WARNING, THIS POST CONTAINS SENSITIVE SUBJECT MATTER.
(If the topic of suicide is a sensitive one for you, this may not be the post for you…)
I have had the great honour of meeting and talking to so many great people about mental health. The topics ranged from anxiety to depression, to the very sensitive and difficult topic of suicide. Although I am really struggling with my own personal demons, I love each and every meeting I have had with all these folks. I am honoured to listen and help the best I can. My philosophy on mental illness is that we are all in this together.
I have learned so much about how people as a collective feel about mental illness. The similarities that I noted while listening to their individual stories were interesting. In many cases, I was from hearing the same story being told but with different voices. It is striking to me just how many people conceal their mental anguish from the world around them, so much so, that some even revealed to me that they have never spoken about their suffering with another human being and some explained that they had only revealed what they are going through to one family member. It’s not too hard for me to see why mental illness is a silent killer.
Today, I wanted to touch on the very sensitive subject of suicide so if you are not in a space to handle the subject matter, I would stop reading here. I understand as I type this I am experiencing a rise in my anxiety, and I am even finding it a bit traumatizing. So how about we get through it together? I promise I will be as gentle as I can be.
This subject is the rarest one to come up when in discussion with people. (disclaimer, I will never discuss a person’s individual story in a public forum; their stories are their own, and I am honoured to have been selected to listen). Although the rarest of all the mental health subjects, it is my experience that it is most painful and understandably most tragic. It is a subject that I approach with the utmost sensitivity; in part because of my skills as a counsellor but mostly because of my built-in compassion I have for the plight of others. Most importantly I understand the vulnerable state that it places one in, and I am all too aware of the huge amount of courage it takes to reach out.
Since mental illness is a subject matter ruled by its pervasive stigma and knowing that the perception of suicide tops the list, I feel it’s only fair for me to be brave and discuss my own dance with suicide. I have never once attempted to take my own life, but my mind has been dominated by its constant but passive visitation. I have and still have from time to time, thoughts of it travel through my head at lightning speed, just as quickly as they enter, they exit and are gone. There is no warning, no rhyme nor reason other than they appear to correlate with my saddest moments. I am grateful for the help and medication I have received because these passive thoughts have all but retreated. Its dark chatter was like a mental roadblock, one that I was ill-equipped to break through without the meds. Now, with this obstacle nearly eliminated because of the pills, I am free to go down my road to wellness.
My own encounter with suicidal ideation has provided me with the experience to ponder the difficulties that make talking about it taboo and thus causing many not to seek help. Is it really all stigma? Of course, that plays a huge role but are there other reasons why people give in to its power? What if suicidal ideation is kept within the individual sufferer because of the agonizing pain itself? Are some held captive by their pain to such a degree that they are unable to reach out? My own experience with it had altered my way of thinking. It did so in such a way that made me not know quite where to turn like I’m helpless by default. I don’t think about help when I am invaded by thoughts of suicide, rather it’s very similar to the pain you feel when you hit your chin or funny bone, so intense that feeling, that all logic goes out the window.
It’s difficult for me to blame it all on our fears of what the outside world thinks when a great many of us have a tenancy to not want to bother anyone with our problems. I have heard people say “sorry for venting all my problems on you” more than I can count. This to me seems like an internal roadblock that may simply be in the nature of many. Everyone feels like a burden to everyone else and whether it’s internal or perpetuated by stigma, it is all too common of a response.
I am saddened to see the people of this world suffering so intensely because they feel they must hide. I am equally saddened to see people pass up the many opportunities they have to connect with those whom they care most for, family or friends. Isolation is, as far as I am concerned, one of the central reasons why we as a society are getting sicker and sicker. It would go a long way to commit to seeing people that you hold dear and check-in while there, be present and actually listen. The skills that people find so hard to find in times when others are bearing their souls and offloading their deepest mental pain is the skill of listening, that’s it, hear them, let them feel safe. Each mental disorder I have comes with the inability to think with any amount of clarity I suspect this is the case for a lot of people in similar circumstances. Therefore, what’s more, essential is that one provides logistical support, not try to be the solver of their problems. An example of this is offering them a ride to doctor’s appointments if needed, things of that nature. If someone is trying to take their own life find out the plan and get help right away!
For people like me, finding the courage to find help is essential, and we must find the strength to reach out. For those who didn’t see it coming, as so many of us fail to, make commitments to loved ones, establish a close rapport with them. Many people will confess when they can count on you to be there, when they learn they can trust you, and when they feel that you care.
If you are thinking about or know someone who is thinking of hurting themselves please contact the resources located at the bottom of our main page or dial 911… There is help out there and there is hope!
You may also enjoy: I am vulnerable: I’m good with that.
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