In 2011 I was informed that I was fighting a battle I would not win by myself. When you fight a battle all by yourself there is a part of you that will always secretly want you to loose. because if you win, you are alone. In this case, the battle I was fighting was actually with myself.
When I realized what was happening, I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital and was overseen in a safe space for 10 days until I could manage my life on my own again. I’ve spent the last 12 years unpacking and understanding what led to that near fatal suicidal episode and this is what I have to share.
If you are feeling unsafe in any way, please consult medical help, they have been a great part of my life ever since I decided to let them in, and they can be a great part of yours too.
The most dangerous symptom of mental health is an apology that does not make sense. When someone with an unstable past apologizes for things they often deny, and these apologies are connected only by their presence. Be very alert that the individual may be in danger. And I don’t mean taking responsibility for their actions. I mean they may be apologizing for their existence.
Suicidal ideation is when someone’s own subconscious mind begins determining that they are better off dead. When this happens, their problem solving abilities start working on their demise. What is particularly terrifying about the situation is that the more effective their problem-solving abilities are, the more dangerous the ideation becomes. If they have mechanical knowledge the ideation can use that to destroy them physically. If they have a high emotional intelligence the ideation can push their own emotional buttons.
Think of suicidal ideation as a demented legal professional arguing the case for their demise from within them. The ideation is aware of everything that has ever happened to them and what they value. They can beat the ideation strategically but not by force. Poking holes in the delusion that nothing ever changes, or nothing is worth improving is the most effective avenue.
To explain the situation lets evaluate a few things.
The world has a lot of uncertainty and painful events are common and never stop happening. This is a very real part of the human experience and it never stops being a necessary component of life. The world is also full of joy and growth and new beginnings. When someone is depressed, they will not see this balance clearly. And because of the delusions of depression, the chances that they can win arguments with the ideation directly are not high.
Their minds arguments are all based on a world that has already existed. The hope is encapsulated inside the uncertainty, which means that the only way they can let go of the pain is to acknowledge the powerless position that comes from pursuing new possibilities. It is highly likely that resisting uncertainty has positioned the potential for pain above the optimism for change.
The problem with people in this state is that they often share that they suck at life. Because if they knew how good life could be, they would have their hope back. Conveying this deficency to them in an inspiring way is very challenging becuase their ability to see the opportunities in front of them is what they actually suck at.
In any other situation this would be hilarious. Humour is pain plus distance right. But the real strategy for recovery is for them to outlive the ideation long enough to gather evidence that the opportunities for new beginnings are available to them. Hope is found in the strangest places and maybe having a license to be strange is just what they need right now.
So don’t accept their apology, share something they can believe about themself or get them out of the house and recognize what they are good at. Mental illness has a way of making us feel like our current situation is all that we will ever experience, and that’s just not true.