ON COPING MECHANISMS:
Everything a suicidal person does is a coping mechanism, even things that don’t seem directly related. Because suicide equals death, everything that is not death is a coping mechanism for avoiding death. Suicidal people are often portrayed as being passive in their own recoveries—this is wrong. Suicidal people are strong and dedicated to their own survival. Even hurtful things like feeling shame for being suicidal and fear of death are your bodies attempts to stay alive.
ON AGGREGATE PAIN THEORY (accumulation of many smaller pains into overwhelming suicidal pain):
The reason it is important to consult many others and many resources when experiencing suicidal pain is because suicidal pain and suicidal feelings are the result of many different pains put together. One person can’t be an expert on every single type of pain, so to understand and treat all the pains that add up to suicidal feelings it’s necessary to have a resource for each pain. eg. with things like PTSD, depression, losing a close friend last year, abusive relationship, frustration with school and not being where I want to be PLUS health problems like hypoglycaemia, GERD, and chronic pain—there is no one person who is an expert on all of these, no one book or resource can help me understand all of these things that cause me pain, and all of those pains contribute to suicidal pain. So, in dealing with suicidal pain I need resources to help me deal with each individual pain. Understanding or treating individual pains = coping resource for those pains = keeping the balance of pain and coping resources = preventing suicide.
ON SUICIDE IN MEDIA:
Because a mention of suicide in the media is almost always a completed suicide (no news reports for attempted suicides or recoveries), people with and without suicidal pain view it as something from which there is no recovery and it becomes even more stigmatised . In reality, most people who experience suicidal pain survive. Then, because of the stigma, people who have even recovered completely won’t talk about recovery or having ever been suicidal because being suicidal is viewed as weak, selfish or criminal, and they wouldn’t want to be associated with it after recovery any more than wanting to be associated with a criminal record. And it’s not just emotional stigma, it’s palpable discrimination—being denied jobs and certain medical treatments etc. So, the stigma and portrayal of suicide in media makes survivors not want to talk about it, and survivors not talking about it enforces the media portrayal of there being no recovery from being suicidal, which is dangerous to people having suicidal thoughts because it makes them feel that there is definitely no hope.
ON GETTING HELP FROM PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT YOU (ie. the people who don’t dump you when they find out you’re sick, unfortunately sometimes you’ve no idea who these people are until you tell them):
“I don’t want to cause others pain/make them worry by telling them about my problems” —> People who care about you probably notice that something is wrong but don’t know how or if they should bring it up. This worrying is causing them pain but they don’t know or understand what to do. When they know about/understand your illness, the people who actually care about you will be in pain because they worry about you, but less pain because now they understand what’s happening and they can learn to help you properly, and because in confiding in them you’ve made them feel that they are sensitive people that you trust. People who actually care about you need to know what they can do to help if they want to help, because they’re not doctors or specialists—they can’t fix the problem but they can help in other ways, support and affection and just being around etc.
Because everything a suicidal person does is a coping mechanism, friends just being friendly like normal are an important resource. If you had an illness like cancer, friends would be there to support you and it would hurt them because they’re worried for you, but them worrying is not your fault and your illness is not something that should have to be hidden to protect their feelings. Friends can help cope with physical illness without actually being able to treat it by being supportive, same with mental illness. Discussing illness with people who really care about you is probably less painful for them that not knowing what they can do to help, it will also probably make them feel sensitive and important, and it will help them see that they can also discuss their own pain with others or with you which is a valuable coping resource for them.
Some people will reject you outright. Some people will acknowledge suicidal pain but then try to control your behaviour because it makes them uncomfortable. Some people will be like “oh okay” and then never mention it again because they don’t know how to handle it, but even their normal friendly presence and not having to actively hide your feelings/illness from them can be valuable support.
