• Flux Magazine

"Suicidal Thoughts and Not Wanting to Die" by Becca DeMent

I am discussing the ideas and feelings around not wanting to be “around” or alive for the various reasons that one may feel such. No ideas about the desire to die or ways to perform it will be discussed. Please proceed with caution and do what’s best for you.

The goal of this article is to open up the conversation about mental health and especially suicide and suicidal thoughts. The mental health community has continued to encourage conversations that make mental health topics more approachable. If we can talk about the middle ground surrounding these heavy topics, then we can cultivate more understanding and clarity about them.

This article is about the feeling(s) around not wanting to be around anymore. ​NOT wanting to die​, but edging on understanding the feelings around that conclusion. I imagine a railing on a foggy cliffside where I can’t see the bottom. If suicidal thoughts are standing on top of the railing, this article is only about being ten feet back thinking about the railing, and wondering about the edge of the cliff.

I am very lucky and privileged to be able to go to weekly therapy right now. There have been periods where I’ve gone only once to three times a month. Sometimes during my hardest times, I’ve had what I’ll call “​around​ thoughts”, or not wanting to die, but maybe not wanting to be ​around​ anymore if the current feelings and circumstances persist. I’ve only brushed on these thoughts when pushed to a state of overwhelm and upsetness where I thought, if life were always like this, I might not want to be around. Or, I want to be around, but right now is so difficult that it is pulling, or simply just nudging, on the idea of not wanting to. My therapist said that most people have this form of suicidal thoughts, ​around​ thoughts, at some point in their lives.

We’re going to talk about what these feelings are so that we can help identify them easier, understand better what they mean, and translate them into what we may be missing and need to do about these feelings.

In my moment of overwhelm I have felt helplessness because I thought I did everything, I could and yet somehow still felt failure, fear, disappointment, and or similar feelings. Helplessness is an extremely unique feeling especially for humans in the modern age who can very often do ​something​ about their situations. Helplessness is defined as the “​inability to defend oneself or to act effectively”. There is a difference between ​being​ helpless and ​feeling ​helpless. When I have felt helplessness I have not “wanted to die”, but rather felt understanding towards that desire. I realized that “if this is what I felt like all time, I wouldn’t be able to tolerate it”. I thought that “if this doesn’t get better, I might not want to be here anymore.” These are not suicidal thoughts. They are reactions to my overwhelm and acknowledgments of my limits. You are allowed to be overwhelmed and possibly so overwhelmed that you question life itself. These do not automatically become a desire to die. This is the middle ground, or the ground still ten feet behind the railing. It is okay to look at the railing and ask yourself why you are and what you may need to do to take steps back.

When reflecting on these thoughts that I had, I see them as red flags. They’re a sign to me that something is wrong and that I am unhappy about ​something​. They serve as an indicator that the life I am living is not ​exactly​ the one ​I want to live​. Taking a step back and wondering why your brain may have gone to a seemingly scary place is important to understand your needs. Our emotions are often reactions to our reality, both our conscious and unconscious understanding of it. Your mind can react to a situation and produce thought. This thought should not be taken at face value. Instead, it is important to question the thought and tune in on what your inner-self is trying to tell you with this thought about your current reality.

Returning to the definition of helplessness, it states an “inability to defend oneself”. This can be read as the inability to advocate for oneself, or that you do not have all the resources you need to be provided for. Every person needs to have resources, the ability to ask for them, a way to get them, a way to use them, and people to ask for help. When we do not have this, the human brain can resort to our most infantile reaction which is to cry. This may not mean physical tears, but we may feel helpless for not being able to get what we need to be fulfilled individuals(which you are). The problem is that sometimes we do not know which resources we need, where to get them, or who to ask, which can land us in this helpless place. That is why questioning the deeper meaning behind our thoughts is so important.

I realized that I needed therapy as a resource to help me understand my mental health. Having these ​around​ thoughts may indicate to you that you need someone to talk to, that you’ve been ignoring a substantial issue in your life, or maybe that there is unresolved trauma hurting you subconsciously. It can be anything, but ​around​ thoughts can help show us an area of our life that we didn’t know existed, and didn’t know needed some attention. This is the area of growth and self-improvement. If we can understand the signals that something is wrong inside, we can better figure out what we need to do to improve it.

Remember, suicidal thoughts aren’t purely about wanting to die, sometimes they take more approachable forms such as reaching a state that makes one consider what not being around​ might be like. More people have had these thoughts and feelings than we think. Working together to destigmatize suicide and the many circumstances, steps, and thoughts, and feelings that can lead to it will help us all improve our lives. Ask yourself what these thoughts and feelings mean and tune into a deeper understanding of yourself and your needs. Remember compassion for yourself and others.

Disclosure: I am not a mental health professional by any means. I can only speak to my thoughts and experiences about my mental health. If you are worried about yourself or anyone around you having suicidal thoughts, please seek professional resources.

Disclosure: I am not a mental health professional by any means. I can only speak to my own thoughts and experiences about my own mental health. If you are worried about yourself or anyone around you having suicidal thoughts, please seek professional resources.

National suicide hotline:800-273-8255 Link to suicide prevention resources: https://afsp.org/suicide-prevention-resources

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