Note: This is, first and foremost, a personal thinkpiece about living with, and interacting with, my own suicidal ideology, followed by resources that have helped me cope. Though I hope my sharing these things helps, the following is not meant to specifically address acute crisis. If you are in immediate danger, please consider these 10 places to ask for help.
The Dark Passenger
Suicidal ideology has been a part of my world for as long as I can actively remember. Much of my art and theatrical works 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. It’s been this way for me since I was 8. Confusingly at first, I have 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 now measurable imbalances in our gut-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 much more vehemently for all people to have de-stigmatized, unfettered free access to food, clothing, shelter, water, safe touch, trauma recovery support, medication, and the profound power of simple human witness to enable them to better live their lives while they are alive.
It’s a public health crisis that so many of us are lacking so many of these things, or are in a constant state of anxious scarcity regarding them.
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 connecting while in psychic crisis, and how woefully unprepared friends, family, and general public are to interact effectively with someone having these thoughts at all – letalone chronically.
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 stringent acceptability dictated by a narrow-minded few. 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 rest of the natural world and each other.
Unnecessary, manufactured hardships are seen as personal failures in an economy that literally eats people and in which we also have to find a way to function. The ‘help’ that’s available for those of us living outside of the status quo is so often impersonal, and further traumatic, and that’s just for those of us who have access to it. 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. Most U.S. suicides are carried out by the most privileged of our society – straight, white men. 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 emotional isolation that it is.
And that’s just the tip of my soapbox, dear reader. If you’re feeling suicidal, there are so, SO many things that could be going on.
You may be experiencing the creative result of a lifetime of compounding factors that haven’t been linked together yet.
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 edging into a place of profound knowing that threatens the status quo of your core identity.
Suicidal ideation doesn’t inherently equate to an earnest request for life to end. The suicide voice means only certainty that something currently feels overwhelmingly wrong, not that it is ones destiny to die of that wrongness.
If you do only one thing differently after reading this, please consider that perhaps your suicidal voice, painful as it is to bear, is not a part of your being that is meant to be taken literally.
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, suicidal thoughts.
It’s meant to serve as a resource for the suicidal like me, and as a resource for those concerned about someone struggling in their life. I’m really glad you’re here and hopefully about to read through it. This little project has even saved my own butt a few times, when I’ve remembered to read it.
Take Care Of You.
Post this printable and excellent self care checklist somewhere you’ll see it often
Take action to help yourself when you feel like Shit with this step-by-step self care guide for people who have trouble recognizing their internal signals.
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.
Here’s 26 times the above advice actually worked, as told by those suffering the mental illness.
Read up on 21 tips for keeping your shit together (when you’re depressed).
Browse 81 mental health resources for when you can’t afford a therapist.
Take a break in The Quiet Place.
Soothe your harsh inner voice by taking in a shamanic view of what’s going on.
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 often accompanying suicidal thoughts.
Try a guided self care app like Headspace, which has meditation, movement, focus, and sleep, and offers a variety of free content without subscription fee.
Dispel The Myths
We’ve all been taught tremendously harmful myths regarding the nature of those who suffer from depression and suicidal ideology, many of which you yourself may unconsciously hold without realizing how ridiculous they are — like that suicide is a choice, or that dying of suicide is selfish.
Start with a quick read describing these five myths, and these basic guidelines about careful and respectful methods of speaking about suicide to avoid unknowingly contributing to stigmatization.
Or, if you’re feeling bad yourself right now, maybe start here instead at a page that saved my own life, once.
Head Off Immediate Crisis Online.
This may sound morbid to you, and I hope that honestly it does: According to the World Health Organization, reported suicides claim the life of one person every 40 seconds.
If you are suicidal right now, you aren’t only just in real danger, you’re also not alone. Chat with someone right now at IMAlive.org
Use a Hot (or warm) Line
I know. For many of us, this is the worst sounding thing ever when in crisis. I was suicidal the bulk of 30 years, having been a mental health advocate for many of them, before I finally called myself. Here’s an article regarding what hotlines are actually like if you haven’t gone there yet. Sometimes, just reading this helps me without having to call!
For us queer folk specifically, Trans Lifeline is trans-lead and available at 1-877-565-8860 in the US, 1-877- 330-6366 in Canada, and just launched their Spanish extension last July.
For y’all youngin’ queers, The Trevor Project is available by phone 1-866-488-7386, or texting “START” to 678678
1-800-273-8255 is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States, free 24/7 for people in suicidal crisis, distress, AND for those needing to talk to someone about how to help a person in crisis (if you’re from another place, know the number for yours).
The 24/7 Crisis Text Line is reachable by texting “Hello” to 741741 in the US/Canada, 85258 in the UK, and 50808 in Ireland.
You’re Not Alone; So 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 trying, even just once, attending a suicide bereavement support group, or otherwise enroll others, in person, in helping you maintain social accountability.
Up Your Self Talk Game.
I have been able to soften my internal voice over time and catch my descents more quickly by learning about things like compassionate listening, nonviolent communication and mirroring techniques. Exploring these and other similar things may enable you to develop self talk skills that can help you move through acute suicidal ideology by allowing 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 your own, and remember; at every 40 seconds, it’s impossible to be alone.
If your loved one has been diagnosed or believes they suffer from a specific mental illness, learn everything you can about that illness. Take an interest in why that shoe fits them.
Don’t Wait For Others To Reach Out
Suicidal people are in hiding and often simply can’t reach out in the same ways as we might when we are well.
If you are concerned or seeing signs, please, please gently ask the person if they are suicidal directly.
It is a myth that simply bringing up the subject will give a person the idea to attempt suicide.
This is the most frustrating lack of suicide awareness to me, as so very few seem to do this even when they know to or I have directly asked this of my support network. In my experience, the fastest way to break through to me when I am in danger is to ask me point blank if I’m suicidal, and the research supports my personal gnosis. Ask.
Ideas of Things To Say
“I care about you, and I’d really like to come visit you after work tonight if that’s ok?”
“Hey. Sorry it’s been a minute since we hung out; I’ve been thinking about you! I noticed some signs you’ve mentioned, and I know you sometimes get really super depressed; are you doing ok lately? Have you been suicidal?”
*When a text exchange is clearly turning into a real conversation*
“Hey, can I call you? I’d really like to hear your voice and want you to be able to hear me, too”
“I recognize your crisis. I am here with you and listening” (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.)
“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be going through what you are right now. I am so glad you are talking to me about this!”
Seek Out Established Advocates
For a couple examples of where to start, check out Live Through This project, run by suicide attempt survivor Dese’rae L. Stage and Left Behind By Suicide (Collateral Damage) by Scott Crisholm.
But there are others, too, who are not identified as suicide prevention advocates, but are doing that work indirectly, like Brené Brown in her research on shame and vulnerability, and the ongoing research into addiction that includes the Rat Park experiment.
All around you, there are people fighting for you, and for themselves, even when it does not feel that way.
To someone suffering from suicidal thoughts I invariably say; of course you are suicidal. Of course you feel like dying. That is the normal, natural response when pain outweighs ones ability to cope.
Recovery, however, can only happen within a living person, so
Be Gay, Do Crime, and Remember the Breathing, and Go Drink Some Water <3
You’re worth healing for,