5 Ways I Escaped a Suicidal Spiral

“I found this place in the Netherlands that euthanizes people with severe mental health issues,” I said plainly during a therapy appointment while in the throes of the darkest depression of my life.

Source: Lukas Rychvalsky
  • Assign yourself a purpose. During a depression, you likely won’t receive a true “calling” of any sort, mostly because you’re blocked from most inspiration due to the self-disparaging thoughts. And some of you may not believe that anyone truly has a life’s purpose, and that’s why I prefer the terminology “assigning yourself a life purpose” — even if you feel like it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. One of the main things that allowed me to push through my own suicidal spiral is the act of telling myself, “It’s my purpose to spread the messages I needed when I was in my deepest feelings of despair.” I found out that not a lot of people were being truly vulnerable about their suicidal experiences, and I could fill that gap. What’s something unique about you that you can share your knowledge about to help people?
  • Think about how similar you are to everyone else. I believe that seeing yourself as part of a collective brings a perspective that lowers feelings of hopelessness. When I was low, I would sit and think about how I am linked to every living being on earth. I’d quietly meditate on the idea that I am breathing in the same air as all humans, that I’m walking the earth made up of similar material, and that my brain still works similarly to everyone else’s. That’s what inspired me to think about my purpose in that collective consciousness and how I could be part of a group.
  • Ask for what you need in a specific way. I know the advice, “Tell someone about your suicidal thoughts,” is pretty standard, and it does help. However, I’m talking about going a layer deeper when you disclose to family and friends how you’re feeling. It’s not enough to say, “I’m feeling suicidal” because people often have no idea how to react, so it may make things worse. An effective way to start is, “Do you have the emotional space to talk about something really heavy?” If they do, it’s important to tell them what you’d like to get out of the conversation. For example, if I had realized this while I was suicidal, I would have said, “After I tell you, it would be best for me if you didn’t offer advice or tell me how you feel about what I said. If you could please just show empathy for how I’m feeling, that’s what I need.” It can be really scary to talk about this, but in many cases, I believe it can give you a sense of relief.
  • Act as if dying weren’t an option. Hear me out — take this hypothetical through your mind. What if suicide wasn’t even a possibility, and you were forced to live forever? One of the keys to making it out of a suicidal spiral is to pretend like there was no possible way you could kill yourself. For me, this played out in a few different ways. I would force myself to sit down and consider various plans for my future, even though I was feeling miserable and couldn’t even see it as a possibility. I thought I might want to go into therapy, so I researched psychology programs and took notes about them. I would often think to myself, “What is one tiny thing I’d do right now if I weren’t depressed?” Then, I’d use all my strength to do it, like floss my teeth or make myself food. This is a similar technique to the DBT skill called “opposite action,” which is highly difficult but incredibly useful.

An intuitive storyteller with a vision to reduce shame through blunt essays on mental illness. I’m a survivor of Bipolar, Complex PTSD, OCD, and GAD.

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