The following article is for educational purposes only and may not reflect the view of the medical or therapeutic community. Always seek professional guidance when it comes to your physical and mental health.
You usually don’t discuss suicidal thoughts with others. And because of that, they fester inside. Often the people around you have no clue what’s going on with you until it’s too late.
I personally don’t believe suicidal thoughts in themselves are necessarily unhealthy. In fact, I believe they can be a good way to use your brain the way it was designed:
To consider all outcomes of a situation, good, bad and ugly. Your brain appreciates that it has a choice.
If you have been or are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts then keep reading.
Just having thoughts of hurting or even killing yourself doesn’t mean you’re broken or wrong. They’re just thoughts. And some thoughts will be of your choosing and some won’t.
As for the ones you can’t control, be okay with them. I want you to explore what would happen if you chose to let go of your resistance to “bad” thoughts. You already know that what you resist persists. But what’s not exactly highlighted is just how much you resist amplifies.
What you resist persists and amplifies!
It’s not a matter of trying not to have suicidal thoughts, it’s a matter of allowing them to be as normal as any other thought that goes through your head. Once you stop resisting them, you won’t feel so controlled by them.
During my bout with these types of thoughts, I decided that I would explore what would happen if I went in the opposite direction of what brought me to those thoughts in the first place.
In my youth, I rarely stood up for myself. I would let people walk all over me and I would hold in my anger toward them. All that repressed anger caused me to go into a depression. After a couple years of trying to not be depressed, I decided to do something different. I thought, “What would happen if I chose to not hold in my anger? What would happen if I chose to express it instead?”
That was a scary thought!
After all, expressing anger might mean people won’t like me, or worse, hurt me. But… I was depressed and since I was considering suicide anyway I had to come to terms with “How is someone hurting me worse than killing myself?”
That logic didn’t make any sense. It didn’t register. So I made the choice to start saying what was on my mind and make it known when I was angry. That wasn’t an easy choice.
In fact, it was probably the hardest step I’ve ever taken for myself. But it was also one of the most powerful changes to happen in my life.
It was a powerful choice.
It took me a few years to really get comfortable honoring myself like that, but I preferred going in that direction rather than the direction that left no other options. After all, if I died what choices would be available to me then? At least if I expressed what was on my mind I’d still have choices!
Sometimes we fear facing our fears more than thinking about committing suicide, which is sort of a strange perspective when you think of it. At least when we face our fears – the fear you get facing them is temporary. Truth be told, all of your fears are temporary unless you choose to never look at or deal with them. Then your fear can last forever. And that’s what can lead you down a darker path with no choice.
Logically speaking suicide isn’t really a good choice anyway. After all, once you’re “out”, you’ve actually dis-empowered yourself by removing all access to choice. At that point, you go wherever it is you go and you have no longer have any control in your life. It’s like getting caught in an ocean current… you’re going to be swept to a place you may or may not like.
At least when you’re alive you can make different choices until you make one that brings you into a better space with even more choices.
One of the keys to happiness is more choices.
Committing suicide takes all your choices away which could cause more problems. I know what you may be thinking: “Yeah, but I’ll be dead!”
Who knows what or where you’ll be? It’s possible you could wink out of existence. Or maybe you’ll reincarnate into a moth or an elephant. Belief and faith will tell us all kinds of things that happen when we die, but it’s still a great unknown that will always be there waiting for us regardless, so why rush it?
That great unknown isn’t going anywhere – you will experience it eventually. No need to speed up the process.
This reminds me of when I was 15. I absolutely hated school. I wanted to get out of it and I knew my chance was coming because where I lived, you could quit school when you turned 16. I thought, “When I turn 16, I’ll finally be free!” That is, if my mom allowed it.
So I asked her: “Mom, when I turn 16 can I quit school?”
Her answer shocked me, “You can do whatever you want.”
I replied, “Really? You’ll let me quit at 16?”
She said, “Sure. Whatever you want to do.” (my siblings and I had very few rules to follow).
Suddenly I felt empowered. I now had the ability to choose my fate. At 15 years of age, I was making my plans that would alter my future forever. I was going to quit school as soon as I turned 16. It felt good having that kind of power. I had an exit strategy for my future to finally get out of the hellhole I called “school”.
When I turned 16, I was a Freshman in high school. This was the moment I was waiting for. My first thought was to quit right away. But since it was so close to the end of the school year, I thought, “I’ll just wait until school’s over in June to quit. That way I can finish up this year and say I at least made it this far. I just won’t go back when 10th grade starts.”
The summer came and went, and it was great knowing that I didn’t need to go back to school. I felt weird because I didn’t know what being a teenager was like without school. But I felt free, as if having the choice to quit was enough to make me feel better even though I hadn’t officially quit yet.
As the first day of tenth grade approached, I made an odd choice: I decided to go to school. I thought, “Hey, I can choose to quit anytime so why not just attend for a few weeks, see how things are, and if I can’t stand it or it’s as terrible as I remember, I’ll just quit. After all, I can quit anytime I want.”
