When The Thought of Suicide is Paramount to Survival

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Despite the rapid increase in numbers in the past few years, suicide still remains a taboo subject, something we don’t want to talk about and generally don’t until it hits close to home. Despite the recent and ongoing efforts of the media to increase general social awareness on the topic, it is most often spoken of as a statistic rather than in terms of preventative measures, and those numbers will continue to rise as long as we, as a society keep looking away. Talking about it does not encourage it but instead helps to opens minds and lines of communication and promotes understanding and empathy.

As you may, or may not know, I have survived three suicide attempts, the details of which are irrelevant right now, as the causes take prevalence. I did not just wake up on three separate occasions and impulsively decide to kill myself, rather the combination of years of abuse and the consequent depression, BPD, dysthymia and anxiety wore me down to the point of seeing no other option to end the pain. That is the depth that some illnesses go, convincing your mind and lying to you to shatter and leave only a glimpse of hope, if anything at all, and without that, what do we have to hold on to.

Being a victim of childhood abuse, be it sexual or otherwise is the ultimate loss of control for a child. It is not only the trauma of the acts themselves but the sheer terror that accompanies it. In most cases the perpetrator is someone we know or at least are familiar with, and the fear of repercussions is almost insurmountable. This loss of control is one thing that has carried over into numerous areas of my life for years. No one likes things that are completely out of their control, but for the survivor, that is enhanced tenfold, to the point of becoming a trigger of the past, that is how it is for me anyway. Any situation that I have little to no control over triggers my mind back to the childhood traumas when I was also helpless, and amplifies the intensity of my depression and anxiety to a level I cannot explain.

The years of domestic abuse I watched was just another thing that was completely out of my regulation. No matter what efforts I put forth to try and interrupt or cause a distraction failed and with that another major loss of control in my life. When the domestic abuse stopped, the cancer began, and dealing with my mom’s six year battle and her impending death was the ultimate loss of control. Having to just sit helplessly and watch someone you love die a slow, lengthy death is a torture I would not wish on anyone. Even going through the process of recovery requires a relinquishment of control by having to “follow the lead” of a therapist. Often when I am trying to try to heal a past trauma in therapy, the resulting triggers bring your mind right back to the times when I had no control and that feeling consumes my present and adds to the fear of the future.

Suicide is in my control.

As unorthodox as this may seem to someone else, the thought of having complete control over whether I live or die has provided me, many times, with enough of a sense of comfort to make it through what may have been an otherwise unsafe night. While it seems like the rest of my world is turning into chaos and growing further out of my management, the fact that I can control something as essential to life as a breath gives me a sense of strength. I do realize in essence, everyone is in the same position, being able to end their lives, but being passively suicidal most of the time, I often feel that is truly the only thing that is in my control; and just knowing that provides enough hope and comfort to get through those nights, and live to fight another day.

A Simple Gesture of Kindness is Free

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Having survived three suicide attempts and having had two friends who died by suicide from their mental illnesses, I have become quite passionate and open about my own experiences, in hopes that one day, they may help someone. I have also, for many years, contended with bouts of self-harm and try to reach out to as many people as possible, in an effort to provide alternative methods of dealing with the pain. I leave my DM (direct messages) open to anyone on my twitter account (@onelastkick71) so anyone who may be struggling can reach out anonymously, know that someone cares and they are not alone.

I am no therapist by any means. I have been to countless numbers of them over the years, each with their own approach on how to best “fix” me based on their numerous years of reviewing textbooks, attained level of education and job experience. Now don’t get me wrong, I see a psychologist and am an advocate for therapy if that is something that works for you in your healing process, however I truly believe that regardless of the therapeutic viewpoint, suicide and self-harm are sometimes best empathized by survivors. I am certainly not equipped to handle a full blown suicidal episode, and have and will always do what is necessary to make that person’s safety a priority, however there is often a buildup point before reaching that extreme state and that is where I have found my life experiences have been most helpful to others.