People are basically terrified and clueless about suicide so it’s reasonable not to expect them to be able to handle scary things, EXCEPT MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. Your doctor’s job is to help you and if you feel like you aren’t getting help from your doctor it’s THEIR failure, not yours. You have the right to expect proper, helpful treatment for depression and suicidal pain, just as you would for any physical condition. Since not all doctors can be knowledgable about everything, it is your right to have a doctor who understands your condition and can treat it effectively. It will probably take multiple tries to find a “specialist” who knows what they’re doing with suicide issues, but this can be true for getting help for even really straightforward, non-stigmatised health problems. It is not your fault if a doctor doesn’t know how to help you, and it doesn’t mean that doctors in general can’t help you.
I was looking though the Panic Diary I’ve been keeping since 2010 to help me get through suicidal episodes and other moments of severe distress because it’s almost full now. Lately I write in it only rarely, which is a good thing. It’s a pretty fun read, I mean, in a really sad and incoherent way. But I did find in between the scrawling and unsavoury stains some actual useful information about dealing with suicidal pain that I’d written out in 2010, which I want to post because the “omg don’t do it you are beautiful people care about you” that is the typical tumblr suicide prevention post, while sweet and helpful, is not really very practical applicable advice. Despite being the most coherent thing in my diary probably it’s still pretty rambling, but, here it is.
Whenever I write anything about suicide I’m emotionally torn between wanting lots of people to see it in case it helps someone and wanting no one to see it because talking about suicide always gets me the nastiest harassment messages in my ask box. It’s like, I will write you an essay about suicide stigma and hostility towards people with mental illnesses but every time I get any of that I’m still just “why are you being mean to meeee ): ):”, haha.
depression comix #89
Please read the Spoon Theory, a simple and relatable way to explain the low energy levels of a chronic pain or mental illness.
A right to an equal share in the allocation of healthcare, educational and research resources.
A right to have counsellors who are trained and supported in their work with the suicidal.
A right to not be suspended from school or job. A prior suicidal condition is not a legitimate basis for discrimination.
A right to have police officers, counsellors, and administration be educated about the legal rights of suicidal people.
A right to better protection against detainment and restraint without sufficient cause.
A right to not be manipulated for the benefit of the non-suicidal.
A right to not be a scapegoat.
A right to reject abusive treatment.
A right to put an end to conversations with people who seek to demean, abuse, and humiliate the suicidal.
A right to reject demands to justify one’s condition, feelings, or beliefs.
A right to reject the judgmental labels of others.
A right to not be blamed for being suicidal.
A right to not be interrupted, corrected, or informed when trying to express or reach an understanding of one’s condition.
A right to serious attention at all stages of a suicidal condition.
A right to a plurality of recovery programs.
A right to non-judgmental and supportive counselling for each condition that is a source of pain.
A right to ask for what is needed for recovery.
A right to not have to suffer to get what one needs.
A right to as much time as needed to find and pursue a path to recovery.
A right to have one’s self and one’s problems seen as part of life, not as alien entities. A right to acceptance within the human race.
A right to be treated as a person in pain, not as a moral outcast. A right to not be approached with a presumption of distrust and suspicion.
A right to not be seen as permanently damaged or unreliable.
A right to not be blamed if the honest expression of suicidal feelings causes others to feel uncomfortable. A right to not be seen as the cause of those uncomfortable feelings.
A right to one’s feelings and beliefs, and to express them in one’s own way.
A right to be what one is.
A right to reject demands to apologise for being oneself.
A right to be with people who are supportive, rather than abusive.
A right to reject demands to be perfect.
A right to become a new self, rather than an expectation to return to an old self.
A right to set limits.
A right to not be held responsible for another person’s problems.
A right to say no, without shame, to demands to do things that one is not yet ready to do.
A right to change one’s mind and elect different courses of action.
A right to make mistakes.
A right to be seen as someone who can be helpful to others who are in pain, and to share what one has learned with others.
Out of the Nightmare: Recovery from Depression and Suicidal Pain by David L. Conroy, Ph. D. (emphasis mine)
“Campione,” she said from the doorway.
