I used to think that because I take an antidepressant, and I did 16 months of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), I wouldn’t think about suicide anymore. That’s simply not the case.
When I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out, I still think about suicide. For a moment, I imagine a way I could make an attempt. It’s an extremely unhealthy way of coping with my anxiety. I feel so afraid that I’ll never get everything done, that I’m failing the people in my life in so many ways, that I’m drowning under the weight of all the responsibilities I have, and that I’ll never amount to anything.
What the antidepressant and DBT training do help me with is stopping the thoughts of suicide and regaining perspective.
The first step is to become aware of my thoughts and my feelings. I “pause” my stream of worried thoughts by focusing on my breathing. I notice what sensations I’m feeling in my body (tight throat, quickened pulse, knot in my stomach) and try to identify what emotion I’m feeling.
Once I’ve named the emotion I’m feeling, I assess what it’s trying to tell me. If I’m feeling guilty, it usually means I need to apologize. If I’m feeling angry, it’s usually because I feel I’ve been wronged somehow, and if that’s true, I need to forgive. If it’s not, I need to let go of my perfectionism which is setting unrealistic expectations of other people.
When I’m feeling anxious, it’s usually about having unrealistic expectations for myself. I try to notice what “stories” I’m telling myself, about having too much to do, of having to do everything RIGHT NOW, and how everything is falling apart. When I mentally look at these stories, I remember they’re not true. There is a lot to do, but I’m getting things done, one at a time, and nothing terrible is going to happen if something has to wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or next week.
Sometimes I feel very sad that I’m not able to do all the things I want to do, to be the person I wish I could be. In those moments, it’s important to let the sadness in. To let my heart feel heavy, to feel my brow furrow, to notice the urge to hug something and be hugged. Even though I’m surrounded by my loved ones, life can still feel lonely.
Acceptance is not the same as approval or resignation. I accept that my life isn’t ideal, but it is as it is, and it is good. Accepting my experience for what it is enables me to do something about it. I get to choose whether to change things, to appreciate them, or reach out to someone to help me.
Connection and Gratitude
When I’m thinking about suicide, or in general just feeling overwhelmed, I usually feel totally alone. I fear that I have to do everything myself and that everyone else is depending on me.
It helps me to remember that I want to be there for my husband, my kids, and my friends, but also that they’re there for me too. My husband helps out a lot with the house and kids, and he’s always willing to listen and comfort me. My kids of course need me most of the time, but especially my six-year-old son will give me a hug if I ask him to. I try so hard to be the “rock” for them, I’m realizing it’s important to let them support me too. I don’t need to be invincible or infallible for them.
My friends will happily drop off food, go for a walk, or let me rant on the phone. I remember how much they have done for me, and I know that I want to stick around because I love paying it back and forward with them. I am blessed to be part of such a great community, and for all of my faults, I still have much to contribute and receive.
If you ever need someone to talk to, please call a helpline (1-800-273-TALK ). They’re there to support you, whether you’re about to commit suicide or just need someone to listen.
How do you pull yourself out of the darkness?