Suicide is a scary topic. Despite living with suicidal thoughts for over 10 years, it’s still frightening to acknowledge them as part of my existence. But that’s the effect of the stigma that needs breaking when it comes to long term suicidal ideation.There is a fair amount of self-help content around suicidal thoughts, which references them as short term and fleeting. Often they are; something you may experience once in the depths of a deep depression.But what about the nagging, intrusive suicidal thoughts that follow you around year after year, rearing their head whenever they feel like it. If you experience this type of thought, I am genuinely sorry. You aren’t the only one. Unfortunately, depression is a very recurrent disorder. If you experience it once, you are likely to experience it again. This suggests that chronic suicidal thoughts are more of a problem than the online mental health sphere would suggest. Nothing can replace therapy to get the source of your chronic suicidal thoughts. Still, I tended to rely on my own methods to survive crisis moments of self-harm thoughts. These methods helped me manage my suicidal thoughts long enough for the right therapy to work, so I’m sharing them.Full disclaimer: This is not medical advice, but things that have helped me personally. In a crisis, please seek immediate attention via 999 or Samaritans 116 123.
Here are some things to consider if you are experiencing long term suicidal thoughts:1. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, sit. If you can’t sit, just breathe.Sometimes suicidal thoughts are so loud that you can’t move. You can’t pick up the phone for help; you can’t get to the bathroom to splash your face with water. You lie there too scared to move in case you hurt yourself. So, in these moments, just breathe. Forget about productivity or responsibility or anything else causing you to feel guilty. Survival is the priority, and anything else is too much anyway. Just breathe. It’s your only job until the wave has passed.2. The idea that ‘you’re not alone’ never really helped, but stories of survivors do.When people say ‘you’re not alone’, they mean well. But in terrible moments, it’s just a reminder that many people are in excruciating pain — not particularly encouraging.But the idea that others have felt this and come out the other side… Now that is helpful. When I was overwhelmed by suicidal intrusions, I read this website: https://livethroughthis.org.It’s a collection of stories of people who have survived suicidal thoughts, why they stayed alive, and why it was worth it. It got me through some terrible nights when all else failed and is genuinely inspiring.3. If you are reading this, there’s a part of you with the will to live.Sometimes, in the depths of my spirals, I would google ‘how to cope with suicidal thoughts’ or something similar. Reaching into the ether for help, a silver bullet, a sentence that could take the pain away. Even when I didn’t find anything helpful, I recognised that the act of asking meant I ultimately wanted to live. Any act of asking for help, be it starting therapy or calling crisis lines or googling, means you want to know how to survive. Which means you don’t want to die.It doesn’t make it easy. But when the thoughts are screaming, remember the part of you that’s holding on.4. Try to recognise the thoughts as a coping mechanism.If you experience suicidal thoughts regularly as I did, there’s a high chance it’s the place your brain has learnt to go to for protection. For me, it went something like: emotional overwhelm — suicidal thoughts. Bad day — suicidal thought. Flashback — suicidal thought. See a train — suicidal thought. Everything and nothing would trigger an intrusion.So I started telling myself that suicidal thinking meant my brain was overwhelmed and not that I actually wanted to die. It helped me separate from the thought and see it as a biological reaction. A suicidal thought meant I needed to attend to myself emotionally and be self-compassionate. Thinking this way didn’t always work at first, but as I practised, it became a go-to defence mechanism. Emotional awareness can help you build new neuronal pathways to replace the suicidal ideation stress response.