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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Talking About Suicidal Thoughts

TW suicidal thoughts.

I have experiences suicidal thoughts for years and years. If you know me, you might find that hard to believe. That might be because you don't associate suicidal thoughts with someone 'like me'. Fact is, anyone can have suicidal thoughts. There's no 'personality type' for a mental illness, as I mentioned in my first ever video!

Suicidal thoughts can be complicated to understand, even for the person experiencing them. Public awareness remains low. This is probably because knowledge isn't being shared and stereotypes are not being given an opportunity to be broken. In many circles, it's still a taboo to talk about mental health, especially certain aspects such as suicidal thoughts.

Drawing from one of my comics

The idea that I have struggled with suicidal thoughts for years is one of the biggest things that people in my life struggle to understand. 

In fact, because others have struggled to understand my experiences with suicidal thoughts so much that I have been judged, shamed, criticised, ostracised and guilt-tripped more times than I can count.

People seem to find it very hard to listen to suicidal thoughts and this can quickly worsen my situation.

Drawing from around seven years ago. 


All the campaigns tell you to 'open up' and that it's 'time to talk' when you have suicidal thoughts. Let me tell you, from my lived experience, talking about suicidal thoughts can be extremely problematic. It can go very wrong- and has done for me many times. This is why I use Samaritans frequently as I trust them as 'safe' people for me to talk about my suicidal thoughts with.

Let me tell you why talking about suicidal thoughts can be problematic by explaining four of the most common reactions I have had over the years:

1. The panic: 'Oh my God, I'm dialling 999!' 

This reaction terrifies me and makes me feel incredibly out of control. I immediately lose trust in people who give me this reaction and I will never open up to them about anything in the future again. Ever. Why? Because I do not want screaming blue lights coming up to my house, neighbours twitching their curtains, notes being taken on me and the potential for decisions being made on my behalf without my consent.

This reaction absolutely scares the living daylights out of me and makes me feel like a criminal. When people have said this, my reaction has been to physically run away because I became so scared. And I have never wanted to talk to them about anything personal ever again because they made me feel out of control which is terrifying.

Drawing by me from a recent sketchbook.

2. The pity: 'Oh poor you, I didn't realise you hated your life so much. 

This frustrates me so much. Suicidal thoughts are not to do with hating anything. I love my life. I hate it when people think suicidal thoughts are to do with how miserable you are about life. It can be
about that for some people. But for me, and many others, it's not.

For me, suicidal thoughts are related to overwhelming emotions and probably some deep-seated and long term reason that can be explained with a large amount of very raw, honest and painful discussion with a highly skilled therapist.

Yes, it's a huge incongruity in my life that I suffer from suicidal thoughts whilst living a great life that I enjoy hugely surrounded with people I love. If you find that confusing, imagine how confused I feel, given that I'm the one (not you!) who is living with this.

I now only confide in a few selected friends who understand contradictions and complexities...

Drawing by me from a recent sketchbook.


3. The disbelief: 'But you seemed so great when I saw you yesterday'. 

I get this reaction all the time when I tell people about mental health stuff. It's really getting quite irritating! The suicidal thoughts can come very quickly, especially if I am triggered. There is often no warning or build up. Think how scary that is.

It's not 'just me', many people with BPD find that their moods can change very quickly, in a matter of minutes and with little or no build up. In my experience, people can't seem to accept the speed of the changes as fact. I always find myself defending the robustness of what I have just said due to this ignorance  masquerading as incredulity.

No one should have to defend the 'realness' of their suicidal thoughts, or any of their emotions for that matter! The emotions come extremely quickly and with the force of an electric shock:

Drawing from my sketchbook. 


4. The guilt-trip. 'I did  X and Y for you and you are still not happy.' 

This is emotional invalidation hitting you with a really low blow at a really bad time. This is one of the worst reactions I have had in the past, because it has compounded the shame I already felt.

Furthermore, this argument doesn't hold water because suicidal thoughts are not about unhappiness, given the fact that I can have suicidal thoughts at the same time as feeling extremely joyful (sometimes known as mixed states in bipolar disorder).

In addition, this reaction infers that I am using suicidal thoughts as a way of throwing something back in someone's face. That couldn't be further from the truth in the case of my suicidal thoughts.

Drawing from my zine 'Some people hurt themselves'. 


What have been your experiences if you have talked about having suicidal thoughts? Has it ever made you feel worse? Or has it been helpful? I would love to hear from you on Twitter @TalkingAboutBPD or Instagram (TalkingAboutBPD).

I am going to describe my 'ideal reaction' in a post soon. Do you have any helpful responses?

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