Note: This is, first and foremost, a personal thinkpiece about living with, and interacting with, my own suicidal ideology. Though I hope my sharing these things helps, the following is not meant to address acute crisis. If you are in immediate danger, please consider these 10 places to ask for help.
Additionally, this is a living document which is edited periodically. If you think you remember seeing something here that is different now, you’re probably right!
Suicidal ideology has been a part of my world for as long as I can actively remember. Much of my art and theatrical works (like the obsidian show) revolve around my lived experience seeing through that veil.
I’ve attempted suicide multiple times in my life and still, at nearly 40 years old, experience periods of intense suicidal depression. Confusingly at first, I eventually found that suicidal ideation doesn’t always present like the dramatic depictions we are familiar with, manifesting simply in those critical deciding moments of loss that we most fear, or in chronic and measurable chemical imbalances in our brains.
I can broadly attest that, contrary to the limited and stigmatized narrative of how suicidal thoughts present and what they mean about you, ones relationship with suicide can be incredibly complicated and nuanced, can be a teacher and a guide (like anger), and can evolve drastically over time… provided that time, is, you know. Lived.
I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.
I believe that the culture of silence around death should be broken through discussion, gatherings, art, innovation, and scholarship.
I believe that talking about and engaging with my inevitable death is not morbid, but displays a natural curiosity about the human condition.
I believe that the dead body is not dangerous, and that everyone should be empowered (should they wish to be) to be involved in care for their own dead.
I believe that the laws that govern death, dying and end-of-life care should ensure that a person’s wishes are honored, regardless of sexual, gender, racial or religious identity.
I believe that my death should be handled in a way that does not do great harm to the environment.
I believe that my family and friends should know my end-of-life wishes, and that I should have the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.
I believe that my open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference, and can change culture.
While I advocate for each individual to have agency over their death as well as their life, I advocate more vehemently for all people to have unstigmatized, unfettered access to food, clothing, shelter, water, safe touch, trauma recovery skills, mental health support, medications, grief recovery support, and the profound power of simple human witness to enable them to better live their lives while they are alive.
We live in a world of inescapable oppression dynamics that rob us of our uniqueness and authenticity, a world out to get anyone who dares stray from a narrow acceptability dictated by a narrow minded few. Unnecessary, manufactured hardships are seen as personal failures. So-called modern civilization has heinously cost many their lives, families, land, and trust. It has cost those who succeed within its rigid structures their connection to the natural world and each other.
I rarely talk with someone in the grips of a suicidal crisis and honestly think ‘this doesn’t make sense’ — particularly when taking into consideration the nature of trauma on the brain, the nature of unprocessed emotions on the body, the barriers to completing grief, and how woefully unprepared friends, family, and general public are to help deal effectively with these thoughts.
I have found that there are an untold number of legitimate, yet atmospherically minimized, reasons to feel hopeless, despondent, and like fucking dying.
The contemplation of suicide, as we witness again and again, while falsely presented as weakness or indication of being less than, ultimately knows no economic or social bounds. No one is immune, and the ultimately illbegotten supremacy of ‘success’ itself brings its own forms of socially invisible trauma not widely understood or recognized for the soul crushing isolation that it is.
If you’re feeling suicidal, there are so, SO many things that could be going on.
You may even be tapping into a place of profound knowing that threatens the status quo of your core identity.
You may, actually be threatening to grow beyond your current capacity to even imagine yourself, thus setting off your most primal coping mechanisms.
You may be feeling the collective grief of a world in constant tragedy, contributing to and compounding your individual struggles.
You may be experiencing the creative result of a lifetime of compounding factors both limiting your view of and forcing your urgent commitment to addressing the suffering you see and feel.
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
― David Foster Wallace
Suicidal ideation doesn’t inherently equate to an earnest request for life to end. If you do only one thing differently after reading this, please put an immediate stop to taking your suicidal ideation literally. The suicide voice means only that something is currently overwhelmingly wrong, not that it is ones destiny to choose to die of that wrongness.