He spoke some words she didn’t understand. He cut himself in yet another place.
“Bad?” she asked.
He answered her again in that other tongue. But at least he laid the knife aside as the words came pouring out of him, thick and fast and liquid.
“I understand,” she said; “I understand.”
“You don’t.” He looked at her. “You cannot.”
“You’re hurt,” she said. He shrugged, and ran his thumb over the shallow cuts he’d made, as if to erase them. “No, hurt inside. You see what is not bearable to see. I know.”
“I see it in my mind,” he muttered. “So clear—so clear—clear and bad, I see.”
She came behind him, now, and touched his arms. “Is there no medicine for your grief?”
He folded his face between her breasts, hearing her living heartbeat.
“Can I cure you, Campione?”
And he said, “No.”
“Can I try?” she asked.
And he said, “Try.”
Ellen Kushner, The Man With the Knives
The point is that a person is driven to suicide by a whole bunch of different things, which build a wall around them, piece by piece, until the last piece falls into place and the wall is sealed so that there’s no way out. Sometimes we look at all the problems that build up someone’s wall of hopelessness and think there’s no way any of the insignificant things we could do would be able to take it all down. But to break the illusion of there being no way out, you don’t need to take down the whole wall, you just need to make one crack in it. One puppy lick, one phone call from Laila Ali, one corny song, one Internet stranger, one old Australian guy asking if you want to come in for a cup of tea.
And one crack in that wall might be all it takes to turn things around and begin the long, tough job of tearing the whole thing down.
the Art of suicide, pretty and clean, conveys a theatrical scene:
“Alas, I’m gone!” she cried, ankles displayed, melodramatically laid
under the arches of moonlight and sky
Oh my god, are you fucking kidding me? Two sides to what? Of course we both suck at communicating, that is why we fight every day over small things even though we care about each other. But “serious, hurtful”? Do you know what’s “serious, hurtful”?
Saying you hate a commercial about self-esteem because it shows “those immigrants” (i.e., non-white people) instead of “normal Canadians” and “people who are actually from here” (i.e., white people) is serious and hurtful.
Disregarding the personal space of someone with a history of sexual assault because you feel she’s overreacting and you’re entitled to touch her whenever you want is serious and hurtful.
Using ableist slurs like “retard” over and over even after being told by the person you share a house with why they’re extremely hurtful to her is serious and hurtful.
Saying that you’re suspicious of a gay couple adopting a son because they’re probably pedophiles is serious and hurtful. Saying that you resent the use of the word “gay” to mean homosexual because you don’t like your middle name being associated with “people who are into that kind of thing” is serious and hurtful. Using the word “sodomites” because you refuse to use the word “gay” is serious and hurtful. Doing this in front of your OPENLY QUEER DAUGHTER is kind of fucking serious and hurtful.
Commenting on how much you dislike seeing people in town using mobility scooters and how if they would “just stop stuffing their faces” they wouldn’t need to use them is serious and hurtful.
Telling your daughter “Oh brother!” when she says she doesn’t feel like her life is worth the air she breaths and that the only reason she avoided killing herself is because she doesn’t have the energy to move is serious and hurtful. Telling her that she needs to “get out more” to cure her depression is serious and hurtful.
Pseudonymously complaining about things that happen in my life on my personal blog to a handul of people who have no idea who I am? Not so fucking much. If someone gets so upset by me calling them out on their bullshit—which I tried to do vaguely, but apparently I have to make a list of specific examples as I’ve done above or you’ll think that I’m maliciously making shit up and that “there are two sides”—then they need to stop the bullshit. It’s not me who needs to stop mentioning it. And considering that I do mention it, as much as I can, up to and including the part where having to live in this situation makes me sick (and she definitely does understand that, being also fairly sick herself of being stuck alone in a house with me)to her face, I don’t really think she’d be surprised to see me complaining. Maybe if she saw it pissed me off enough to actually write it down she’d make an effort to stop instead of writing off my anger as eating too much sugar, and thinking she can get away with shit because I always forgive her, because I’m stuck here and because I love her.
