My Experience With Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide is a hard topic to write about. As a concept, suicide triggers immediate assumptions by readers and listeners that can be scary for a writer to confront. Furthermore, no one wants to hear that their loved one is feeling like they don’t want to live anymore and the vast majority of people don’t know how to help. Why would we? Western society does a good job of suppressing discussions of suicide by either glorifying, dismissing, or further stigmatizing conversations about it, so the majority of people don’t think about it in their day-to-day life unless they are experiencing suicidal thoughts themselves. For those people who do, it’s no surprise to anyone that it’s hard to talk about it: it’s not exactly a fun conversation starter, no one wants to make their friends sad or worried, and those thoughts are telling you it’s too late or won’t matter anyway. Because most suicidal thoughts are based on irrational thinking patterns, those patterns can convince the suicidal person that the burden they would be placing on their loved ones supersedes the benefits of getting help.

Furthermore, the fear of shocking friends and family with suicidal thoughts is a significant deterrent. Suicide is scary. The idea that it might make loved ones afraid of you is not too outlandish when considering how society treats suicidality, as well as the existing irrational thoughts that insist that no one can help. As someone who has often heard other people express suicidal thoughts to me, I can tell you that from my experience it CAN be scary to hear. It’s terrifying to think someone you love might get hurt, never mind trying to imagine a life without them. To some people, the idea that someone would want to “throw away” their life can become a reason to judge them, or become angry that they would feel this way, which is another deterrent to getting help.

There are underlying structures socialized into Western culture that discourage people with suicidal thoughts from speaking up. I debated about whether or not to write and then post this article, but I honestly believe the best way to address issues such as suicidality is to talk about it. I spent a long time considering whether I wanted to post this anonymously, and quite frankly, I didn’t. I think that it’s incredibly important to own your insecurities and do what you can to limit the stigma around mental health and suicidal thoughts. Furthermore, publishing as myself would mean being brave enough to risk judgment—a challenge that I frequently place on myself and enjoy meeting! I don’t write too many personal pieces like this,  though I enjoy sharing myself with my loved ones and am proud of how far I’ve come, even if I slip back into these thoughts often. However, while I fully believe all of these rationals, what it came down to for me was the lack of personalization in my audience. I share my Her Campus author page with potential employers. My parents and family read my articles. Some of my exes read my articles. I know these things because I’ve gotten feedback before, both positive and negative, from all of these people. While I full-heartedly believe there is no shame in coming forward and admitting to suicidal thoughts, the reality is that I want control over who knows about mine. With this platform, anyone could know. The reason I’m talking about this is that in this article I want to encourage people to get help, speak up and own negative mental health experiences and issues, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I’ll be telling some trusted people that I wrote this and hopefully, they can enjoy it knowing I trusted them enough to let them in. Hopefully, you might consider doing the same if you feel suicidal or are in a negative mental health-related state. Without further ado, here is my personal experience with suicidal thoughts.

It is difficult to process feeling so unhappy that you don’t want to keep living. Whatever mental health issues these thoughts are tied to and whether they come frequently or rarely, it’s incredibly scary. People who feel suicidal will typically suffer other side effects as well as not wanting to live, such as losing interest in previously enjoyed hobbies, worsening of physical health, social isolation, self-harm, mood swings and substance abuse. These side effects can further suicidal thoughts and produce a harmful cycle that is often misconstrued by others as self-sabotage and the blatant devaluing of life. But it’s not about wanting to die, it’s about not wanting to feel this way anymore.

Dealing with suicidal thoughts often leads to self-blaming, which is easy to do when it seems you don’t have the right to not want your life anymore. This is reflected in my situation—I’m an incredibly lucky young woman who is financially stable, loved by her family, and blessed with many friends, who gets to experience the world and a higher education. I have never experienced poverty, racism, physical violence, homophobia, or abuse. On paper, my life is fantastic. I am completely aware of this and, when I’m not in the midst of a bad mental health day (or week, month…), I’m so thankful for my life. However, when I do experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, it’s easy for my mind to invalidate my emotions by saying I “shouldn’t” be feeling them because my life is so good. It seems logical to me, in those moments, to tell myself that I don’t have the right to feel sad because I have no “logical” reason to be.

