieces I've discovered in my own monster so far:
Part 1 (cir 2001-2018): Shame/ Guilt/ Feeling of Ethical Obligation to Die.
This was a BIG part of my monster. I don't know exactly when it took form, I'm guessing somewhere near when I was in Junior High, maybe a little before then. I was always concerned with "good" and "bad" as a kid (and still even though I try to be less rigid about it now). I always wanted to be "good," I never wanted to be "bad;" but I had a huge dilemma. At the time I associated being gay and mentally ill as being "bad," I am both and had no way to stop being both. Therefore by my very misguided moral reasoning I believed that I was "bad" and nothing I could do short of killing myself or that part of myself would make me "good." Obviously this an extremely simplified version of my thought process, but I feel like it is the root of a lot of what I was dealing with for a long time and what I wrote about. It is the part of the monster I defeated (hopefully) when I finally accepted that I was not inherently evil and there is nothing wrong with being mentally ill or gay, so I have no moral obligation to kill myself. Yay!
The only part of this that gets revived from time to time has to do with the fact that I'm still struggling to figure out how to earn money without having a "break down." Since money and hard work have been traditionally associated with "good" and since I still struggle with the idea that I can't support myself (and therefore am draining others of valuable resources); this ethical dilemma still comes up from time to time. It is easier to get past this thought though because I remind myself that 1. A person's worth is not the same as their income and 2. I am working toward self-sufficiency to the best of my ability. I may not be financially self-sufficient yet, but I have gotten better at being emotionally, psychologically, and physically independent (in the sense that I can now take care of my own needs without going into crisis) and as I get better, eventually (hopefully) I'll be able to earn money too. These thoughts keep the ghosts of the Suicide for Moral Reasons Monster from gaining too much power.
Part 2 (or More):
Here is the new part that came up for me recently. I hadn't recognized it before since the Moral Reasons Monster was so loud and took all of my attention. Ironically I think this part started sooner, around the time I was 8ish? but it's been so much quieter and taken much longer to grow. I'm still trying to figure out what this monster is, exactly. Maybe it is more than 1 and that is contributing to its elusive nature. It has to do with this feeling that keeps coming up a feeling of "I just don't want to be here anymore."
I think it's rooted partially in pain, hopelessness, and exhaustion. Even though things have gotten significantly better and I don't actually have anything to complain about at all something painful remains and there is still this thought of: "What if it never ends? What if I can never get past this?"
Those thoughts don't seem like they should be enough to make someone think about ending their life, but I think that their attachment to extremely intense emotions in the past act as a kind of "trigger." I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it is kind of like- without fully forming into a memory, I feel all the times I've thought this before and the pain makes me shake and without fully thinking anything I have this impulse to escape.
I need to get out of here, I need to go now!
Except the place I need to escape is my own head so then I'm back to the idea of death again. If this is all that is left of my monster then it's a good thing because it is rooted in the past and that means that all I have to do is remember that things are not that way anymore. It's just a shadow or ghost, a memory of things and when it comes up, the way to break the spell is to look for something good in the present and acknowledge that the pain is real, but it's also behind me. It did end, I did get past it.
Again, this is oversimplified (if someone comes to you telling you that they are thinking these kinds of things PLEASE DO NOT say "just think of something good in the present, it's only in the past" that tends to make people feel crappy and alone). It's not easy to slow down when all of your impulses and emotions are screaming that you need to get out and say "wait, is this true?" The emotions scream back that it is! It is! and if you've ever felt sheer panic or rage you know how powerful and convincing emotions can be.
Anyway, those are my thoughts right now and that's where I've been lately. I feel like I've been oscillating a lot between feeling like things are fine (good even) and thinking the world is ending and I need to escape RIGHT NOW! lol
but overall I'm good. I'm just analyzing my reaction hoping to learn from them. Let me know if you have questions, comments, things to add. Again I don't want these thoughts to hurt anyone, I am hoping that by sharing what I've realized about my own tendencies to want to end my life it will eventually help someone who is working with someone feeling similar to have a better understanding of the situation. That's what I hope at least.