You’d have to think pretty low of both of us to think that I’m going to keep my feelings to myself because they make others upset (sorry, got over that phase by age 17) and to think that she’s so clueless she doesn’t very well know that I’m the kind of person who does not let things slide when they piss me off, and very well know that I love her even though she does things that hurt me. Seriously. “I hope you still care”, my ass.
Hi. First of all, let me apologise for sounding so harsh in my original reply—I’m bad at confrontations so I get very emotional very easily. The reason I felt I absolutely had to reply is because I saw in your profile that you’re seventeen, and I when I was seventeen I would have believed and said almost the exact same things as you, even while I was experiencing suicidal depression myself. Looking back on it now a few years later I realise how much pain that belief caused myself and others, and I wished I could have learned what I did sooner.
Thank you for considering what I wrote. I think being willing to think about it at all makes you a really strong person because most people, including myself, when faced with something very serious or something they don’t agree with have the tendency to just go “Nope! Not going to deal with that!” and completely ignore it. What I wrote didn’t come from assumption, but from years of personal experience dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, and from the experience of medical professionals who have devoted their careers to studying suicide.
I’m very glad you would help loved ones with suicidal thoughts get help—you’re already more informed about suicidal pain and mental illness than a lot of people, because a lot of people still think that having suicidal thoughts is a personal failure that someone needs to overcome on their own. The fact that many people do recover from suicidal depression is something that isn’t discussed enough because the media focuses only on completed suicides, and because the people who have recovered from suicidal pain often don’t want to talk about it because of the stigma of being weak or selfish that surrounds it. But, even if a person experiencing suicidal pain knows that recovery is theoretically possible, it is still almost impossible to imagine it while enduring so much pain. Maybe there’s been a time in your life that you’ve been in so much physical pain from an injury that you forgot what it was like not to be in pain, and couldn’t imagine the pain being gone. Personally, I get cramps when I’m on my period that are so painful that I can’t imagine feeling normal again—even though I know intellectually that the pain will eventually go away. Suicidal pain can be a lot like this. A person with suicidal thoughts may know that recovery is theoretically possible, but the level of pain they feel is so intense they can’t imagine how it could ever possibly go away, and they will think that there is no hope. They don’t think of suicide because they think recovery is too hard, they think of suicide because they feel that recovery is impossible, so there is no point to trying and bringing more pain on themselves.
Many people with suicidal pain do recover. But many people don’t, and that doesn’t make them weak or selfish. It’s just like cancer or any other severe illness: a lot of people with cancer recover, but a lot don’t. The people who die from cancer aren’t weak or selfish or looking for the easy way out—on the contrary, anyone who endures the pain of cancer for any amount of time is extremely strong, whether they recover or not. The same is true of suicidal pain. Enduring such intense pain for any amount of time is an act of strength, and dying from it is not an act of selfishness, but simply the result of a body that has more pain than resources for coping with the pain.
Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to my original comment. ♥
Oh my God. ~doctorconquest, you are one of my favorite people ever. Everything about this rant.
No. Saying suicide is selfish is not an opinion, it is incorrect. Saying suicide is selfish is no more of an opinion than saying clouds are made out of marshmallow. It is not a matter of opinion—it is simply incorrect. It is incorrect because the belief that suicide is selfish stems from the belief that suicide is a conscious choice, which is also incorrect. Suicide is not a choice, it is the result of pain exceeding resources for coping with pain. Suicide is no more a choice than dying of heart failure. When the heart endures more stress than it can handle, it gives out. When the mind endures more stress than it can handle, it gives out. Suicide is no more “selfish” than dying of heart failure.
i know this is meant to be funny and a joke but in my opinion suicide really is selfish. i’m not denying that depression is a terrible, soul-wrenching disorder that can tear people apart. that does not mean that suicide is not selfish. it is the easy, quick way out; it leaves your loved ones alone and to grieve over someone who left way before their time.