The tricky thing here is that mental illness is not logical—it is inherently irrational and based on chemical imbalances that assert feelings as fact. When experiencing a poor mental health episode, logical thinking can be thrown out the window in favour of thinking patterns that appear to support the “reality” of the situation, which is always a bleak one. Furthering this process by invalidating your emotions because you live a good life, being unable to accept that your thoughts might be irrational, and convincing yourself that there is nothing that can be done is a toxic cycle that often results in people becoming trapped in their thoughts and sometimes resort to suicidal thinking as the only apparent way out. Evidently, it is NOT the only way out, but what matters is that, in that moment, it feels like it is.

Sometimes it’s hard for friends and family hearing you describe your suicidal thoughts to understand that just because you can see the other options other than suicide, doesn’t mean stating that there are other options will suddenly pull you out of illogicality. I have definitely felt this in my own life, whether it be regarding suicidal thoughts or my other mental health struggles, when people who clearly don’t understand accidentally invalidate my feelings by implying it is a problem I can just solve if I put a little more effort in. This kind of response implicates a lack of trying or a willful blindness to the goodness of life on my part, which makes it even easier for me to self-blame. Suicidal thoughts aren’t caused by ignorance—suicidal people are not purposefully ignoring the other options in favour of death because it’s the “easy way out.” I think that most people know this on some level but, when faced with a suicidal friend or family member in their own life, the situation becomes more personal. It becomes easy to think you can talk someone out of suicidal thoughts with logic alone when, in reality, logic cannot be used to fix an issue that is inherently illogical.

Because suicidal thoughts cannot simply be “out-logiced,” the best ways to support loved ones experiencing suicidal thoughts is always a combined approach. This ideally includes offering support, guiding them to a professional, and repeatedly checking in to make sure the person feels like they have someone to express those thoughts to. This approach also includes making sure you, as the friend giving help, are equally supported—finding someone to talk to if it becomes too much and asking for help yourself. I’ve been on both sides of this exchange and can honestly say that it is always the best option to talk about it, for both parties. Just as it is awful to experience suicidal thoughts yourself, it can also take a toll on those trying to help, if they take it all on alone. Suicidal people should not use this as a reason not to talk about it, and believe me, if someone is suicidal, they are more than aware of the pain they could cause by speaking up. Instead, getting help needs to be de-stigmatized so that those experiencing suicidal thoughts can come forward knowing that the people helping them will also have help and thus the risk of damage is lower. There is no shame in feeling suicidal and by owning our emotions and finding help it becomes possible to start feeling better, while paving the way for future generations to feel less judged about coming forward.

If you relate to anything I’ve expressed about experiencing suicidal thoughts, know that there are so many routes you can take for help—anonymous or not, professional or transitional, from people you know or from people who just want to help. The national suicide prevention hotline in Canada is 1-833-456-4566, or available by text at 45645. For 24-hour phone crisis assistance, you can call Kids Help Phone (if 20 or under) at 1-800-668-6868, Reach Out at 519-433-2023, or Ontario’s Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600. If you prefer not to talk on the phone, you can also text Good 2 Talk at 1-866-925-5454 or YouthSpace at 778-783-0177. You can also talk to volunteer counselors online at Ontario’s Mental Health Helpline, ONTX Distress Centre, and IMAlive.

There are walk-in crisis centres across the country with professional help, a list of which can be found here. In London, the Canadian Mental Health Association has a 24-hour walk-in crisis centre at 648 Huron Street (519-434-9191 extension 223), and the Sexual Assault Centre is reachable at 519-438-2272.

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