I bet that title made you cringe, right?
Suicide is an extremly taboo issue that many people find impossible to talk about. People are happy to live in the same house and share everything, but feel can’t tell their family that they have suicidal thoughts. People are happy to talk about their sex life in detail to their friends, but refuse to talk about suicide when they really need their friends to be there.
People fear that if they mention suicide, others are going to think they’re a nut case or just seeking attention. I am putting my foot down on this silence, because it’s the silence that kills.
So let me go first…
I’ve suffered from suicidal thoughts all my life.
There. I said it.
Suicidal thought comes with the depression part of my Bipolar. Since I go through at least two cycles of depression every year, each lasting about three months, I have spent half of my adult life with suicidal thoughts constantly in my head.
When I am depressed, suicidal thoughts become the default mind set. If I am not thinking about anything else, my mind will go ‘how about ending your life?’ If I have a problem that I am finding difficult to solve, then my mind will go ‘you know, you could just end it right now and then you won’t have to worry about all this stuff.’
It’s not that I want to die, but once that suicidal thought is in my head, it becomes the focus of my attention. Why? Because depression takes away my ability to deal with problems, and so focusing on killing myself is the only thing I can do.
I know that you’re thinking ‘but you have so much going for you. You have people that love you and you’re being selfish if you kill yourself.’ I can’t disagree with you. I do have so much going for me. I do have amazing people in my life that love me back. I’ve gone through a suicide in the family. Yes, it does feel like an entirely selfish act to those left behind. I can’t deny that.
Unfortunately, you can’t reason with suicidal thoughts. I could be having a good day where everything is going great. Yet in middle of it all, a thought pops into my head. ‘You should just end it all.’ The reason I’m telling you this is to show that suicidal thoughts in depression has little to do with what’s going on around the person. That’s why people can have everything going for them and others loving them and still feel suicidal.
Once the thought is in my head, that’s all I think about. Ways to kill myself. The thought of fixing the problem becomes entirely sidelined, and the chances of me committing suicide becomes ever higher. Suicidal thought becomes louder and faster. Having been left to focus on ending it all, I have attempted suicides before. Okay, so they were wimpy attempts, but at the time I was entirely committed to dying.
You know what helps? Talking about it.
Normally, if you were hungry, you wouldn’t think twice about saying ‘I’m so hungry!’ to anyone, would you? How would it feel if hunger was a taboo subject in our society? How would that feel? If you were hungry and you were not allowed to say that you were hungry to someone, you would start to feel frustrated, right? You would start to feel more and more hungry because you cannot do anything about the emotions of being hungry. For me, feeling suicidal is a natural piece in the set of emotions I was born with.
Having the environment for me to say ‘I am feeling suicidal’, without the worry of people freaking out at me, calling the doctors, or turning their backs on me is my savior. Being able to say ‘I am feeling suicidal’ as if I am saying ‘I am hungry’ is my only way out of suicidal thoughts. Being able to turn to James and say ‘hey, I’m feeling suicidal right now’, knowing that he won’t get freaked out at me.
Instead of judging, he gives me recognition that this is an emotion I am suffering from right now. He will ask me what things are making me feel suicidal. We talk about whether it’s a problem in my life that is making me suicidal or if I am feeling suicidal for no apparent reason. If it is a problem, he’ll talk with me about what the problem is, and help me find a way to solve it. A way that I can normally find on my own when not depressed, but can’t see a way out when I am in the fog. If there’s no apparent problems, we take a look at my behaviour for the last several days and see if I did anything to make the depression worse (like not going outside for a few days). Together, we resolve to change those bad behaviours.
By being able to say that I am feeling suicidal, and have someone else recognise that I am suffering from such emotions gives me the strength to stop the suicidal thought and focus on finding solutions.
If you want to get an idea of how damaging the silence is, try this little exercise. Don’t eat anything for 12 hours. Don’t worry, fasting for 12 hours won’t kill you. Get on with your day as normal, but you cannot say to people that you are feeling hungry. Just sit and suffer the hunger on your own. Feel how isolating it is to not be able to say how you feel, and how that isolation makes the whole thing so much worse. Note how the hunger starts to take over your every thought. You might even start to feel weak and feel that you won’t be able to eat when the time is up. By the end of the 12 hours, the hunger is all you will be thinking about. That’s what people with suicidal thoughts go through 24 hours a day, every day.
After the 12-hour fast, you will be bursting to tell someone that you are starving. Say it. Feel how great it is to share that thought with your loved ones. Feel how by sharing your emotions with someone, you suddenly gain the strength to go and find food to eat even though you felt earlier that you were too weak to do so.
All I am asking is to let people with suicidal thoughts have the same rights as you. Give them the space and the environment to feel safe to talk about their suicidal thoughts. Don’t freak out at them, don’t have a go at them for feeling that way. They cannot help feeling that way, just as you couldn’t help feeling hungry. Just listen, love and talk.