It’s still a bit of a taboo subject. I understand it’s scary to think about right? Suicidal thoughts can be scary to experience too. The crushing despair that swamps your brain whenever you’re not concentrating on keeping it at bay; the constant racing thoughts that scream about every little thing you could possibly have done wrong and all the ways in which you hurt and hold back your loved ones; the dread of having to keep pushing on putting one foot in front of the other; the physical pain for each and every action and the constant desire for nothingness. It’s exhausting agony that can seem timeless.
If you’re currently working through this I want you to know that you’re not alone. I experience suicidal thoughts; for me, it’s EVERY. DAMN. DAY. Sometimes fleeting, flippant thoughts that I can brush away, sometimes an insidious vine that I have to battle to get free of. I rarely act on them but they’re always there. It can feel dark and agonizingly lonely, as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel but I promise they do recede, they might just need a little extra nudge with the right skills and support.
According to the Office of National Statistics the number of suicides in 2016 declined by 3.6% from 2015. It’s not huge (5,965 people still died) but it’s a step in the right direction. People are sharing their stories and accessing help. The TimeToTalk campaign is normalizing mental health and paving the way for people like us, people in pain, to talk about what we’re going through without being shunned and stigmatized. Unfortunately, 3/4 of the suicides in 2016 were male. I cannot talk to the reasons why that is or why these people feel they couldn’t access help because I don’t know, but if you’re struggling with suicidal ideation and reading this I hope the few distress tolerance techniques shared below help you make it through this period so you can start your recovery.
Distress Tolerance Tips
During my most recent episode, when I was creating plans, hiding my intentions and emotions and living in torment, I used these tips and techniques to help me battle the suicidal urges and to eventually open up to my husband and get the help I needed. It wasn’t easy, in fact trying to force the words from my throat and admit my pain was like pulling teeth without anesthetic but it worked and it can work for you too if you give it a go.
Cooling the temperature of your body helps to change your physical reaction to your emotions and ground you to reality. I find it breaks the power of my thoughts and urges. It gives me the breathing space to not act impulsively and apply other techniques to help keep me calmer.
- Run your hands/wrists under the cold water tap
- Splash your face with cold water
- Stand outside without a coat for 5 min (only works in winter)
- Get a cold shower
Exercise uses up the adrenaline created by your emotions helping you to change your physical reaction and feel calmer. I want to scream, shout and punch the wall but only end up hurting myself and feeling worse. This way I become exhausted, release endorphins and am able to apply the more soothing and calming techniques
- Run on the spot/treadmill/cross trainer as fast as you can
- Do sit-ups until you can’t anymore
- Put loud music on and dance until you feel calmer
- Vigourously clean the oven or bathroom grouting
Once I’ve worked through one or both of the above I find I’m calmer but still need to focus on something to avoid ricocheting straight back up to where I was. That’s when I find something to do that holds my FULL attention until the danger period has passed
- Fixing something in the house
- Rearranging furniture
- Sorting through my wardrobe
Once I’m back at or close to my usual baseline feeling I start to think about using all 5 of my senses to help soothe me. Suicidal thoughts are a traumatic experience and a little self-care is needed
- Sight – look at vintage fashion books and old photos
- Sound – put on my favourite album or turn on a Disney film
- Smell – turn on my scentsy burner or use my favourite smelling hand cream
- Taste – make a rich cup of coffee or eat something chocolatey
- Touch – draw a warm soapy bath or cover myself with all the blankets and enjoy the pressure
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts please try to access some help. It can be anything from talking to a friend or loved one, messaging someone online (my Twitter DMs are always open if you need to chat), calling a charity helpline such as Samaritans or Mind, or contacting your local mental health crisis team.
Samaritans – 116 123
Mind – 0300 123 3393
Papyrus – 0800 068 41 41
With help, support and advice you can begin your recovery and what better day to start than Time To Talk Day?