The "S" Word

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • As people living with mental illnesses we know what the “S” word is. It’s our little secret, the way out we keep hidden from those who love us and those who treat us well.  Suicide.

    We tuck it away in the back of our minds; we bring it out and ask “when”, testing if today is “too hard”, if this is “the right time.” We carefully hide away the thought from our friends and family, claiming everything is just fine. And we try to cope. Until we can’t.  And we bring that little word out again and look at it.

    Here’s the deal. Suicide, however compelling a thought—and lets not pretend it’s not compelling—ends up doing the exact opposite of what we intend.
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    We want peace, but suicide ends up causing chaos—from the unlucky guy who finds us, to the kid down the street who now thinks this is an OK option, to the countless people who knew us and now think “What could I have done?”  Suicide does not result in peace for anyone.

    We want people to understand our pain, but since we are gone and can’t tell them anything, they are more confused than ever. No one understands anything after a suicide.

    We see no other options, but there are always options. Options that our illness keep us from seeing. Suicide is literally the worst option we can choose—because it allows for no further action. No mid-course correction. No second chance.

    We want to hurt others, but if our relationships are that broken, it’s unlikely that our death will hurt those we want to hurt. Rather, it will cause these people to deepen their bad opinions about us—completely backfiring from the “revenge” we sought with our death.

    So, if suicide doesn’t accomplish what we are seeking, what can help? Doing the work that leads to recovery and using tools to overcome the suicidal urge when it shows up.

    I don’t know what tools you use to deal with the “S” word, but here are a few I’ve used that work for me:

    •    My brain is lying to me. Tomorrow will be better. (Repeat ad nauseam.) Sometimes, I just need a thought to stop the “S” word from gaining momentum.
    • Change tactics. Am I exhausted? Sometimes the “S” word creeps in when my natural resilience is down. So I need some sleep. Or a balanced meal. Am I so lethargic I can’t move? Sometimes the “S” word creeps in when my mood has been spiraling down. Change course and take a walk; bring some energy back to the table. (Yes, I KNOW how hard this is.)
    • Make a call. Tell someone. The national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) is a network of centers across the country staffed with kind people who will listen. Call your family or your doctor. Don’t suffer in silence.
    • Make a plan in advance. Figure out now, when you are not suicidal, what you promise you will do then, when it sneaks up on you. DBSA’s free suicide card and crisis planning document in the post hospitalization kit are good tools to help in this process.

    You are not alone. Most of us living with a mental illness have gone through our own struggle with the “S” word, as Emily states in her story:

  • “I am having a hard time writing what I'm feeling—even while writing this, I feel that my story is "not good enough"—but I want people to know that this feeling is a symptom of your depression, and that it is not your fault.
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    I struggle daily with self-acceptance, trying to see myself as bright, pretty, and kind. Often, I see the opposite—dumb, ugly, and mean. The energy that I spend trying to feel "normal" is huge, but it is what I want more then anything in the world—to be mentally healthy and emotionally stable.

    I trust with what little trust that I have, and I reach out for help because I cannot do this alone. I want to be a success story so that I can help others. This may not happen next week or next month, but it will happen one day if I continue and believe in myself.
    Until then, I do the best I can, and I find hope through places like this website, where I can read stories or find resources or even ask for help.

    It is all up to me, and today I choose to live.”

Published On: May 03, 2007