In the summer of 2018, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain ended their lives. Immediately, news feeds were filled with suicide warning signs, but warning signs cannot answer these two questions: Am I suicidal? How would I know?
What My Controlled Depression Looks Like
Depression tops the lists of warning signs, so let's explore that symptom first. I suffer from depression and anxiety. I've been on the same medication for almost four years now, and I am quite happy most days. I don't stay in bed all day watching Lifetime movies and crying. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
For years, I didn't want to be on any medication for depression. I tried quitting more than once. Sometimes with my doctor's permission, sometimes not. My chemical balance manifests itself as agitation. Without this medication, my anger grows. I'm snappy and edgy. Struggling to fight that biology and be pleasant and nice was never possible. I've finally come to accept my reality.
My Thoughts Of Suicide
When I was in middle school, I often wanted to die. Many times, I tried to smother myself. Thank goodness the method I chose to destroy myself with actually helped me calm down. Does that check the box on having a plan? Or does that mean I wasn't really serious about committing suicide?
Sometime in my early 20s, my thoughts of suicide shifted. Instead of actively wanting to end my life, I passively begged God to swallow me up or strike me down. This was my go-to solution for all big problems, and I found myself in this dark place about once a month for over 25 years.
The Factor No One's Talking About
A few months ago, I finally made the connection between my extreme sorrow and wanting to die. It was my all or nothing thinking. Everything was either blissfully perfect or horrific. This rigid thinking permeated every problem I faced. Since I pinpointed this unhealthy pattern of thinking, I've challenged myself to brainstorm more choices. And I haven't gone to that dark place where I only have two choices for problem solving.
Having Thoughts Of Suicide Is Different Than Being Suicidal
According to Medical News Today:
Suicidal thoughts are common, and many people experience them when they are undergoing stress or experiencing depression. In most cases, these are temporary and can be treated, but in some cases, they place the individual at risk for attempting or completing suicide. Most people who have suicidal thoughts do not carry them through to their conclusion.
There Isn't A Simple Answer
We can't look back at Kate Spade's life and say, "There's the ONE sign someone should have acted on." Publishing lists and hotline numbers won't save every hurting soul, no matter how much I wish it would. We can do everything humanly possible to help someone and it might not be enough. How do we go on?
A 12-Step recovery program has been more helpful for me than any counseling or self-help books. In the rooms of recovery, I learned:
- A new way of healthy thinking
- How to set healthy boundaries
- That I have value
- How to take care of myself
- How to not isolate myself
We still print the lists and the hotline number. We try to be loving and kind. We talk about our troubles and what helped us because we desperately want to help someone else.
In case you haven't seen this lately, the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached toll-free on 1-800-273-TALK(8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your life DOES matter. Please reach out for help.
Did you know the 12-steps can also help improve your mental health? Here's a fun way get back to your true self with our new coloring book, Find Your True Colors In 12-Steps.