I know in my case, and I believe, in many others as well, that sometimes being suicidal does not necessarily mean we want to die, we just want the pain to end, and our illnesses have convinced our minds that suicide is the only option, the only way to find some peace. The people who reach out have accomplished the hardest part by taking the first step and asking for help, even if it is only someone to listen. You don’t have to understand what the person is dealing with in order to listen without judging and to provide kindness. I know from experience that it is often easier to communicate such desperate feelings to a stranger, rather than a friend or family member, if not only due to fear of judgment or repercussions. I know there have been times when I have called a crisis hotline, only to be left on hold so long I have hung up in frustration and tears, and all I really needed at the time was someone to lend an ear and make me feel cared for and wanted. It really does not take much to be one of those people, and doing such a small thing can greatly impact a life.

Self-harm can be an addiction like drugs or alcohol or anything else we do compulsively. For me, it has gone in waves throughout my life, sometimes going away for years at a time, and generally surfacing amidst a trauma of some sort. The endorphin release and distraction from self-harming may only be temporary but at the time I am looking for any sort of diversion from the immense pain I’m feeling inside, that I simply don’t know how else to release. Again, something as elementary as allowing someone to speak can be a long enough distraction to slow down if not stop the impulsivity that often comes with self-harm. I understand the need for pain, or self-punishment but have learned over the years that there are less harmful things to do that provide the same type of relief without the long term consequence of scarring. There are plenty of resources online for not only people who self-harm, but for concerned friends and family members. The people I have spoken with I have not only given other options to but also made deals with them… if the urge presents itself, we will contact each other before acting, and as basic as that may sound, just knowing someone else is fighting alongside you can be motivation enough.

With the people that have reached out, I have formed emotional connections  and incredible friendships merely by being able to empathize with their mental state at the time, after all, having BPD, I have spent the majority of my life dealing with both these subjects. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to know that the trauma I have been through actually helps to positively affect a life. I have received numerous random thank you messages from those who have found help through my writing, and for that, I am extremely humbled. For the many people I have spoken with online or on text, thank you for being brave enough to not only reach out to me, or anyone but for allowing enough trust to let me try to help. Reaching out truly is the hardest part, but know when you reach out your hand there will be someone there to hold it.

 

The Emotional Frenzy of the Snowball Effect

 

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It often starts off with the simplest of negative thoughts. Sometimes it is triggered by something someone has said that I may have misconstrued, which is easy to do with BPD and the lack of tone in text messaging, and at other times it is just my mind beginning its uncontrollable spiral downwards. Is it caused by anxiety and fed by depression? Is it common among those without a mental illness? How can one simple word or thought turn into such negativity and self-hatred? What makes our mind spin out of control with such fury? How is it we are upset about something in the present yet within minutes we are condemning ourselves, yet again, for things we did or said when we were children, or young adults?

The snowball effect really is the perfect analogy. Starting out with that first handful of cold, white wonder, and as we roll it along, it collects snow from whatever direction we push it and does not stop building in size until we effectively stop it. My thought process is really not much different; a random negative thought travels through my mind and gathers the other negative thoughts, until they are in a ball so big I feel physically heavy from the weight. Just the other day I read something into a situation that was not even there and instantly started with the first thought of self-doubt…there’s so much wrong with me; followed by I’m a failure, a loser, not loveable and so on and so forth, which then somehow spirals either backward or forward. Those initial thoughts of present day self-hatred, guilt or shame, or whatever emotion, have now triggered past situations in which I felt the same way, so now, not only am I fretting about how I feel about myself today, I am also travelling back in time collecting all the negative emotions that have been stored with each trauma, and bringing them to the forefront, in essence creating a snowball of negativity, which, remember, started with a single negative thought.

This exact same analogy applies to future thoughts as well, and when anxiety adds fuel to the fire the downward spiral now includes the future. Yet again, one simple dark thought can take me down the hill of negativity, projecting all the things that are going to go wrong, the bad things that are going to happen, or all the ways I am going to screw up or get hurt…and the list continues. Funny, because I don’t ever recall being able to predict the future at any other point in time in my life, but suddenly through this snowball effect, I am psychic and not only foretelling the upcoming events in my life but in my mind, actually trying to prepare for them, and keep in mind, nothing has even happened.