Here is an incomplete reference list of relatively simple, low cost, or free things I’ve found helpful to both survive as well as better understand my own lifetime relationship with suicide, suicidal thoughts, and my resulting mental health advocacy.
It’s meant to serve both as a reference list for the suicidal, and for those concerned about someone struggling in their life.
If you have a suggestion for something you think should be on here, or you see something that appears amiss for some reason, please email me.
Take Care Of You.
* Printable, and excellent, self care checklist.
* Take an Inventory of your body and give your mind a rest.
* Explore the wisdom of your Vulnerability and Shame
* If you are in an abusive relationship, and are not ready to leave, please read this unique and vital perspective.
* Kitty Stryker talks about her 10 ways to help someone who is suicidal
* 26 times that advice actually worked, as told by those suffering the mental illness.
* 21 tips for keeping your shit together (when you’re depressed)
* 81 Mental Health Resources when you can’t afford a therapist.
* Take a break in The Quiet Place
* Try this interactive self care game that incorporates many of the suggestions mentioned in the resources above in a format that can help with the paralyzation that often accompanies suicidal thoughts.
* Browse some of the books that initially helped me
Dispel The Myths,
many of which you yourself may unconsciously hold, that we’ve all been taught regarding the nature of the people who suffer from depression and suicidal ideology (including if that person is you.). You can read more personal accounts of this here, and here.If you are an advocate who writes about suicide, you can also read the basic guidelines about careful and respectful methods of speaking about suicide at http://reportingonsuicide.org/ to avoid unknowingly contributing to stigmatization.
is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the United States (if you’re from another place, know the number for yours). Be unafraid to use it or provide it, even if you don’t know what else to say; ESPECIALLY if you don’t know what else to say. HOTLINE PRO-TIPS: If you happen to be able to sense your suicidal crisis’ on the horizon, consider using this resource BEFORE you’re fully there, and for reference, here’s an article regarding what hotlines are actually like if you’ve never called one
Head Off Immediate Crisis Online
Don’t go it alone.
Solitude is a fertile ground when leveraged intentionally, but isolation is a greenhouse for hopelessness, and the internet is an insidious perpetrator of it. Consider, even once, attending a suicide bereavement support group or otherwise enroll others, in person, in your struggle.
Up Your Self Talk Game
Learn about things like compassionate listening, nonviolent communication and mirroring techniques. Exploring these may enable you to develop self talk skills that can help you move through acute suicidal ideology and allow your inner voice to change over time. As you may have already discovered, a person who is contemplating ending their life often simply needs to be acknowledged and heard authentically to turn the moment around; your having skills in effective listening could save a life other than yours, too.
I have intense skepticism regarding westernized mental health diagnosis and the brutality of brain medications; However, I’ve also relied on these things myself at times to cope and continue to live. In my experience, the multiple diagnosis’ I’ve received throughout my life as my mental health has ebbed, flowed, and developed, provided context and a container to manage the symptoms I was having at the time. If your loved one has been diagnosed or believes they suffer from a specific mental illness, learn everything you can about that illness and why the shoe fits them. Seek especially information that falls in within the guidelines at http://reportinsonsuicide.org and/or cites legitimate medical sources.
Don’t Wait For Others To Reach Out
Suicidal people are in hiding. If you are concerned, gently ask the person if they are suicidal. It is a myth that simply bringing up the subject will give a person the idea to attempt suicide.
Use Your Words
DO NOT SAY: “I don’t believe you’ll do it” – “I know how you feel” – “It can’t be that bad” – “You’re being selfish” – “I just don’t understand you.”
DO SAY: “I recognize your crisis. I am here with* you and listening” – “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I am so glad you are talking to me about it.” (Using ‘with’ maintains the persons autonomy and empowerment while leaving room for you to simply be present, without having to be doing anything ‘for’ them.)
Reach Out To Established Advocates
Remember the Breathing
It simply can’t be understated how important it is for our society to get over our irrational fears, avoidance and unreasonable notions regarding depression, death, suicide, grief, recovery from acute as well as generational losses, and what those things actually look like.