The hard thing about suicide is it feels only socially appropriate to talk about it if it is in the past tense. I used to feel suicidal. I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts. I’ve experienced that.
Often, when a tragedy of this nature occurs, social media is filled with posts with hotline numbers, pleas to ask for help, and reassurance of the general worth of humanity. This is definitely a great thing. However, as someone who is still in the tides of struggling, I wish more conversations felt safe and possible around this.
I can’t speak for everyone who has struggled with suicidal feelings/thoughts. However, I hope sharing my story can be educational and a helpful conversation starter for others.
Often, when people here suicidal, it feels urgent. There’s an emergency.
In my experience, suicidal is a spectrum. Yes, there are crisis moments. Usually, those are preceded by lots of horrible scary feelings and thoughts. It can be like a background music playing in your mind. Sometimes, it’s barely recognizable. Sometimes, it feels intolerable.
When your inpatient or in a program, it’s safe to say that you are having suicidal thoughts or feelings. People usually understand.
When you get into the “real” world, you are not supposed to talk about such things. It only feels safe to talk about suicide if it is in the past. Done. Overcome. You’ve moved on. To discuss it in the present is to show extreme weakness. You’re off balance. Crazy. Fragile. Off your rocker. Not to be trusted. Maybe you are just looking for attention. Or maybe you are to be feared.
Feeling suicidal does not always mean a plan has been made or that someone has the intention of harming themselves. This does not mean those feelings shouldn’t be taken seriously. It just means that if a friend shares with you that they are feeling this way, you don’t always have to respond like an emergency. (Again, there is a lot of discretion to this).
I’m not sure most people understand that suicidal moments can come and go in waves. It’s typically not spontaneous. It’s usually not just a season. It can’t be contained. It just is. If I begin to feel suicidal, then I start to feel shame for feeling that way, then making me feel more suicidal. It’s more like a spiral.
I think part of the problem is that few conversations occur about it in the present. It feels so so so shameful to do so. The shame can eat you alive. So, what do I do? I keep smiling through it. Never even hinting that those feelings have returned. That the song is still playing. It doesn’t mean I’m crazy or volatile or out of control. It just means I am hurting, and I am scared. I don’t put those thoughts there. My brain does. And, it’s terrifying.
I also no longer believe that suicidal thoughts or feelings are rare. I think everybody eventually experiences them in their own way. I believe if there was more acceptance and conversation around this incredibly complex topic, a few more lives would be saved. Maybe. Maybe the shame wouldn’t get to them first. Maybe people would know they are not alone. They are not the only one who has or will ever experience this.
I know it’s scary to talk about. I know it’s uncomfortable. But, the truth is that I’m desperately pursuing life and trying to show up in every way that I can AND these feelings still seem to find me. It’s not every day. It’s not all the time. But it’s there.
And though I am terrified to publish this for what people will say or think. I am even more terrified of the continual silence around this topic. It’s not worth it. I don’t have any answers. I can tell you that most of the time, I do not need a crisis response.
I think most of us just need to hear- “Oh man. That’s really tough. I hear you. That’s scary. I’m here.” We need community, testimonies, stories, and compassion lighting the way for those dark moments.
Please know that people can experience happiness, still be smart and good at their jobs, be completely capable AND feel suicidal. It is so so so so real. Let’s start a conversation.
In the event of a crisis moment, where there is a plan or intent, I highly recommend taking yourself or whoever is experiencing the crisis to a psych program or hospital. Hotlines can be helpful. In-person professionals are even better for the long-term. There is tons of financial assistance out there for the help needed.
1-800-273-8255- National Suicide Prevention Hotline
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org- Live Chat is Available (Because sometimes saying the words out loud is too hard).