Sunday, April 6, 2014

Depression - How to Handle Suicidal Thoughts

Chances are that if you've been depressed for awhile, or you're experiencing ongoing hopelessness, some aspect of yourself has begun to drop not so subtle hints about checking out of life. You've probably even heard that voice beckoning you with the promise of no more pain, and tempting you with the lure of rest from your self-tormenting thoughts.

Is Suicide An Option?

Depression or hopelessness affects your thoughts in such a way that you may not see any solution to the problem. That's because depression leads you to focus on failures, disappointments, and the negative side of the situation. Depression obscures any possibilities of happiness or a good outcome. Depression keeps you trapped in overwhelming pain, hopelessness, worthlessness and shame, and a sense of being powerlessness to change current conditions. Depression leads to believing, "there is no way out," "there's nothing I can do," and, "it will never get better."

When there is no access to joy, no escape from misery, and no hope of things ever changing, it is a natural progression to eventually consider suicide as an alternative. A shift happens when you stop praying to get better and start praying for an end to suffering. It's not so much that you want to die, rather that you want a "real" change, an escape from an ongoing situation that seems impossible to deal with, or a way to regain a sense of being in control over distressing thoughts or feelings. However, suicide is such a taboo subject that hardly anyone tells us that it is OK to feel so bad that you would think about leaving life.

What To Do With Suicidal Thoughts

If you are having thoughts of suicide follow these three suggestions:

1. Talk with Someone

Instead of hiding suicidal thoughts, explore suicidal ideas in a manner that brings them outside of yourself. This means talking about your feelings with someone who can be caring, calm, non-judgmental, and non-confrontational. Don't wait until things get better. Call someone such as a friend, counselor, priest, or suicide crisis center that is capable of listening with acceptance.

Two excellent suicide hotline resources in the U.S. include:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

A 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service

National HopeLine

A 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service

2. Express Depression by Writing or Drawing

If talking with someone isn't an action that you will take, then write extensively in a journal or on a pad of paper. Overcome your resistance to writing, rise above your desire to keep everything inside and write. Write often. Write big, messy, angry, hopeless words. Write about your problems, express your pent up feelings, describe your loneliness. Use dark colors if you want, cuss, scream, and express your despair. If you are feeling lethargic, then write about how that feels. Be "bad," say all the things no one wants to hear, be ugly - be anything but the nice "feeling fine" person you show to the world. Avoid thinking you need to solve your problems when you write. Simply give expression to the thoughts trapped in your head. Write about how you are hurting, how your life sucks, how you can't feel joy anywhere.

If you can't write, grab a pencil, a handful of colored markers, or a box of Crayola crayons and draw pictures of how you feel. Your pictures aren't supposed to be pretty, pleasing, or "good." Instead, they allow you an important avenue of creative expression. What does depression look like to you?

3. Talk to Yourself in the Mirror

If talking to someone seems impossible, if writing or drawing seems overwhelming, then go to a mirror and speak your thoughts aloud. There's no correct form of self-talk but you do want to look at yourself in the mirror, speak truth, and avoid sugar-coated affirmations. There's no point in saying positive affirmations such as "I'm blissful, content, and serene,'" when in fact you're contemplating ending your life. In addition, berating yourself for feeling depressed isn't going to help either.

Instead, speak truth about your current situation, make a choice to continue living, and give yourself some much needed encouragement. You could say something like:

"I'm feeling depressed and suicidal and it's okay to feel this way. A part of me wants to give up and it's showing me how to end my life. But even though I'm feeling this way, I choose to go on with my life today. I don't know how I'm going to overcome this depression, but I am doing the best I can. For right now, all I have to do is get through this hour. And I'm doing that by talking to myself."

What's most important is giving your suicidal thoughts a form of expression. Any form of expression - talking to another person, writing, drawing, or talking aloud to yourself in the mirror - gives you an opportunity to see your situation differently. We are much more able to cope with externalized expression than internalized thoughts.

Doesn't Allowing Suicide As An Option Encourage It?

A conscious exploration of suicide, of an idea that is already circling in your head, doesn't mean that you are encouraging this option. Instead, it opens up a dialog with something that you have already been considering.

Unexpressed, internalized suicidal thoughts tend to dwell on the process of suicide. Meaning thoughts are generally related to planning the act, thinking about when you would do it (today, tomorrow, next week), and the method you would use. Without expression, those types of thoughts gather momentum, growing bigger and stronger, until they obsessively swirl around in your head.

However, when you consciously express suicidal thoughts, you move beyond the best method to kill yourself. Rather then dwell on the final details of your demise, you actively explore your distress. You allow yourself to explore why suicide seems the best option, what problems it is supposed to solve, and how your choice might impact your evolution.

Giving expression to your thoughts doesn't suddenly make everything better, but it does provide opportunity to unburden your troubles and ventilate your feelings. Talking to others, talking aloud to self, or writing allows you to move energy, feel a tiny, tiny (but much needed) sense of relief, and tap into a deeper reserves of creativity and problem solving. Expression means you are taking action and actively bringing new awareness to your situation from new angles and perspectives.

When you keep suicidal thoughts hidden, you become trapped with extremely limited choices. Those choices include:

  • Pretending suicidal thoughts aren't present

  • Doing your best to fight against suicidal thoughts (even though what we fight continues to grow stronger every day)

  • Sleeping, eating, drinking, or medicating as a means to suppress suicidal thoughts

  • Give in to compulsive suicidal thoughts and end your life.

However, when you give yourself permission to explore suicide as an option, you bring those ideas out into the open. These thoughts are no longer frozen in your mind. Instead, expression gives your thoughts the freedom to evolve, and to move beyond noisy, chaotic clatter in your brain.

Allowing Death as an Option Allows Life as an Option

Once you give yourself permission and consciously consider suicide as an option, those thoughts become one option instead of the only option.

As you consciously contemplate your own death, you also contemplate the option of continuing with your life. Maybe for the first time ever you put aside your beliefs of hopelessness, you set aside your obligations to family and friends, and you set aside the belief of suicide being a sin. In your heart, you put yourself first and search for a reason to continue living.

When you explore the possibility of suicide, you open your mind to the most meaningful questions of life itself:

  • Do I wish to continue to live?

  • What would have to change for me to want to continue life?

  • Is it possible to live a life beyond fear and despair?

  • What would give meaning to my life?

  • What could I do today to give meaning to my life?

  • Even though there is no joy to be found right now, do I choose life for myself?

You may not have any answers to these questions, but it is most important that you ask them. Recognition of our ability to affect our own mortality can be a profound experience. When you strip away all ideas of sin, of shame, of obligation to anyone else other than you, would you give yourself life or death?

Many depressed people, when they allow themselves to consciously look at death as an option realize that there is deep important meaning in their depression. It's not a lesson to be learned, it's not a punishment, and it's not a test. Depression is an indicator of a transition or evolution into something new.

Perhaps, this is one purpose of depression all along - to make a conscious choice about deciding to live at this stage in your evolution. As any depressed or hopeless person knows all too well, no higher being has yet come down from heaven to take your depression or suffering away. If a heavenly spirit isn't going to save you, would you choose to save yourself?

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