The point of this meme is to mock those that are privileged, yet deny others rights.
In this case, mocking those who say “suicide is selfish.”
saying suicide is selfish isn’t denying rights of others. it’s an opinion.
“…we must conclude that at least 90 percent of the time suicide is largely self-prevented. In these cases suicide does not happen because personal resources successfully resist pain that threatens to overwhelm.
The suicide self-prevention measures listed below are intended to either reduce pain, increase resources, or both. Since most are discussed more extensively in earlier and later sections of this book, listing them here appears to be repetitive and pedantic. But look at the other books on suicide listed in the bibliography; you will see that they include few or none of these suggestions.
1. See medical personnel for any problems in physical health. This will give some suicidal people a significant reduction in pain, some will receive minor relief, and some will find no relief. Members of the latter group have done nothing wrong; they deserve credit for initiating action on the side of life.
2. Educate yourself to overcome denial and seek assistance for problems that seem to be unrelated to suicidal feelings and ideation. If drugs, alcohol, debting, gambling, eating disorders, sleep disorders, bereavement, problems in sexuality, crime victimization, or abuse that is physical, sexual, or emotional are part of your life, then they are part of the pain that causes you to be suicidal. If someone in your family has these problems, or had them when you were a child, then that is also part of your pain. It is very common for people in support groups for these problems to talk about suicidal feelings. Members get relief from pain, and recovery from suicidal conditions. Denial tells you that these things are not part of your basic problem, but, if they receive treatment, you will find that your basic problem has melted away.
3. Remove the means. Detoxify your home.
4. Seek help sooner, directly and persistently. Recovery from all problems in health is easier and quicker if treatment begins sooner. There are no mind readers. Your unhappiness is something that most people would prefer not to see. Since society has stronger aversion for emotional problems than it does for physical problems, you will have to exert stronger than normal efforts to get help.
5. “I don’t care,” or “I don’t care if I live or die,” are common attitudes among the suicidal. We fail to recognise that these attitudes are pain-coping strategies. Consciously caring about pain that apparently cannot be reduced leads to frustration, disappointment, conflicts with others; these add to the existing pain. “I don’t care,” is often a way to block awareness of the real sources of one’s pain. Counsellors see “I don’t care,” as sullen hostility; suicidal people may see it as further evidence for negative beliefs about the self. Utterances of “I don’t care if I live or die,” are cries for help, and are part of the struggle to stay alive. Consciously not caring is indicative of caring at an unconscious level.
6.The American psychiatric association estimates that during any six month period 9.4 million Americans will experience depression. Millions upon millions more experience manic-depression, paranoia, anorexia, bulimia, domestic violence, incest, or rape. Divorce and separation cause horrible suffering for millions. Still millions more are hurt badly by bereavement, retirement and the loss of physical health. Is it unrealistic to estimate that each year nine million Americans have strong suicidal feelings? Each of these people feels “My pain is hopeless,” or “No one has ever suffered as I have,” or “No one else has ever looked at a future that has such impossible odds for feeling better.” The number of official completed suicides each year is about 31 000; the number of actual suicides is perhaps 45 000. By dividing 45 000 into nine million, we get the result that if you are suicidal, your chances of committing suicide this year are about 1 in 200. Some of the 199 survivors are people who will still be in pain at the end of the year. A smaller number will still be in pain two years later, and a still smaller number three years later. If 6 percent of all suicidal people die by suicide, then 11 more of the 199 survivors will eventually become suicides. A few other suicidal people, unrecovered from suicidal pain, will die by other means. The great majority will find recovery. Cognitively you cannot help but believe, “I am permanently frozen in horrible pain.” This is what depression is; there is no reason you should feel otherwise. But you can at least begin to accept that the odds are in your favour. Millions of people who have felt suicidal misery have recovered.
7. Recognise that everything in your emotional and cognitive makeup is on the side of life. Anxiety, feelings of numbness and deadness, disturbing dreams and fantasies, and tiredness result from things your body does to help keep you alive.
