A time to remember the lives lost to suicide, the millions who have struggled with suicidal thoughts & the individuals, families, and communities that have been impacted.
Today I am standing up and am proud to be one of the millions who have struggled with suicidal thoughts. I know that sounds backwards, but I say proud for two reasons. The first and most important reason is I AM ALIVE AND CAN TELL MY STORY. The second is that I am continuing to share my diagnosis and thoughts about my major depressive disorder with suicidal ideation.
This month is really about those who are no longer with us.
And those who have or are struggling with suicidal thoughts. My experience with these thoughts spans decades. And more recently many of these thoughts often arrived first thing in the morning. OK, they happen when I am on the commode.
These near daily thoughts began happening over 10 years ago.
These daily thoughts began as I started taking Prozac. At the time, having my anti depression medicine cause suicidal thoughts was something I had not considered. But I was new to having a psychiatrist help with the medical management of my depression.
So, I was surprised that I was having these thoughts.
And it would get my attention first thing in the morning. My daily routine included waking up, getting out of bed, and putting my glasses on that were always on my bedside table, Then I would head downstairs and get a pot of coffee going. Finally, I would sit with my full mug of black coffee and plan out my day. Soon, I would need to use the facilities.
In our New Jersey house, we had a ½ bath on the lower floor, so I would go there to answer nature’s call.
Sitting on the commode was when depression would send out its daily “why don’t you end it all” message. This idea was always in a vague, nonspecific format. It never had a plan of action attached to it, or even a how at all. It was just, I should find a way to end my life. This then would leave me alone, on the toilet, with the task of thinking about ending my life.
What the heck is that all about?
Thankfully, I understood how to handle this almost daily occurrence. I used mindfulness training. As these thoughts became more daily, I devised a plan. As soon as the thought of suicide entered my head, I would envision a wide stream. The stream was tree lined, remote with several shallow spots with river rocks breaking the streams path, forming “V’s.” Then I would spot a leaf floating by in the stream.
Immediately, I would envision the thought of suicide on that leaf as it floated down stream.
Soon, the leaf had reached the end of the smooth area near where I was standing. Then it quickly rounded the bend in the stream, taking my suicidal thought with it. And then it was gone. And that would be it. I didn’t try to engage with the suicidal thoughts. I didn’t’ think about why I was having it. All I knew was I did not want to think about that. And by imagining it on a leaf, I did not need to engage with it.
Surprisingly, I had no additional suicidal thoughts for the rest of the day.
Today I know that certain anti-depression drugs have suicidal thoughts as a potential side effect. To me having suicidal thoughts as a potential side -effect is counter-intuitive. The reason someone, including me, takes anti-depression drugs is to lead a more balanced life with depression. Not having suicidal thoughts, or technically suicidal ideation, is one if the key benefits of taking the drugs.
So, to have the drug impart daily suicidal thoughts is puzzling to say the least.,
It occurs to me that I have tip toed around describing any suicidal thought I have had. The one that sticks out is where I just envision myself not being around anymore. What would that mean to my family, friends, and co-workers? So as the thought pops into my head, right behind it pops the stream.
I find the more vivid and realistic the stream is in my mind, the easier it is to let go of the suicidal thought.
So, I have this suicidal thought, and then I have the stream Both are sharing space in my head at that moment. I am not interested in exploring suicidal thoughts. So immediately I see the thought laying on a leaf that’s floating in the water. The stream quickly picks up speed and within seconds the thought has floated around the corner on the leaf. Out of sight, out of mind.
Now when the suicidal thought entered my mind:
- I could have started to beat myself up for having thoughts about suicide.
- I could have begun to think about why I had that thought, thereby giving the suicidal thought a more permanent place in my thoughts.
- This permeance could have been both in the moment, or it could become a permanent thought that reoccurs for years.
- The mere fact that I am fighting against the thought, makes the suicidal thought much weightier.
- Or, I could just see it, put it on a leaf, and let it float out of my sight.
- It could be that I might say to myself, “I wonder why I am having a thought such as that.”
This has become much easier for me after hearing the story of the Buddha and a heckler who followed him for years.
The Buddha was asked by one of his disciples why he did not say something to a man who was constantly heckling him. The Buddha said, “just because you are offered a gift, it doesn’t mean you must take it.” (Or words to that effect). In my life, I am not accepting the “gift” depression is offering. I am not going to accept it. Remember, I am too competitive. I plan to live to see 100.
Paying more attention to what I am putting into my body now has a whole new meaning.
I hope none of my thoughts today are a trigger for you.