Suicidal thoughts - When I heard it vs. When I thought it
Updated: Jan 24
Suicide - the leading cause of death among people 15-44 years of age in Australia and the leading cause of premature mortality. It is something that we don’t really want to talk about, but we need to.
“I don’t want to be here anymore”, whether you have had a moment where a loved one SAID this to you, or a moment where you actually THOUGHT those words to yourself, it is one of the single most devastating string of words.
I wanted to ease into my blog with some gentler topics but this is something I have been asked about a lot recently. This particular blog is incredibly difficult for me to write, and forces me to open up about some very personal moments I don’t often share with many people. Having been on both sides (having both heard, and thought suicidal thoughts/intent) I just wanted to share some insight that might help you - whatever side you are on.
WHEN I HEARD IT
Each time I have heard this, regardless of who it came from, my instant reaction was the same - “fuck.”
It is a really strange cocktail of emotions that follow. On one hand you feel sad, because you almost go through the motions you would if that person wasn’t here anymore. You literally experience that feeling for a few seconds. Then, in my experience, this strange wave of guilt - I don’t know why we automatically take that blame but we do - “What could I have done? Am I not here for them enough? Am I not saying the right thing?” This is where you need to stop. And only in retrospect can I see this, but it is not about you - that is one of the most important things to know at this time. It is completely normal to want to take the blame, you want to carry that burden that seems to be crushing the other person, or make it disappear completely. That struggle belongs to someone else, and while you can’t take it on (no matter how hard you try), understand that by them sharing it with you, they are allowing you to be there to mentally encourage them to be stronger.
I imagine it to be like training at the gym (apologies to the non-weightlifting readers, bear with me). Say you are attempting to squat a weight that is heavier than usual, simply having your Personal Trainer standing behind you, not even taking the weight, you are more likely to lift without hesitation. You are not physically stronger by having that person there, but you feel stronger and more confident.
Understand that the reason your loved one is feeling suicidal thoughts, could be any number of reasons - including a chemical imbalance in the brain which could mean a deficit in serotonin (resulting in a hardship to feel “happiness”). Whether it is internally or externally stimulated, your loved one needs to seek help from a professional who can start to understand the root cause.
There is no right or wrong thing to say, just be there unconditionally and let them know you are there. You don't need to force them to talk, but let them know it is ok to talk and they are not a burden. Encourage them to see a professional, try and keep them busy but don't force it and try not to get angry or upset if they don't seem to be listening. They are.
It is a good idea to seek help for yourself, as a professional will talk to you about your unique situation and give you strategies for dealing with it. If someone is threatening to self-harm, you may call an ambulance as they may need to have someone watch over them for a while. Understand this is not forever, it is not your fault, and the best thing you can do is just be there.
WHEN I THOUGHT IT
* Deep Breath *
Now this is going back a while, but how was I feeling? Completely numb.
I was waking up each morning thinking “what is the point” and having to literally drag myself out of bed - sometimes during/after tears, sometimes after a full blown panic attack. When I first thought those words though, I was amazed at how calm I felt - when a period of struggles builds up and becomes harder and harder to manage, you feel as though it is the only way out, the only way to just make everything stop.
This is where you need to stop. I know that seems impossible, but if I could literally go back in time and grab myself by the shoulders - shaking myself back and forth and yelling “Girl! You don’t even know the strength you have within yourself! You’re going to get through this and you’re going to be even stronger, and you’re going to go through a few more struggles and think this again, but your life will be so bloody beautiful on the other side. Just TRUST me” - I would.
I don’t know if this even helps, because when people would tell me these things they’d go straight over my head and I’d think “yeah sure.” However, I just want you to know how I felt then and how I feel now. I remember going to psychologists and going through having to tell my story over and over again. I just wanted someone to say “I went through that, it was terrible and I didn’t think I’d make it through, but I did. This is what worked for me and it might work for you”. I never heard those words but I’m saying this to you now. It. Gets. Better. I promise.
I didn’t want to tell anyone, because if I decided to do it I didn’t want them to blame themselves or think they could’ve talked me out of. The issue is, regardless of whether or not you share that you are thinking these things - your loved ones will blame themselves, and they will carry that pain in their hearts forever. I read something like that when I was thinking about it, and that single line tore me to shreds. But you need to hear that - even if you think no one will care, there is someone who will.
THIS IS WHAT WORKED FOR ME AND IT MIGHT WORK FOR YOU
Reflecting back on that time, and pinpointing the moment I had officially picked myself back up again - I formed my opinion of where, I believe, suicidal thoughts come from. I lost my purpose.
I didn’t have anything to work towards, I didn’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, I didn’t have anything in my life that made me feel good about myself or my abilities. I didn’t have anything for ME.
I had started working in a gym, just because I was desperate for a job and the opportunity popped up. I was also taking anti-depressants at the time, though I felt a little numb while I was on them - they stopped me feeling uncontrollably upset.
Eventually I figured I should learn how to use the equipment, so I organised a personal training session and was prescribed meal plan. I was severely undereating - even though I believed I was fat (in reality, dangerously underweight due to depression-induced eating disorders and mild body dysmorphia). My mindset changed, I loved the process of training and seeing results, and for once in my life I didn’t care that I was gaining weight.
You see, I [felt I’d] had lost control over everything. I couldn’t control the way I was thinking, my feelings of worthlessness, the things people had done to me in the past, my financial situation or my perceived lack of friends etc. But when I put 100% into training, I got 100% of the results back, and I felt like I had control over an aspect of my life.
I set goals and I looked forward to hitting them. I had something to think about other than the many stressful variables that had consumed me, and I had a shared interest to talk and get excited about with the gym community.
The endorphins and my new found purpose helped my state of mind, and I was able to wean myself off my anti-anxiety medication. I remember one particular moment I was driving to work after training and an uplifting song came on the radio. I cried all the way to work, because I had never felt happiness like I did in that moment. And I was happy to be alive.
In essence, find the thing that sets your soul on fire. I hated sports and I hated training, but I made myself do it to be better at my job and I fell in love with the deeper ways it made me feel. Try new things because you never know what might be the one that stick. Fitness is a good place to start because practice makes perfect, regardless of what your starting point is!
Correct Medication from a Mental Health Professional
I had two instances where I convinced myself I wanted to take steps to end things. One night, after a particularly bad string of events, I actually made a google-search about a suicide method and the first thing that popped up was the number for LifeLine. I called them.
These guys are absolute angels, I received compassion and a little tough love, but most of all, perspective. I stayed on the line with them for an hour, bawling my eyes out and telling them the events of the last week. It was strangely comforting to hear a complete stranger not only tell me things were going to be ok, but to stay on the line with me for so long made me feel as though maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t my time.
There are a number of sources out there guys, things may seem hopeless right now and if you can just take one message away from this article:
It is not your time to go, you are stronger than you know, people DO care about you, it DOES get better. I really really promise you it does.
Love and Strength always,
PS. Please get in contact with a Mental Health Professional if you have feelings of worthlessness or if you are having suicidal thoughts. This is extremely serious and there are a number of sources you can seek help from.
LifeLine Australia (24 Hours/7 Days): 13 11 14