For example, I have to move in the spring and just the thought of doing so after being in my place for 12 years is causing me extreme stress and triggering past traumas. Now, my rational brain knows that after all that I have survived, a move certainly may be traumatic, but will not kill me. It is simply a change that I need to adapt to, as with everything else in life. The emotive side of my brain however, has begun the snowball process. What if I can’t find a place, or can’t afford it, or it’s in a bad area, or they won’t accept pets, or I don’t like it and I can’t get comfortable enough to call it a “home”…and those are not even the worst thoughts. Snowballing even bigger, I have also created the scenario of all of the above happening and ending up homeless or in a shelter, which then leads me to question if any of it is worth it and perhaps this is now the excuse or reasoning I need in my head to justify taking my life, as I am simply too emotionally exhausted to start over, yet again. So now my thoughts have sunken into the darkness of the ultimate finality over a sequence of events which I have created in my mind, most of which are likely never going to happen.

A single negative thought leading to a scenario of death, in five minutes or less, which in turn leads to an uphill battle to get out of the darkness, and as soon as I see the light, the self-defeating cycle repeats.

Is it possible to stop the snowball or at least slow it down? Is there a way to restrain it so it doesn’t reach the bottom of the hill, but perhaps comes to a standstill midway? Having BPD increases impulsivity which can also include thoughts and not just actions, and in my case racing thoughts and lack of verbal restraint are making the struggle more difficult. I am learning the first step is to recognize that original negative thought as quickly as possible because if I at least know the snow is starting to gather, I can be better prepared for the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suicide: An Insiders Perspective

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Suicide. The word itself is stigmatized with weakness, and shame. We judge people who kill themselves as being selfish, people who just gave up. I mean really, what could be so wrong in ones life to drive you to actually end it? Suicide leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the survivors…the loved ones who are left wondering why, or if they could have helped. Well I hope this perspective can help you, the non-suicidal person to take a journey in the thought process of a suicidal person, so perhaps you can better understand and either be able to help or at least cope.
I am not going to speak on behalf of all suicidal people, but this is my story. First of all, you need to be made aware that most if not all people who attempt or succeed at suicide are dealing with some sort of mental illness…

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The Emotional Vulnerability of Love for a Borderline

 

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Relationships in the best of circumstances are tricky waters to navigate. They require not a captain and a first mate, but two co-captains, who are not only plotting out a similar course but are willing to stick together when the tides change your direction. Surviving childhood sexual abuse leaves emotional scars that twist your views and feelings on life and relationships, and the after effects tend to weave their way into various areas of your life, often on a subconscious level. One of the main attributes of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) aside from the intense fear of abandonment is a pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships. For me, the combination of the two is like being a one eyed captain trying to navigate the seas on a raft, with no compass and a map in Latin. In dealing with both of these things I had to self-protect in order to survive and my coping mechanisms involved shutting down amongst many things, trust and love.

That being said, living behind that wall of safety also limits both our life experiences and the corresponding emotions. We miss out on a lot because we are lacking in confidence, and remaining behind our wall in our comfort zone is a lot easier than facing the unknown fears outside. In my mind, it is a matter of weighing out risk versus reward. Is the risk worth the (in my mind) inevitable pain that will come at some point? I also tend to compare if this impending pain could be worse than something I have already been through, again trying to measure out the risk, and when emotionally rational, I realize there is very little in life that could traumatize me any more than has already occurred. Now don’t get me wrong, that by no means implies that I have broken down my wall and jumped head first into my fears. It is more of a case of taking down a few bricks at a time, enough to sneak out, but leaving those bricks within arm’s reach in case we need to rebuild in a hurry.

Being a survivor, I carry with me a sense of shame, a lack of trust and self-worth, and the constant feeling of being a burden. I have major attachment issues already, which are severely increased in intensity with BPD, and the combination of those plus the depression and anxiety leaves me feeling almost unworthy of a relationship. How could I burden someone with my baggage and complexities without feeling guilty, or expect someone to put up with the frequent and extreme mood swings that come with BPD. If I feel all these negative things about myself, how could they not be clear and apparent to someone else, or is it me projecting my thoughts onto somebody else? Do I even know how to love properly, or can I trust enough to let someone pass through the door in my wall? Am I just too messed up to be loved? All those things have run through my mind so often, and for so long they have become true to my emotive mind, and so I deem myself unworthy of a relationship, and by convincing myself of this it becomes my reality, and it is shoved to the back of my mind as a truth that no longer needs dealt with, after all, there are more pressing issues to deal with at the moment.

