Few things cause as much grief to as many people as when another human being takes their own life. If your suffering is so intense that you are looking for a way out, I’m going to ask a personal favor: Please wait 24-hours before you act on any suicidal thoughts, and finish reading this article. Or if you believe someone you love is at risk of harming themselves, this may help you to meet them where they’re at, which could make all the difference.
Suicidal Thoughts = Feeling Utterly Alone
The most devastating, piercing part of being suicidal is the belief that you are alone. This is so insidious, because it doesn’t matter how many people care or try to help. Sometimes the person literally has no one, or their personality has a tendency to drive people away. Other times there might be supportive family and friends pulling together around them. It doesn’t matter, because they don’t feel lonely, they feel alone. They aren’t longing for company, they’re longing for acceptance. You see, when depression gets to this point the sufferer believes with all their being that there is something irreparably wrong with them and that they are unacceptable. So no matter who tries to help, there is a wall put up to protect loved ones and the rest of the outside world from the brokenness.
How do I know? Because that’s where I spent what should have been the best years of my life. From age 15 through into my 30’s I’ve been in and out of this place of abject aloneness, and I’ve seen what it can do to both the sufferer and to the family and friends who suffer right along with them. I’ve spent countless hours laying face down on the floor because it was literally the lowest place I could be and to do anything else felt ingenuine. I’ve locked myself in the bathroom and screamed until my voice was gone. I’ve rubbed sharp objects on my skin in a vain attempt to feel something again. I’ve begged God in absolute desperation to kill me. I’ve shaken in fear of what would happen if I couldn’t pull it together and earn a living to feed my children. And I’ve felt the guilt and shame of having all of these feelings and knowing what acting on them would do to the people who love me. If you identify with any of this, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
The Long Journey Up From The Floor
So why should my story be of any help to a young man trying to drink himself to death or a teenage girl taking a razor blade to her own wrists or an aging professional who lives in constant fear of their “OK shell” cracking in public? Because this is something unheard of, a believable success story. I didn’t find a magic secret. I didn’t patent a method to get better, which can be yours for only 5 easy payments of $49.95. I didn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps and become a self-made millionaire. I got up off the bathroom floor. Some days I go back and lay on the bathroom floor. And then I get up again. And the getting up gets easier every time. Life isn’t perfect, but life isn’t meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be lived.
“That sounds like a lot of work.” Absolutely. “Without much gain.” Depends on your perspective. “Why choose that when I can just end it all?” Because…you’re still reading. If you really wanted to die, you wouldn’t be reading this. That small part of you that is still reading these words wants to hang on. That seemingly tiny spark of life is what I want to blow into an ember. “Why do you care so much what I do?” Because if my nearly two decades of suffering can get me to a place where I can reach one person and help them to get off the bathroom floor, it will have been worth it. So what do you say? Care to take a gamble on living? What have you got to lose?
It Begins Here
With your next breath, blow on that ember of life. By taking a breath you agree to live long enough to see this process through. Look at where you are and accept yourself completely. Look at the state of your mind and body and accept it for what it is. The only way forward from this point is to be able to look at yourself and say, “I don’t accept where I am, or what my situation in life is, but I am not my situation. I am not my home, my money, my loved ones, or even my body. I am a soul who draws breath, and by virtue of that I deserve acceptance. I may be feeling suicidal, but for now I am still alive.”
Take as long as you need. The floor isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I. Read on when you’re ready.
Feed The Ember
Focus on your breath. Does any of the suffering in this moment prevent your breathing or the circulation of your blood? If yes, call emergency services (911 in the US) immediately. Otherwise, you are not in immediate physical danger. In other words, you are safe. That means that the suffering is emotional and/or mental, and there are resources that can help with this if you’re willing. In this place of being safe for the moment and knowing that help exists, honestly assess for yourself how long you are willing to commit to living. It might be a year, or it might be 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter how long it is as long as you’re honest with yourself, and make a commitment in writing to yourself to live that long and carry that paper with you. When that time runs out, repeat the process and add the new time to your written commitment.
Remember when we accepted ourselves for who we are despite our situation? This is where we test that. If you are suffering so much that you are at this point, you are at risk and you need help. You might feel shame or anger or grief over this fact, and that’s okay. You might feel like you don’t deserve help, or you don’t really need help because you’re just being dramatic, and that’s okay. There is nothing to be lost by asking for help.
So go to another responsible human being, or get one on the phone, or text one, or email one and commit to living long enough to get a response, and say to them, “I want to kill myself, but I’m committed to living <how long you’ve committed to>. Can you please stay with me until I can get some help?” If there is absolutely no one you can reach out to, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and/or email me and commit to wait for a response. No matter how alone your thoughts have convinced you that you are, there is always someone willing to help!
