Before I begin to get into the heart of this post, let me first make an obvious but necessary disclaimer: I’m not a qualified expert, a doctor or psychiatrist. Nor can I take any responsibility for people taking any actions for the words I’ve written; this is just my personal opinion.
However, despite the above, I still feel this post is very much worth writing though, fair warning, my advice will be controversial, conflicting and difficult to read but after 17 years of depressive and anxious episodes that have included suicidal thoughts and ideation, I have found my own ways of getting through those times and I wanted to share them with you because I’m sick of reading the ‘positive’ bullshit surrounding mental health discussions. So here’s me telling it like it is as always…
Despite currently suffering the worst depressive episode in my 17 years of this illness (I’m at 14 months and counting), I have and continue to, work a full-time job as PA/coordinator in a law firm, starting the role at the height of my episode but I love it because no matter how much it exhausts me, for as much as possible, 8 hours a day, I am distracted. I know friends that are similar; that when they struggle, instead of recoiling into their shells, they become social butterflies because it stops them from ruminating over their pain. They volunteer. They organise social activities. They do everything they can to remain a high functioning sufferer (as I am currently) so that it distracts them from their thoughts. It doesn’t stop your suicidal thoughts of course but it can help to keep you distracted for long enough.
Give in and cry
The problem with the above distraction is that very often it means we tell ourselves that we can’t cry. We don’t have time to give in. That despite being close to tears or anger consistently, we are always trying to distract ourselves from our feelings because they’re simply too painful to confront. But you know what? Sometimes it takes up so much energy sticking the pain in our Pandora’s Boxes that the best remedy is to have a fucking good cry. To scream. Wail. To punch a shit load of cushions to get the immediate pain out of system. The science behind tears is still conflicting but we all know that after a good cry or a session with the boxing bag that we feel better for it and if nothing else, letting all that emotion out is exhausting and should help you sleep.
Write suicide letters
This is incredibly controversial but, in my opinion, leads on from my above point of ‘getting it out of our system’. Very often when we’re suicidal we feel worthless. Useless. By forcing ourselves to stop and think about what we actually want to say to someone is a great remedy. It allows us to put our jumbled thoughts into some sense of order, potentially gives us some perspective and we don’t need to action our suicidal thoughts to feel as though we have shared our pain. We’ve all heard of the classic therapists trick of writing a letter to someone and burning/binning it simply to get it out of our system; this is no different though, albeit, more serious. And please don’t think ‘I have no one to write to’, from our baristas to the office cleaner, we are all connected with others and if nothing else, writing these painful letters may help you cry and get it (temporarily) out of your system.
Talk to someone
This may seem like an obvious one and sometimes (actually, often) you think it’s a load of bullshit but when you’re drowning in your thoughts, talking to someone about how you feel can be really helpful. You don’t necessarily have to tell them just how bad you’re feeling but you can confide that you’re struggling and if you don’t have friends or family that could listen (or, at least, you don’t think they would), there are so many incredible charities and organisations that can be there for you just to listen to you rant or cry. In the UK we have an amazing charity called the Samaritans who can take calls and emails 24/7 and listen confidentially and without judgement. There are also other great places for resources including Rethink and The CalmZone (specifically for men).
Postpone your ‘planned’ suicide
I can’t tell you how much this has helped me throughout the years; telling myself that my death would be an inconvenience and that I can ‘do it later’. That won’t work for everyone, of course, but I’m someone that has high standards and morals meaning I hate standing people up and gaining unwarranted attention so if I have a meeting at work the next day, I tell myself it would be ‘rude’ to unexpectedly not turn up. If I’m meeting someone at the weekend, I’ll tell myself “I’ll kill myself on Monday”. If it sounds like a small and stupid piece of advice, it’s because it is but help can often be found in the smallest of acts. Tell yourself you have plans or you’re expecting a home delivery the next day. Tell yourself whatever you can and justify your postponement by any way that means something to you.
Take your medication
If you’re on medication, continue to take it. Whilst most medications don’t ‘cure’ the individual from still experiencing suicidal episodes, and can actually increase someone’s suicidal ideation when they first start taking them, it can decrease the degree to which the suicidal thoughts occur and how often you experience them. Even if you feel as though your medication may longer not be helping you, suddenly withdrawing can cause all kinds of physical and mental symptoms so speak with your doctor as it could be that your dose needs to be amended or you try a different medication. Likewise, if anxiety, for example, is contributing to your suicidal episode, take any immediate meds you have to calm down such as Diazepam; they can often work just enough to take the edge off your thoughts and allow you to calm down when your mind won’t allow you to do it alone.
Completely opposite to my first point about distracting yourself (but incorporating point two), sometimes the best thing for me is to give in to my thoughts (to a degree) and go to bed for a few days of bed and TV. To ignore my phone notifications. Not see or speak to people and just allow myself to zone out into auto-pilot mode. When you’re struggling, sometimes the last thing you want to do is surround yourself with people or situations that you find overwhelming, so go to bed, get your sleep, drink plenty of fluids and face the world again when you’re ready to. If possible, ask a friend or family member to look after the kids for a day. Have a 2 hour bath in peace. Do whatever you can to ‘zone out’ for as long as you can. Like my point above about ‘giving in’, allow yourself to ‘wallow’ in your depression for a few days to get the physical and mental rest you need.
It is always consoling to think of suicide: in that one gets through many a bad night – Friedrich Nietzsche
How do you do get through a suicidal episode?