INSIDE A SUICIDAL MINDMar 04, 2022
The issue of suicide has laid heavy on my heart since our friends lost their son to suicide. His death has devastated his loved ones including me, and I never actually got to meet him.
In my book ‘The Orange Hue’, I open up about my own experiences with suicidal thoughts. However, in September 2019, over a two week period, I spiraled into a horrifically dark place in my mind. I battled thoughts that literally make me feel sick in the pit of my stomach. Thoughts that I so desperately wanted to replace with anything less harrowing. It’s felt as though a cloud has been following me. No hope in sight. No reprieve. No relief and no answers.
Reading news reports of those who have committed suicide can send you into a spin with the mind blurting out thoughts like “If THEY have quit, what hope do I have?”
My husband was extremely concerned about my well-being and after the two week spiral, said the following words to me that struck a chord. “Maybe you are going through this to help someone else.”
I knew it to be true the instant he said it. I’ve dedicated my life to coaching and speaking into the lives of others. My focus has always been outward. Yet here I am, wallowing in despair, with no justifiable reason to end my life.
Sure, I’ve experienced seasons that have brought with it it’s own share of trauma. However, my family is still intact, I have a beautiful roof over my head and two delightful pets who have joined our dwelling. I have food on the table and clothes on my back. I have a church community whom I love, I have joy, laughter and absolutely no reason to throw it all away.
Since my husband’s statement, the cloud slowly lifted and I regained clarity at last. I must now share with you what I have learned. My prayer is that this not only helps those of you who are suicidal, but those of you who are loved ones who want to be better equipped to understand the mind of one who is suicidal.
Suicide itself is not the issue. We say we need to ‘prevent suicide’ but you cannot prevent someone who is suicidal, to simply not commit suicide. It doesn’t solve the underlying issues. It only delays the suffering.
It’s like begging an alcoholic to stop drinking alcohol. They may stop for a moment to appease you, but the cravings will hit at some point. They won’t be able to help themselves.
Until the individual decides that they want to quit, and positions themselves to get the help they need to deal with the addiction, then do they truly stand a chance to be free. Part of the rehabilitation and healing process however, is to get to the root cause of the addiction in the first place.
It’s the same with someone who is suicidal. You may be picking up signs of anxiety or depression in your loved one and so you try and find things to make them laugh. You take them out on dates and do as much fun oriented activities as possible, in the hope that it will fix the problem. All it does is put a bandaid on an infectious wound. Sure they may laugh and come across like they are ‘getting over it’ but deep down, the same sinister thoughts rage in the undercurrent. Though currently suppressed, will rear its ugly head at some opportune point in the future.
Suicide itself is not the issue. It’s what’s behind it that needs addressing.
I believe the two underlying causes of suicide are:
A sense of hopelessness.
A sense of fear.
Unfortunately the escalation of hopelessness and fear can result in a very sudden decision to end ones life. Take for example those who are seen jumping from the Twin Towers on 9/11. The world sat in front of their televisions that fateful day, watching horrors unfold that we never envisioned possible. What about the innocent ones caught up in the terror? Those who jumped would have made that decision in a split second and acted.
The escalation of hopelessness and fear can also be slow and gradual which means there is a risk of one’s spiral going unnoticed. We experienced this when our son was diagnosed with a life threatening disease. No one saw it coming. He went from being a perfectly healthy boy to his body shutting down in a matter of days. The same applies when someone dies of suicide. The most frequented words of those who remain are “We didn’t see it coming”. However, it didn’t just start with a suicidal thought. You have to rewind.
Whether the hopelessness stems from the past, or is related to the present, hopelessness convinces you that there is no getting over this. Be it some sort of abuse that an individual feels too embarrassed to talk about, or undue stress to get certain results or to be a certain person, …the pressure builds and builds internally.
My own son battled with suicidal thoughts and through the process of rewinding and getting to the bottom of the root cause, we discovered that for him, it was the trauma of his diagnosis. The ‘not knowing what was ahead’, the inability to control the outcome and feeling like he didn’t have the courage to face it, is what led him down the path of suicidal thoughts.
