Thursday, January 09, 2020

Sickness, then Celebration – Putting Suicide Behind Me

Even despite the worst sickness in years, I’ve maintained an even keel. Come celebrate with me.

Family carrot. My daughter, Cathryn Today is the 650th day since I was last suicidal. Keeping track of this stat is only something I began six hundred and fifty days ago. Before that was a hard spell in 2013, and before that was the two year rollercoaster at the end of my marriage. I thought about ending things quite a bit back then. I’m grateful that I was able to ignore those urges, but as I marvel at the number of days free from suicidal ideation, I am more grateful that I have retained my positivity through almost five months of being housebound with a chronic respiratory illness.

I’ve written here before about the dark clarity that suicidal ideation can bring¹. When our minds are awash in sadness and overwhelmed by the undertow of confusion that suicidal depression brings, we tend to grasp at any bit of flotsam that crosses our path. Some of that flotsam, like suicidal ideation, ironically seems like a lifeline. It gives us focus, clarity, and purpose when before there was only chaos.

One false clarity that suicidal ideation brings is the idea the world would be better off without us. Once we’re gone, we reason, our pain will end and with it will come peace to those we burdened. No more disappointing others. No more failing to meet their expectations. We’ll be doing them a kindness.

When we begin thinking that way, it isn’t long before we find personal reasons to pull the plug on our existence. No more screwing up at work. No more pressure to smile. No more stress. No more addiction. No more failure. No more, no more, no more. Nobody loves us anyway. We’re losers. We don’t deserve to live. And so on…That type of thinking is often a myopic lie we use to escape from our pain. The problem is that we don’t see those thoughts as lies while suicidal depression has sway.

To many who don’t understand what suicidal depression is like, the act of suicide can seem selfish, especially to those who outlive the victim. After all, suicidal people are focused only on their own pain, right⸮

The truth is that we’re preoccupied and overwhelmed with our own pain. We can’t see, or won’t believe, that our departure will cause others pain. Breaking through that wall of thought was what enabled me to put suicide behind me again and again. By viewing the act of suicide as a selfish one, I could glimpse how that final act would affect my family. It helped me come back from the brink when I was close to the edge. By becoming selfless, I saved myself. However, my opinion on the subject has evolved. Dismissing suicidal ideation as merely selfish misses a piece of the puzzle. It’s something I knew before, but couldn’t put into words.

Yes, there are selfish components to a suicidal person’s actions, but what I have come to realize in my struggles since I first started blogging here fifteen years ago is that suicidal ideation warps our minds. It colors our viewpoint. This is the most tragic aspect of being suicidal. What seems selfish, or even cowardly, to others (that we can escape pain, disapproval, responsibilities, or failure, etc. through death) seems logical to the mind of one who doesn’t value their life. Suicide to them would solve everybody’s problems.

I would be hard with myself here in this blog (and in real life) because I needed to draw a hard line that I would not dare cross. I had children who were counting on me. Tough love kept me pushing forward. I chose to frame my struggle with suicidal ideation as a battle. I don’t regret that mindset in the slightest. However, now I can forgive myself for not thinking clearly during those times instead of beating myself up for being “weak”.

This epiphany doesn’t change my coping strategies, though. When I catch myself thinking suicidally, I immediately reach out to family and friends in my support network². I then make an appointment with a psychiatrist. I dislike seeing a shrink as much as the next person, but taking action instead of hiding those thoughts deep inside keeps me accountable to others. I did that 650 days ago, and I’ll do it again if I should ever find myself slipping.

Six hundred and fifty days. I like that number. I like my newfound resilience even more. Getting to this point took work and perseverance, but it also took support from others. Don’t carry this burden in your heart alone. In your silence, those thoughts will become the only thoughts you hear. Let other voices in. Letting people love and support you may seem terrifying, but when you get on the other side of your travail, you’ll have people to celebrate your life with you.


  1. I’m referring to chapters from my book, Saying NO to Suicide  ↩

  2. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800–273-TALK (8255)  ↩