What it’s Like to Feel Suicidal (or, How to Make Sense of it All)

For those of you who read my blog regularly, it’s probably quite obvious by now that I have been MIA for the past 2 months. I absolutely hate ignoring this blog, and I’ve really missed interacting with you.

It will probably come as no surprise – especially if you had read my most recent posts in June – that another episode of severe depression has taken over my life.

It’s been rough. Really rough. I’m still struggling, and am not even close to being out of the woods yet. It’ll probably be at least another month (if not more) before I get back to consistent blogging again. But recent events (namely Robin Williams’s suicide) have left me feeling compelled to write this post.

How could someone with so much going for them want to die?

For those who have never seriously contemplated suicide, this is a common question. It is so common, in fact, that even when I have been hospitalized for suicide attempts, I have had nurses – clinicians who supposedly specialize in working with the mentally ill – ask variations of this question.

On the surface, it makes no sense. How could someone want to kill themselves? Especially people who have so many positive things in their lives?

Basically, it boils down to this:

Suicide is an irrational thing.

When you ask that question, you are trying to find reason in the unreasonable. Rationality in the irrational. Sense in the senseless. It’s just not there.

However.

To the individuals considering this potentially final act of their lives, it feels VERY rational.

There can be all kinds of reasons in their minds that make it desirable, or even seem as though it’s their only option – that they have no other choice.

And when confronted with rational statements – perhaps explaining why their reasons aren’t as valid and solid as they feel they are – believe it or not, that (at least in my experience) doesn’t help. In fact, it can make the individual feel even worse.

Say what?

I’ll repeat that, because it’s a very important point here.

When talking to a suicidal individual, pointing out all the things they have to live for – all the support they have, all their talents and potential, etc – can, at least in some cases, backfire. I know you’re just trying to help. Maybe you don’t know what else to say. But take a moment to consider how this can potentially affect the suicidal individual…

Now, I can’t speak for everyone here. But in my personal experience (and the experiences of other formerly suicidal people I have spoken with), rather than showing me what all I have to live for, it imbues in me a deep sense of guilt.

“How can I feel this way when everything out there says I shouldn’t?” “How can I be desiring an action so intensely, even though I recognize how much pain and heartache it would cause in others?” “What the hell is my problem?” “What the fuck is wrong with me?”

Believe it or not, there is an answer to the above questions:

Suicide is an irrational thing.

As I often say, (and I’ll make this personal so as not to offend anyone by the way I phrase this), my brain is broken. Flat out. It doesn’t always function as it should.

When I begin the downward slope into an episode of depression, suicidal thoughts slip into my head from time to time. In those moments, I am capable of combatting them:

“You know that deep down, you don’t really want to die.”

“I know that I’m having some irrational thoughts right now. They’re not telling me truth.”

Unfortunately, with time and the downward spiral into deeper depression, the thoughts start coming more frequently. They start feeling more real. They become more compelling. More intense. My failures become all-encompassing. The future seems bleaker. The depression steals my interest in things that I once loved, making me wonder if I’ll ever want to do anything ever again. The pain gets deeper. I feel the need to be self-destructive. The urge to make the pain disappear for good is just too strong.

The irrational has become rational. In my mind, anyway.

Making sense of it all

Suicide rarely – if ever – makes sense to those left behind.

But this is the nature of suicidal thinking. It doesn’t make sense to you because it really shouldn’t make sense.

The only way you can make sense of it is to recognize that the individual is not thinking 100% rationally (despite how they might feel).

As someone who prizes rational thought and logical thinking, it is especially difficult and frustrating to go through periods of suicidality. When I reach the darkest depths of my depression, I slowly stop recognizing that my thoughts aren’t rational. I typically consider myself to be a rational person after all, so surely I must need to die, since my thoughts say so. Right? That’s how my thinking goes, anyway. My thoughts wouldn’t lie to me, right? …right?

Have some compassion

So here’s the deal.

When you berate someone for contemplating or even completing suicide, you are displaying a blatant misunderstanding and ignorance about the issue. Of course, this probably isn’t your fault (so please don’t take that statement personally), as there are a lot of misconceptions and stigmas out there.

I’m writing this post to help combat those misconceptions and stigmas. To bring a smidgen of understanding to an oft misunderstood act.

But suicide is so selfish!

To gain a greater understanding of this mysterious act and potentially help loved ones who may struggle with suicidal thoughts, check out this beautiful article about the idea that suicide is selfish.

I can personally attest to the fact that the statements in that article are totally true. In those moments where my suicidal thoughts are most intense, when one finger is all that’s keeping me at the end of my rope, I picture my loved ones finding my body, or hearing the news of my death. Gruesome and graphic? Perhaps. But my desire to keep from hurting them is all that keeps me alive at times.

And it can go the other way, too. Sometimes I feel like such a burden on my loved ones that I think I would be doing them a favor to leave their lives. That my fiancé deserves so much more happiness than I can provide, for example. It is selfish of me to stick around when my existence causes so many problems.

That is another example of when the irrational feels rational.

So rather than think of us as selfish for wanting to do something that can cause so much anguish to others, keep in mind that often times we’re doing everything in our power to keep from being selfish. Whether it’s hanging on to spare others’ their pain or letting go to spare others’ their pain, the sentiment is still the same.

And for those who do follow through and succeed, remember: it’s not rational. It doesn’t make sense. Chances are very good they held on much longer than they wanted to, to keep from hurting anyone. And to go through with it anyway, they must have been in unimaginable pain.

I know there are a lot of good people out there. I’m grateful that I’ve only seen a few people tearing Robin Williams down for his actions. I just plead that for those of you who do have the urge to look down on him, that you consider my points. And have some compassion.

If you’re thinking about killing yourself, PLEASE tell someone close to you or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

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