Going to school was awful. Tenth grade was no better than the years before it. Every day was a chore, and I hated getting up early and doing my homework at night. I felt like I was losing so much free time.
But I persevered. Even though I had the power and the permission to quit, I chose not to. I ended up staying the whole school year and finishing the tenth grade. It was challenging. I felt stupid around the smart kids. I was bullied by the jocks. I just felt like I didn’t fit in at all.
But I kept going. What got me through the year was the fact that I could quit anytime I wanted, so I didn’t feel any pressure to stay.
It was a choice.
But if I didn’t like it, what was the point of staying? Why stay someplace you don’t like when you have a choice to leave?
I’ll admit during that year, there was a tiny voice in the back of my head telling me how terrible life would be without a high school education. But that voice was definitely not the overriding voice in my head at the time. The loudest voice in my head was telling me to leave as soon as possible:
“You hate it here! The jocks hate you and make fun of you. You aren’t smart enough to fit in with the nerds. You’re too tall so the girls aren’t attracted to you. You only have two friends. You don’t attend any school functions and you feel like a total outsider. There is no benefit to staying, so why are you staying?”
I finished the tenth grade knowing I could quit anytime. The summer came and went once again, and my eleventh year of school was starting. The voice returned… the one that was convincing me to leave. I wanted to quit school so bad! I thought, “How could I possibly endure two more years of this? Why don’t I just quit?”
I chose to start eleventh grade for the same reason I started tenth. I had the exact same thought as I did before tenth grade:
“I can choose to quit anytime so why not just attend for a few weeks, see how things are and if I can’t stand it I’ll just quit. After all… I can quit anytime I want.”
I decided to ride out another year of school once again. And I hated eleventh grade too! But I didn’t quit.
The reason I didn’t quit was because during the first quarter of my Junior year a new thought came to me. I remember thinking, “You know, I’m this close to twelfth grade. Why don’t I just stick it out and see if I can make it to my senior year? That would be an accomplishment. And since I made it this far…”
So I stuck it out. Again.
My senior year arrived. I thought, “Wow, I made it. I endured two years of something I hated. Two long years! And here I am on my very last year.”
I realized that I was already past the half-way point. To quit now would be ridiculous. After all, “I made it to the twelfth grade! I only have one more year. Why don’t I just make it to graduation? Look how far I’ve come. I’d hate for all that time I spent here to be wasted.”
And I endured the twelfth grade. I graduated from high school.
My point is, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to quit school at 16. But my mom gave me the greatest gift: She empowered me with the ability to choose. And that one gift altered my course because it shifted my entire perspective. I knew I could leave anytime but I chose to focus on the bigger picture and the reward of completing the challenge. When you feel like you have no choice, you tend to focus on all the problems.
Previous to that choice, I felt locked in. I felt like I had no choice but to submit and obey the rules. But when the power of choice was given to me, that locked-in feeling went away and I was free to take any path I wanted.
The power to choose gave me the ability to introspect easier and deeper than I ever had in the past. It made me stop focusing on how much I despised going to school and helped me to realize that having a choice is freedom.
I tolerated high school through all the bullying, difficult classes, lack of girlfriends, and lack of interest (school was never easy for me) because I could choose to do it or not. I had my challenges and worried a lot, but the ability to choose gave me hope and freedom during those difficult times.
I learned two powerful lessons during my teenage years:
- I am resilient and can handle almost anything that life throws at me
- I can push through the hardest, most challenging tasks because everything is temporary
I’ve taken the belief that I always have a choice with me into every situation. It has allowed me to persevere through the challenges and push through even the worst pain.
The more choices you stay open to, the more resilient you will be and the more empowered you will feel.
Suicide is permanent. It is also a choice. And as long as you have choice, you have the ability to get through anything. Don’t limit your choices by thinking you have none. Your choices may involve you doing things you don’t want to do or saying things you don’t want to say, but imagine if doing those things made you feel better?
Imagine if you chose to tell that person how you really feel or you chose to quit that awful job or get away from that awful person? Imagine if you chose not to care about what people thought about you? Imagine if you chose to do something with your life that no one agreed with?
Some people will think you’re crazy. Some people will want to avoid you. Some will tell you to seek therapy immediately. Hanging around those people could be one of many choices in your life. Sometimes you have to search for the right people that understand you. You create more choices by searching for options you don’t think you have.
Suicide doesn’t have to be your exit strategy. It can be one of the many choices that show up in your head. Just know that going that way takes away all your choices. Expand your choices, don’t limit yourself to no choice.
Everyone has a right to think about anything they want. Sometimes we need to talk things through to understand why we think the way we do, so it’s important to express these thoughts before the thoughts turn into action. When you take action on thoughts that don’t serve you, that’s when you start making choices that take all of your other choices away.
If you’re thinking about suicide, consider calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 because you’ve got nothing to lose and only a kind, non-judgmental ear to gain. You can stay anonymous so that you can share all you want and they’ll never know who you are.
It’s a choice you have if you want to take it. And having more choices is being empowered. Allow yourself to have more choices, not less!
I talk on this subject a bit more in this episode of The Overwhelmed Brain.