Suicidal thoughts are the hardest thoughts to deal with, and no one answer will help everyone. When you are in that darkest of dark places, talking to someone is often so hard. Behind these feelings is such a hopelessness that often we don’t think anyone can help us, and we don’t want to bother anyone, anyway. Does that ring true for you?
But, if you are at the utter end of your tether, and can’t see a way out, take a little time to read this through. If you are certain about it, then waiting a little while isn’t going to make any difference, is it? There isn’t any hurry after all.
Thoughts are just that, thoughts. They aren’t actions. Thoughts make the intensity of emotions change, and it’s the emotions that can drive actions. So break that chain.
Are these thoughts you are having around the suicide facts or opinions? Being locked into a spiral, it’s hard to see sometimes, but is all your thinking actually true, or how you feel? I know that I have taken a look, a tone of voice in someone and convinced myself they hated me, or I was worthless because of it. But was that true or my impression from the dark glasses of depression?
Do you want to die in the body or have the emotional pain die? What I mean is that we think of suicide as a way out of the emotional pain, but it’s the emotional pain we want to stop, not life itself. It’s just we assume that is the only way to stop the emotional pain. But that isn’t true.
Are you feeling trapped? Just because we can’t see a way out, doesn’t mean there isn’t a way out. Depression slows and limits our insight and thinking. Its the tunnel vision of depression, it prevents us looking outwards to all the possibilities. But they do exist. That is definite, not just probable, but we can’t see it so assume no-one else can see a way either.
Tackle the body, not the emotions
If you are in a moment of crisis, don’t try to analyse the why, what, who, or when of how you got here. Do simple things to pass through the moment so you can think. As thoughts can deepen the emotions, so the body affects the emotions. Tackling things from the opposite way round can work. So tackling how the body feels can change how the emotions feel and the thoughts react.
Are you hot or cold? Seriously, I mean it, ask yourself this. If you feel hot, literally cool your body down – open a window, put frozen peas on your neck and so forth. If you are cold, wrap up in a duvet and get comfortable.
Now your breathing. Try Square breathing. Breathe in for count of 3, hold it for count of 3, exhale for count of 3 and hold that for a count of 3. Initially, you might do this too fast, but keep doing it for a little while till your breathing slows.
Use the Five Senses
Sit and use the five senses. Don’t be inhibited and do this with great attention and each thing must be done really SLOWLY!
- Look closely at 5 things in the room and really look – preferably nicer things.
- Listen to 4 things. I have opened the window and just listened isolating out four sounds. Of course music can be used, but soothing types of music only.
- Find 3 things to touch which are different, like a fleece, wood and leather for instance. Run fingers over it slowly and really feel it. Or hands in water and so forth.
- Get 2 things to taste. Ice cream, an orange, water – what ever you like. Remember, really pay attention to it.
- Lastly, the breath. Do the square breathing as above or just 1 breath in slowly and exhale slowly.
This will get you through the moment when the intensity of thoughts are at their highest. But once you have them lowered, you need to work on how to keep them down to a lower level.
Dealing with Painful or Dangerous Thoughts
Our minds think about 75,000 thoughts a day – all of us (although how scientists know this goodness only knows). Your mind will keep wandering, ideas popping in and out. We all do it. But we don’t have to pay attention to them. When a thought which is dangerous or painful comes in, notice it, then imagine it’s on a piece of paper, scrunch up the paper and throw it in a litter bin in your mind. Or any other way that works for you. (Some people imagine the thoughts on a leaf floating down a stream, but I ended up with hundreds of leaves when I used that!)
Engage in Soothing Activities
So what else soothes you? For me, that can be mindless TV, a film that engages me a little. Or washing in a shower, but doing it slowly, watching the water sparkle as it falls, the soap on the skin etc. Eating chocolate – which also has a thrill for me because as a diabetic, I’m not allowed it and so it makes me feel naughty. But most of all, you need to find a way to let the muscles relax, the tension to dissipate. You probably don’t even realise that your body is wound up like a coiled spring.
You might know a relaxation technique, but if not, try closing your eyes, imagine your feet, be aware of them, wiggle your toes, and release the tension. Go up the body – SLOWLY – the calves, the knees, the thighs, the groin, the buttocks, the abdomen, the spine, the chest, the shoulders, the upper arms, lower arms, fingers (wiggle them), the neck, the jaw, the cheeks, the forehead, the eyes, the scalp. You will be surprised by how tense you are.
Be honest – it’s only you there, so no need to tell anyone. Has the intensity gone down? The thing is, intense feelings physically can’t stay in us for long. That is physiological. The body can’t sustain them for long, and it then has to let them go. It’s biology.
Now you might like to think about getting some help. All of this gets you through the first, most intense and frightening moments. But you do need help, and you need it soon. I will lay odds that for many of you, it’s at night when things are worst. So you might think, what can I do at this time of night? Well, you can ring a loved one or a friend, or the Samaritans. That will help if you can.
But eventually, you need to go to bed and sleep. You don’t think it will be possible, but that level of intensity will leave your body exhausted. Even if you only sleep for a little while, it doesn’t matter. If you are on medication, have you taken it? Remember, if you are certain, then it can wait till the morning, can’t it?
In the morning, you can ask for help. Lots of research has gone into suicidal thinking. No matter how certain you think you are, in fact, there is a doubt, a little doubt. So listen to that little doubt, as suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
I nearly died from suicidal actions once. I was astonished, blown away, stunned by the number of people who were affected. When I came round in ICU, people had shown such care for me. You might not believe this, you think that no-one and nothing cares, that no-one will miss you, you are doing them a favour, or you will show them how badly you feel by doing this.
But you ARE valuable, you ARE wanted and you ARE worth being cared for. Your life is connected to all other people, we are all connected to each other and to you!
Come on the Mental Health Forum, we are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We aren’t professionals, we are people who help and support each other.
Warmest hugs, Calypso. xxx
About the Author
Calypso is a member of the Mental Health Forum Staff Team and a former Senior Nursing Sister for elderly people with complex needs.
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Next review due: 27 June 2024