If you are in crisis: PLEASE call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – no matter what problems you are dealing with, they want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. Or visit suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html
Trauma and Suicide
There are plenty of reasons for suicidal thoughts to pop into your head, but the highlights are: being completely overwhelmed with pain, feeling trapped, alone, like things will never change, etc.
Some days in this life, unfortunately, you are not going to want to live.
In fact, its so common, that there is zero point in feeling bad about it.
This simplistic view is not to downplay the seriousness of what you are feeling. In fact, my hope is if I can convince you that it is okay to feel suicidal sometimes – that you will stop beating yourself up for feeling lousy and maybe you can start taking small steps to start feeling better.
You wouldn’t think that, as a society, we would kick a person when they are down. But considering the general attitude towards people struggling with their mental wellness – it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
When someone is depressed, suffering from anxiety, trauma or grief – suicidal ideation (thinking about killing yourself) is a pretty normal and somewhat regular thing. It is a perfectly understandable reaction to going through some dark stuff. Sometimes things can get really bad – really fast. Your body is in physical pain – it hurts to breath or just exist. The all encompassing overwhelming intensity makes it feel like it will never end.
Our brains are big fat liars. As real as these feelings, emotions and problems are – hurting yourself, or ending your life via suicide is never the answer. It is okay to feel beyond repair and hopeless. Trauma is a prevalent issue – plenty of people feel this way – regardless if you hear about it. You are not the first and you will certainly not be the last.
Trauma can blow your world wide open. It shatters your sense of security and stability. It erodes at your normalcy until you are left with tattered memories and a shadow of your former self. I don’t believe that trauma happens for a reason or there is some greater purpose molded from my pain. What I do know is the world is an infinitely complicated place with not a lot of answers. At the end of the day, you are left alone to your own devices – expected to cope.
Self care and acceptance are the deceptively simple recommendations for healing from trauma. Entire books could be written on either subject. No matter if you are thriving post-trauma or struggling to get by on a daily basis (like me!) you need a tool kit full of coping strategies to get your through those tough moments.
Five Things to Keep in Mind the Next Time You Feel Suicidal
1. Life is a marathon. Realize that this isn’t about quick fixes. We live in an instant gratification world and expect fast results. I will be the first to admit I am impatient when I don’t “progress” as fast as I should or instantaneously feel better. Getting your brain to relearn how to react, how to take care of yourself, and have healthy boundaries is an education. It takes time, practice, and a lot of frustrated tears – but if I can do it – so can you.
2. Recovery is all about the small steps. You cannot recover overnight. And although I naively thought I could triumph over my abuse in six months (so cute right?) it is more like a life long process of tiny adjustments to make life a little easier and bearable. You are never going to “feel ready” to make changes – to walk out the door, start exercising, begin counseling, change yourself. It isn’t fun – but it is worth it. And you will feel better eventually.
3. Our brains lie to us The message that no one cares or wouldn’t notice if you were gone are bold faced lies. Your trauma is saying those things. And just like the internet – we can’t believe everything our brains tell us. My (mostly unqualified) solution is to start lying to your brain. Sometimes you need to “Fake-it-Till-You-Make-It” – every time your trauma tells you “I can’t do this” you tell it right back “Yes I can! I am strong and capable and will dominate this!”
4. Binge eat eight gallons of ice cream, go for a four hour jog, buy a place ticket to Tahiti – any type of harm reduction activity (that is slightly less severe than your original plan). Hurting yourself will not make you feel better or change your circumstances. The best we can hope for long term improvements. Don’t let today’s awfulness color the new possibilities of tomorrow.
5. You are worth the time, love and effort it takes to get better. Believe me. I know you are worth it. You are loved from a far by an overly friendly stranger named Stacie. If you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for the inevitable future kid that is struggling like yourself who is going to need someone who understands.
The very good news is the feelings don’t last. I have thought those ‘too dark to share’ thoughts – even acted on some of them – and it doesn’t solve anything. Pain doesn’t cancel out pain. The next time you find yourself in a scary vulnerable and lonely position, please wait it out. I know you feel alone and terrible and probably can’t breathe and are all snotty. Or worst, you feel dark and dead inside. I’ve been there and it is awful. But it does not last forever, no matter how it feels.
No one ever told me that what I was feeling was normal because we don’t talk about it. Suicide is akin to sexual abuse: taboo topics that people aren’t comfortable talking about – ever. And in turn, the people suffering don’t receive the acknowledgement, help or relief they need. They feel worst for having those taboo thoughts in the first place. It is a vicious cycle of shame and silence that must stop. Instead, why not ask the person what sparked that line of thinking? How serious they are (do they have a plan?) and how you could help them feel better in that moment?
There are a lot of reactions out there that are infinitely better than saying that suicide is “a coward’s way out.” We need to understand that mental illness isn’t a choice. It isn’t an excuse for getting out of something. It isn’t for a lack of trying. A brain not properly functioning is no different than any other organ not working. No one is going to shame you for kidney failure or cancer – why shame you for something you have no control over? The same needs to be said for mental wellness.
“Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps conservatism is great until you realise you haven’t got any boots nor have you inherited any.” – Sophia Cannon
We have this insane idea that if you try your hardest – you can solve all your problems by yourself. If you aren’t given a stable environment, nurturing parents, and examples of emotional regulation – then how are you supposed to emulate these things in your own life? In actuality no one pulls themselves up by the bootstraps. We all require help at one point or another. Every person on this earth started out as a vulnerable and incapable of taking care of themselves. We are not independent creatures – we require social interaction and dependency at sometime or another.
Sometimes the only way to feel better is in the act of asking for help. People who have never experienced trauma, abuse or poor mental health will never ever get it. That’s why they say really stupid and thoughtless things like “just snap out of it” or “try harder” – they lack empathy. The idiotic things that people say are not a reflection of your character – but of theirs. Sometimes people are just mean and we can’t take them too seriously. We can’t control what other people think or say about our brains. However, we can have the self-efficacy and confidence knowing that there are a lot of stupid people out there – and that certain individual is one of them.
Life is resilient. Even if you think there is no way out – there are people who have been in your shoes who are now successful and living the life they always wanted because they muddled through until they could get back on their feet. It doesn’t have to look pretty. You don’t have to be great at recovery (is there such a thing?). The important thing to remember is that no matter how bad, you have the ability, strength and courage to get through this moment. And the next.