Now that you’ve got some help, get used to being with people because they aren’t going to leave you alone for a while. It’s okay, this is part of the process. This is, in fact, what you were longing for and could under no circumstances accept. Human connection.
Now this is where I need to address those helping someone recover from any suicidal mind state. The person you’re caring for needs connection, but they don’t want it. You can’t force it on them, or you’ll make the situation much worse. So you need to be present on their terms. This is a commitment that can’t be taken lightly. Make certain you have a strong support structure yourself, and call them in when you need to take a break or cry or scream or hit something. Establish a minimum of communication that the sufferer is willing to commit to. It might be no more than that they promise to knock on the wall in response if they’re okay. If that’s what it takes, they’re alive and getting help. Always let them approach you for more connection, but be ready to provide it quickly when requested. Have ice packs and heating pads ready at all times, and offer both if they indicate that they’re in distress. Please remember, you cannot heal them. You can only support them until they can heal themselves.
My friend, this is where the healing begins. This is where the suffering goes from carrying the weight of the world to carrying the weight of a stone. We start by letting you in on the truth of what’s happening to you. Suffering of this kind always either stems from or creates what I call a soul wound. The soul that lives in your body is like another layer of you but fuzzier around the edges. The soul can be wounded and healed in much the same way as the physical body. The bleeding of these wounds is what we call suffering. It’s a loss of soul energy in the form of emotion.
What you need to recognize and own is that everyone who endures a soul wound is a hero/heroine in the highest sense of the word. You are in good company with warriors, super heroes, mythic figures and legends. It’s the symbology of these characters that will help you to make your ascent up the mountain to find what you’re seeking. It might feel silly, but allow your imagination to play. Playing is how children heal themselves so resiliently. Give yourself permission to try on new beliefs and imagine life in new ways. If anything gets overwhelming, ask for ice or heat and put them on your body. Put them on your head, neck, tummy, or anywhere that you need to. Breathe into the warm or cool sensation and tell yourself that you are safe and that you have this space and time to heal and nothing more.
You might know where these wounds came from or when they started. Or they might seem to have appeared without cause, or may have even been there since before you were born. It’s okay. That’s all a part of the healing process that you’re starting on. Expect resistance. Your soul has been operating with a gaping wound, and probably for quite some time. Resistance is like scar tissue for the soul. It comes up and gives us something to push against so we don’t feel like we’re always falling forward. When you want to give up and tell everyone to bugger off, recognize the resistance, thank it for being there and gently push against it. In the same way that massage can help break up scar tissue in healing muscles, emotional/mental/spiritual work with a qualified healer will help you to move the resistance gently.
This is where things come full circle for me. Part of my healing journey (well, let’s face it, pretty much all of my healing journey) took the form of a set of healing modalities known as Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy. My resistance was epic. It’s still with me. Sometimes I’m even thankful for it. Not often. After getting through the initial block, though, something about the work we were doing and the connections we were forming with each other resonated with the oldest and deepest part of my soul. It rattled my wounds and made me hurt all over. It nearly took my breath away. I found that my journey had been laid out to prepare me to be the kind of healer that those who saved my life had been. I had to stay alive, suffering or not, because I needed to help other souls find healing. I found that my life’s purpose was to suffer love.
At the start of your journey you will want to know if the suffering stops. And the answer is…sometimes, and those times become even more precious because of the suffering. The poet Rumi says, “the wound is the place where the light enters you”. The suffering becomes a growth edge, like the sutures of a newborn’s skull. It isn’t a comfortable experience. The light enters you and you feel like you’re going to burst. And you do. You burst out of yourself with a little more light than you had before.
The tools you gain on your journey help make the suffering a sacred experience. In Latin, the word passus means to suffer. This is where we get the word passion. For centuries mystics from all the major faith traditions have equated suffering and divine love. The suffering drives me towards connection, and for the love of each soul I connect with, I endure. This is not as far out of your reach as your thinking mind is telling you.
I recognize that this has become a bit lengthy, and this is where most writings that read like this would make their sales pitch. I hate sales pitches. They never feel genuine. But as I said before, you are going to need a qualified healer. I happen to be a qualified healer, and I happen to know a number of very qualified healers around the country (who are NOT paying me to write this). We make our living offering our experience and our connection to people in situations like yours. In my practice I offer all potential clients a free 30-minute consultation (in person, or via Skype) to give them a chance to talk, address their questions and concerns, and feel out whether we can relate to one another. Some of my colleagues have similar offers. Most of us have hourly rates that are comparable to other therapists in our respective areas, and some may even qualify for health insurance reimbursement.
If this article came up for you in a desperate Google search, or someone sent it to you because they’re worried about you, or anything that I’ve said here resonated with you, feel free to give me a call or drop me an email. I’d be happy to schedule a consultation, recommend a colleague, or help connect you with other resources.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.
May all beings be happy and free.