8. Some books on depression and suicide say that the crisis often simply passes with time, the person did nothing to help bring about recovery. Someone who believed this might argue that these suicides were not self-prevented, since the person apparently took no positive action. In many situations, however, doing nothing is doing something. Not drinking, not drugging, not eating too much, and not smoking are not always doing nothing. The struggle to avoid suicide includes considering and rejecting plans, getting rid of or not acquiring the means, and postponing the date. In people with depression a great deal of what passes for ordinary life is really suicide prevention behaviour. Suicidal people continuously engage in lonely and unappreciated struggles to keep themselves alive. I once knew a city employee who had chronic depression. She began many conversations with “I want to go to sleep and never wake up.” She hated her job, she hated the lonely hours at home. Each day, on her way home from work, she would spend an hour sitting in a neighbourhood coffee shop. That hour in the coffee shop was a suicide prevention activity. People in suicidal pain are dedicated suicide preventionists. All of their behaviour is determined by their effort to keep the pain from getting worse.
9. Your pain is not your fault. People do not choose the events and conditions that cause them to be suicidal.
10. The negative moral judgements that others make about suicidal people are not valid. As with other forms of prejudice, these judgements say things only about the people who make them. Learning to recognize the forms of social abuse that are inflicted upon suicidal people is a step toward a reduction in your suffering.
11. Recognise the extent to which your internalization of social prejudice adds to your pain and fear. A vivid instance of the internalization of prejudice against people with mental illnesses occurred to a college freshman who told a counsellor that he was having suicidal thoughts. He was then involuntarily taken to a hospital psychiatric ward and held overnight. The next day, back at school, “I thought I was stigmatized for life. I thought people would be able to tell I was a mental patient just by looking at me.” The intense feeling, “Others can tell I am x just by looking at me,” is a common reaction had by survivors of stigmatized events. Its immediate sources are entirely from within, its ultimate origins are entirely from without.
12. The negative behaviour you encounter is not something you cause or deserve. The people you try to get help from may be irrational, unpredictable, abusive, hostile, or paralyzed with fear. They may challenge you to go ahead and kill yourself. Those ideas were inculated into them when they were children and reinforced by parents, teachers, peers, and the media. Try to remember that becoming morally judgemental about their behaviour will usually get you nowhere. Their behaviour is an involuntary response to their own emotional needs.
13. Insist on respect and better treatment. The real human rights issue is not the right to die, but the right to an equitable share of public resources on the side of life. The inequitable social distribution of pain-coping resources is a major cause of suicide.
14. Learning to accept imperfections in others is a step towards accepting them in yourself. No person or organization that works with suicidal people is immune to mistakes or shortcomings. Since we suffer form hundreds of years of ignorance and prejudice, our behaviour in dealing with suicide is liable to be markably worse than it is in may other areas. You will have to accept the imperfections of others even while they are locked into the imperfection of delusional perfectionism. An outstanding characteristic of untreated suicidephobia is denial: “We don’t have that problem here. If there is a problem it must be with [delete the one that applies to the speaker] the school, the family, peers, therapist, news media,” or “If you don’t get better it’s because something is wrong with you, not us.”
15. Anger and rage at the unfair treatment of suicidal people may discharge some of the pain in the short run, but in the longer-term, chronic bitterness is no conducive to recovery. We need to develop a no-fault approach to suicide.
16. Educate yourself about bereavement after completed suicide.
17. Recognise that recovery is genuine, even though the world pretends it never happens.
18. More of your life history than you realise has gone into your pain; it is not likely that recovery will come quickly. A step toward developing patience with yourself is to reject the impatience that others have toward you.
19. Understanding is possible and brings progress; it develops in piecemeal fashion.
20. Help others with their pain.”
from Out of the Nightmare: Recovery from Depression and Suicidal Pain by David L. Conroy, Ph.D.
all emphasis mine. this is a very good book. it’s saved my life more than once.