Have you ever felt the pull of suicidal thoughts?
What about suicidal gestures that bring most people to a close enough place to suicide to “satisfy” their deepest desire to end their pain?
For most of us, life can (and will be at some point) painful for us. It’s interesting how we all attempt to heal or stop our pain.
Some may choose over-eating. Some may choose substance abuse. Others may choose multiple unhealthy sexual experiences and relationships. Still, overs may search for solace in maintaining the thought that they could end their life if they so choose.
In a strange way, a suicidal thought can be “protective” to the individual ambivalent about life.
This article will discuss the topic of living between life or death and struggling with what this actually means.
Understanding suicidal behaviors is difficult unless you are a mental health professional. Even for some seasoned mental health professionals suicidal thoughts and gestures require close study. For some people, committing suicide may be a matter of the right place and the right time. For others, it may not be so easy. Some are very ambivalent about suicide although they may want the pain in their lives to stop by suicide. These individuals are the ones who are easier to convince life is worth living because the chances of them never considering suicide again are high.
Sadly, this doesn’t characterize the other group of individuals who simply want to die. Below I have listed a few common signs that may indicate an individual is uncertain about suicide as a remedy to their problems:
- They entertain the thought ONLY when stressed: Some people only think of suicide when life gets pressuring. The suicidal thought may be a passive thought which means that there is no plan to do it and the intent may be very low. The thought simply comes and goes (or may linger as long as the pressuring event). These individuals can still be a danger to themselves because the thoughts tend to be impulsive and may serve as a “way out” if the pressuring situation gets too out of control.
- They reserve the thought for difficult times: Some suicidal thoughts are “used” to provide comfort when life gets too touch and things look impossible to overcome. It is almost as if the suicidal thought serves as a reminder that they can gain control at any time and whenever they please. It’s a safety net.
- Their moods are like a roller-coaster: Roller-coaster moods change frequently and sometimes quickly. Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder may have trouble controlling changing moods. Someone who seems happy one moment and suicidal the next minute may be confused about what they want. I’ve counseled teens who desire death because of the intensity of their earthly pain, but later reports not wanting to die. This is a good sign for me as I can then begin to work with the individual on finding purpose and holding on a little longer.
- They engage in self-harming behavior that gets you close: When I ask suicidal teens who have been repeatedly hospitalized for suicidal behavior) if they have engaged in self-harm I am often told “yes. I cut my wrist because I wanted to die.” When I see adults for the same challenges I am often told “I have done this since I was a teen and I would do anything I could to cause myself pain.” Individuals who are ambivalent about dying often engage in dangerous or “near dangerous” behaviors as a way of fulfilling their “fantasy” or desire for the pain to end.
- They live carelessly: Some individuals who engage in self-harm will also engage in high-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex with multiple partners, substance abuse including heroin use with unclean needles, illegal or criminal behaviors that may result in multiple arrests, negligent driving or reckless spending, gambling, etc. There are a host of behaviors that often occur in the lives of those who are on the brink of wanting to die.
- They watch shows or listen to music that gets you close: Some individuals naturally like movies and music that has a dark element to it. However, some people (who are suicidal) may engage in watching movies/TV or listening to music that encourages death, self-harm, or suicide. Some genres including hard metal or rap music are a few examples.
- Their non-suicidal self-injury turns into suicide gestures: Non-suicidal self-injury means that the individual does not have a desire to die but rather, has a desire to inflict some kind of pain on themselves. Some individuals also use this as a way to cope with difficult feelings. However, there are times when this same individual may engage in behaviors that could result in death such as cutting near veins or arteries and being careless or high/drunk when cutting. Some individuals burn themselves or scratch themselves very hard. These behaviors transform from non-suicidal self-injury to suicide gesture.
- They don’t know who you are without the suicidal thoughts: I have counseled individuals who have been suicidal for so long that they don’t know who they are (or how they think about life) without their suicidal thoughts. The suicidal thoughts become a part of them and influence everything about them. In some cases, primarily with teens, the suicidal thoughts may become a part of the individual’s life-long struggle with identity. These individuals may qualify for a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.
This interesting TedTalk may offer you a different perspective on this topic.
What has your experience been with this topic? Do you believe someone could stay confused about living or dying?
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and experiences.
All the best
Photo by Shan Sheehan