The mind shifts from the trauma/challenge, to simply wanting to escape it. Unfortunately these thoughts of escape overwhelm you. They literally suffocate. I remember the feeling of my chest tightening as I envisioned myself taking my own life. Not only do the thoughts of death drown your mind, but you also become guilt-ridden. You feel so ashamed for entertaining such thoughts. There is no way you can talk about it to anyone and gradually the thoughts overtake you, becoming all the more intense, that you end up coming to the conclusion that the only escape from your own mind; is to end your life.
What shifted things for me, resulting in me being able to sit here and share this with you, was the fact that my husband could see that I was spiralling. He knew I wasn’t okay and would not let it rest. He didn’t harass me, but he did sit me down and express his concern. He gave me an opportunity to talk. Bottling things up is so destructive. We are communicative beings, designed for companionship and when we harbour our struggles internally, we go into self-destruct mode.
We not only need educating on the power of the mind and the need for open and honest communication, but also on being able to identify the mental and emotional condition of our loved ones. We cannot leave this to the Doctors and Psychologists. We also cannot leave it to those who are suffering to figure it out alone.
We as humans need to know we have a safe place to be real. To talk about the sludge and grind of life. A place where it won’t be brushed aside, but where we are taken seriously and will be given the tools to help us navigate life.
So what do you do when Mom doesn’t seem her normal chirpy herself? She’s quieter than usual. (Or whatever else you pick up that doesn’t seem quite right). There ARE signs but often they go unnoticed.
Well I hope the following steps help you as they have me:
For those who are suicidal:
👉Break the silence and admit that you are suicidal. Keeping it quiet is extremely dangerous.
👉Be willing to do the journey. Even if not for you, do it for your loved ones. The idea that they will get over the loss of you is a lie.
👉Contact your local Doctor, book an appointment and tell him/her that you are battling with suicidal thoughts and need help.
👉Ask your Doctor to refer you to a psychologist/counsellor. You know yourself better than your Doctor does. Don’t wait for him/her to come up with the idea of further support. You know what you need.
👉Then GO. Don’t just get the referral to the psychologist/counsellor. Actually GO.
👉 The best thing you can do is TALK. Be open and brutally honest.
👉Remember: One day at a time. This is a gradual process so take the self-imposed-pressure off that you need to fix things quickly. There’s no KPI to your recovery. Your mental and emotional well-being is what matters here.
For the loved ones:
❤️ Regularly check in to see how your family and friends are tracking. We live in a time where everyone is glued to their gadgets. Gather over a family meal, take your girl out for a walk, grab a cuppa with a friend and ask the question ‘...And how are you really doing’? Don’t be ashamed to delve deeper.
❤️ If and when your family member wants to talk - L I S T E N. The last thing they want is a list of things that you think they should do. You cannot fix this. All you can do is be there for them and love them through it.
❤️ If there is risk of immediate danger, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
❤️ If there is no immediate danger but you know that things are not right, ask if you can book them an appointment with their Doctor and offer to go with them. Just being there to show your support helps.
❤️ Follow through. This is very important. Support them today but support them tomorrow and the next. Lifeline says “Stay involved” which is covered in their Tool Kit: Helping someone at risk of suicide.
❤️ Remember - this is a gradual process and so you must be willing to do the journey alongside.
❤️ Look after yourself. Check in with your own heart and mind now and then to make sure you are tracking good, and are in a healthy place. It’s like being in an emergency situation on a flight and having to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs. If you need support as a loved one, reach out to your own Doctor, Psychologist, Pastor or Friend whom you know will honour and respect confidentiality but will be a listening ear for you also.
During my own struggle, my husband asked if I had listened to my song “New Scars Heal” any time recently. To be honest, when producing a song, you hear it so often that by the time you get it out to the general public, you’ve over-listened to it and so you shift your attentions to the next project. But I have to say, I didn’t put it on and wow, it spoke straight into my soul. New scars really do heal. Listen intently to the words and I pray that it ministers to you the same way it did me, just when I needed it most.
I’ll close with this:
The season you are in right now will not last forever. You have come this far which shows that there is tenacity within. It tells me that you are well able to rise above the storm. Rally your loved ones and talk things through. Do not ignore signs of struggle. Mental and emotional wellness is critical in these crazy days we live in. Ditch any thoughts of shame and ask for help if you need it. It will strengthen and equip you and you will come out stronger and in a far better position to help others. ❤️ Nx
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