Suicide Can be Prevented. But First It has to be Understood.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”        David Foster Wallace

Because I am a person who during two years of clinical depression thought about suicide, I now deeply believe that the decision to kill yourself could be averted by the right positive stimulus. In other words, in fifteen minutes, the person contemplating suicide might be able to make another decision. The act of suicide reminds us that there are those around us who are struggling with being able to cope with self-hatred so overwhelming that it truly feels like a stone along your neck. Letting go of these thoughts is my main coping skill. They are just thoughts. I feel no guilt for them but I quickly release them.

From Megan Wildhood: “David Foster Wallace: Suicide and the Death of Agency”:

“One panelist responded to the remark by encouraging us to have compassion, and initially I thought we might finally reach escape velocity from the “mental illness causes suicide” narrative with her attempt to get listeners to understand what suicidal people might be going through. “It’s not like you wake up one morning and go, ‘Gee, I think I’ll kill myself today,’” she explained. “It’s that you wake up every morning thinking ‘How can I not?’” Yes, I thought. These are all the words I have been looking for. The relief of validation, that someone saw and understood, felt like Icy Hot on a pulled muscle.”

“It is not depression or anxiety that truly hurts us. It is our active resistance against these states of mind and body. If you wake up with low energy, hopeless thoughts, and a lack of motivation – that is a signal from you to you. That is a sure sign that something in your mind or in your life is making you sick, and you must attend to that signal. But what do most people do? They hate their depressed feelings. They think “Why me?” They push them down. They take a pill. And so, the feelings return again and again, knocking at your door with a message while you turn up all the noise in your cave, refusing to hear the knocks. Madness. Open the door. Invite in depression. Invite anxiety. Invite self-hatred. Invite shame. Hear their message. Give them a hug. Accept their tirades as exaggerated mistruths typical of any upset person. Love your darkness and you shall know your light.”       Vironika Tugaleva

The solution–Getting quiet within ourselves–being patient for our answers–reaching out and talking about our feelings–have an escape plan (my plan was always if the suicidal thoughts linger to go to the hospital. When you are on fire, only a fire truck helps.)

Reach out for help–(1) Chat line open–IMALIVE, (2) Suicide help line–800-273-8255 or 800-784-2433, (3) Lifeline chat.

Photo credit.

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