Life tends to throw things our way at the most unexpected times. It happens often in therapy, where you think you have done the work to get past an issue, and boom, there it is in your face again, and all you can hope is to put some of the new coping mechanisms into action before the innate instincts of self-protectiveness so quickly take over. So after having spent the last few years convincing myself I would be alone for life, suddenly someone walks right on in. At first, I don’t take anyone’s interest in me seriously because I can be a convincing outside package but when they find out the truth about my emotional instability and the traumatic past, they don’t stick around anyway. In the past, I have tried to hide it, but one can only mask their true identity for so long, so this time I decided I would just get it over with up front…part of the basics “I love soccer, animals, ice cream, and I am diagnosed with more mental health issues that you can count on one hand”. After my spew, I put my phone down, fully expecting that like everyone else, that would raise enough red flags to have her running in the opposite direction, instead, the conversation continues. She starts asking questions about the BPD, and every answer I give her comes with no reply of shock or judgment. The longer we talk, the more she asks and although she may not understand everything, she seems to be accepting it, which is amazing, but also sets off my BPD abandonment issue; the closer they get, the more it will hurt when they leave. It also raises red flags with the survivor part of me that has yet to develop a proper sense of self-worth. So as the days pass, some of my past comes out and again it is met with understanding and empathy rather than intolerance and apathy, which brings both a sense of ease and fear to the table. Ease because the comfort level has almost a sense of familiarity to it…like you have known each other for years and the fear because the closeness is completely overwhelming. Taking a few bricks out of my wall was the plan, but now there’s a full door, someone standing at it, and not leaving.

I would like to say after all the therapies, workbooks and readings that I employed all my acquired and practiced coping mechanisms and I am dealing with the situation in a rational manner and a level sense of emotion, but that would be untrue. Instinct and BPD took over in full force and although I tried to fight it, it carries the same comfort and familiarity as that favorite old sweatshirt you just can’t yet let go of. So BPD has this fabulous quality that in essence makes you test people as a child would test their parents, almost a form of “go away you are too close” to “please don’t leave me”, and with everything else BPD related, these emotions can bounce around five times a day or 100 times a day, with almost incalculable speeds. So I push her away, thinking every time will be the last and she stays, so I pull her closer, and the cycle repeats. I discount the positive things she says about me and she patiently reinforces them, without hesitation. BPD also includes this fantastic trait of impulsivity, which for me, is primarily verbal, and when my words precede my thoughts, she doesn’t get angry, but quietly listens and asks to learn more about BPD and depression. I figure if I tell her about the suicide attempts and constant thoughts as well as the history of cutting, that will be her breaking point, and she will definitely leave, but instead, says she is sorry I had to go through all that, and allows me to express the ideations at my darkest moments, without fear of judgment. My mind is spinning…this is not how life works for me.

Fast forward to today and even with countless number of tests, the rounds of verbal impulsivity and the rest of the issues that come with my mental illnesses, she remains, and despite the inconvenient circumstances which I will not get into, she makes sure I wake up to a morning text, and go to sleep with a sweet goodnight. Despite the physical distance and her hectic schedule, she makes an effort to spend time with me and is always willing to provide an ear to listen or kind words of support. I have only ever had this depth of relationship once before, many years ago, and she remains my best friend to this day, and always. I am trying again to learn to accept love, to believe I am worthy of it and to grasp the idea that someone sees not what I think of myself, but the things I can no longer see, and as much as the BPD is screaming at me to push and pull, I am trying to recognize when my emotive mind has taken over so perhaps I can control the impulses a bit better.

This is a big risk for me, letting someone get this close, allowing vulnerability and trust all while trying to put a muffle on the BPD which is screaming about fear of being left, yet again. That being said, being a minimizer I convince myself that the possible impending hurt of being left can’t be worse than the other traumas I have endured to this point in my life. My instincts (my gut feeling) have kept me alive this long and if they are saying take a chance, then I follow that path. After all, the heart truly is a remarkably resilient organ.

I hope she knows how appreciated and cared for she is, and how thankful I am for her support, patience and understanding, and for choosing me and following me down this often dark and unpaved road with me, when she easily could have exited and taken the highway.