In over a decade in and out of mental health services, I have been asked am I suicidal more times than I care to count and I always find it a very interesting question to consider.
One thing that has stuck with me since my first contact with mental health services is how I consistently experience intrusive and ruminating thoughts about ending my own life. Even today I can spend hours thinking about ending my own life and the numerous ways to complete suicide.
To the people I disclose this to, it can appear quite scary; after all, a completed suicide is a terrifying reality. Some people will instantly try to console me, others will try to recommend I seek help from my GP and others will just pretend they never heard anything and swiftly change the subject. These reactions are all fascinating to me and whilst the majority are extremely well meaning, I feel that there is something deeper about suicidal ideations that needs unpicking here.
There is a significant difference between experiencing suicidal ideations and wanting to die, ruminations about deliberately taking your own life are dissonant to the reality of actually having an express wish not to be here anymore. I can have an extremely good mental health, be content with my existent but still experience strong suicidal ideations.
Does that mean I need fixing? Is the fact I daily have internal thought dialouges about taking my own life reason enough for me to be concerned? I argue for me not, and the reason for this is simple I do not want to die.
When I was in acute mental health crisis, I was hearing voices and I was depressed. My thoughts would be so intense on occasion I would punch myself, because that was less painful that the thought disturbance. I would obsess about locking doors, keeping myself clean and have strong obsessional thoughts about death.
My life got to a position where it was so damaged, so dark that all I saw was nothingness and all I felt was pain. My younger self did not know how to manage trauma, did not know how to resolve depression and the spiral of distress and chaos led me to a position where I actually made an attempt to take my own life.
At that point in my life, I did actually want to die. I didn’t want to exist anymore and honestly, I was so distressed and consumed by illness, knowing how much that would have negatively impacted on others wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference. Nobody could have saved me.
I pulled myself out of that dark pit however and if I regret one thing out of all my experiences, it is that I tried to kill myself. Pulling myself out of that dark pit didn’t happen overnight, and I consistently took two steps forwards and one step back however it was the little things that made the biggest differences, the small rays of hope that I held onto.
Writing poems, drawing, immersing myself in thought provoking quotes and just pushing myself to get out into the world. It helped me rebuild my social and community networks. It helped me reframe and refocus my life so I could begin the long and arduous journey of tolerating myself.
I also found my anchor, that was in sharing my mental health journey. I often say to myself what’s the point of going through all that pain, if I cant use it to try and make things a tiny bit better.
With the above in mind, I am drawn back to the title of this blog, the difference between suicidal ideations and wanting to die. For me, the difference is simple, it is those small rays of hope and that tolerance of myself that protect me against wanting to die.
My suicidal ideations will always be a part of my life, I describe them as ‘the echoes of psychosis’ and in a disturbing way they can help me keep my focus. They act as a reminder of how far I have come and whilst it takes a lot of energy and time to manage them, I have come to accept them.
Society has a long way to go to develop its understanding of suicide and suicidal ideations, there are so many misconceptions and wildly inaccurate claims that can make it so difficult for someone who is experiencing suicidal ideations and perhaps thoughts of wanting to die. Creating an environment where its okay to talk and share those experiences is essential in protecting against it.
Keep sharing your stories, keep holding onto hope. Never let go and give this life the best shot you can muster. It might not be perfect, it certainly wont be easy but you will create in you a resilience that can never be broke and a true appreciation of the value of hope for it is only by darkness that we can truly see the light.