I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and ideations for a good part of my life. High school was brutal, college was a struggle, and my twenties were a nightmare. The thoughts got louder and became more frequent. In my mid thirties I couldn’t take it anymore. Something had to give. I hit a point of crisis and finally shared these dark thoughts that had been haunting me for so long. In sharing the thoughts, they became less dark and I could begin to see light.
I told myself in the moment of crisis that I would do whatever it took to make myself better– to be happy. I was all in for happiness. I would listen to myself, say yes to me more, yes to others less, and I would follow my heart. This was my Hail Mary.
I did find that as I listened to me more and did things in alignment with my own inner knowing, I was happier. Finally! Finally I felt happy. But there was something that I hadn’t counted on… the thoughts of wanting to die returning.
As I revisited some deep pain from college the thoughts of wanting to die returned. I panicked. “Oh no, I’ve failed again,” I thought. This was bad, very bad. I had given happiness everything and here I was again, thinking thoughts of wanting to die. I had REALLY failed this time. The thoughts of “I’ve failed at my recovery” were worse than the original ones of wanting to die.
This past week the thoughts returned yet again. This time it was even worse. “I KEEP FAILING, and I keep wanting to die,” echoed in my mind. “I’m a fraud,” I thought. How can I be a stand for suicide prevention when here I am still having these thoughts myself? How could I ever help anyone? I can’t even help myself,” and down the rabbit hole I went.
Yet again, I reached out for help. It took two days to hit the send button on a text saying, “I’m struggling. Can we talk?” It was harder this time to reach out. It was harder because we’d been down this road before. Several times. Here I was calling again, struggling again, stumbling again. It was harder this time, but I still reached out.
I was met not with what I feared, judgment, but with love and compassion. My friend asked me what I would tell someone in my shoes. I thought about for a minute and answered, “that I love you and you’re not alone.” That was it. That is what I would say, but more to the point what I really wanted to hear. In hearing those words repeated back to me I felt the light and the love. It was like an actual light switch being turned on. My perspective changed and once again I had hope.
This morning I woke up, and believe it or not, the sun was shining. I felt better, A LOT better. I talked to a good friend and he told me his brother started drinking again. It has been quite a struggle for him to stay sober and this gave me new perspective on how I had been feeling.
I had greatly suffered from feeling like I had fucked up YET AGAIN. I remembered one of the risks for suicide is an alcoholic falling off the wagon. It’s not the drinking that is the high risk; it’s the “I’ve failed again” thought that is. So what is there to do? Go and pick up a chip.
I guess I thought that with all the work I’ve done in healing my pain, I could heal away the thought of wanting to die. Somehow I thought that with the suicide prevention work I do, and all of my learning I wouldn’t have the thought of wanting to end my life. Several times in the last several months the thought has returned. Each time it has seemed more devastating because I’ve felt like “Oh no, here I am again. I’ve failed at my recovery.” This thought was worse than the original thought of wanting to die.
What I’ve realized is a couple things. First, it’s just a thought. It might be a familiar thought to me and it would make sense that it returns in times when I’m lower on the ladder. When I’m not as strong, the thought has more power. But it is just a thought. I don’t have to invest energy into it, and it doesn’t mean anything about me- unless I let it.
I’ve also realized the compassion in “picking up a chip.” I can be much more loving with myself when the thought comes and I reach out for help. It will happen again, and I can go within and show myself compassion and love myself for the courage of this journey. I can also now see room for incredible compassion in others picking up a chip. Whether it’s an alcoholic returning to a meeting and picking up an actual chip, or someone struggling with suicidal thoughts again, or someone struggling in a relationship again, or someone losing all their money again, or someone feeling like they STILL haven’t figured their life out, or a parent feeling helpless as they watch their kid in pain again. I can be stand for love and for compassion for the beaten down, for the lonely, for the ones stumbling yet again. As I defined excellence for myself a long time ago, I am reminded of it now; to me excellence is not about the summit, it’s about stumbling and still continuing to climb.
I’m grateful for someone in my life allowing me to stumble and simply saying “I love you and you’re not alone.” I guess it simplifies things for me very nicely– loving and walking with someone. This is my gift as a coach. For those who find themselves stumbling… again… this is who I am for you: I love you and I’m with you.