Why do I feel like this?
For the majority of people thinking about suicide, it is a very confusing, lonely and exhausting time. The chances are, there is a part of you that really wants to live, it’s just you don’t know how to do so with the problems you face. You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed or that suicide offers the only viable solution. However, it’s really important to remember that A. there is help out there and B. many times this feeling is transient and if you can keep safe until these feelings of being overwhelmed pass, they will almost certainly be relieved. If you are unable to keep yourself safe please follow the guidance in our I’m unable to stay safe section.
Suicidal thoughts and feelings are incredibly individual and complex. It is never black and white and rarely is there a straightforward single reason. There are some all too common themes that are often expressed by individuals who have been, or are considering suicide; inability to problem solve, lack of self-worth and/or purpose, harmful relationships, feeling stuck/trapped, significant debt and being overwhelmed.
It’s important to differentiate between suicidal thoughts/feelings and a suicide plan. Many people experience suicidal thoughts, often they are very brief and pass. Finding someone they can talk to, a friend or family member, a professional or a charity such as PAPYRUS’ HOPELINE or The Samaritans can be key in keeping them safe.
A little bit of biology for you: when people feel overwhelmed, the emotions they feel are processed in a part of the brain that can respond appropriately. That response includes releasing a cocktail of hormones that take the body into battle mode – part of that response is to shut down higher order thinking, like logic, curiosity etc. In fact, many systems go off line while others go on high alert. It’s ironic that feeling overwhelmed is likely to cause an internal chemical reaction that literally stops us from thinking clearly and consequently keeps us in an overwhelmed and panicked state, but it does. A person may be literally unable to think clearly or make a simple decision like if they want tea or coffee let alone choose what the best option may be to stop feeling overwhelmed.
Academics now know that exposure to suicide at any time in life, can increase the chances of an individual considering suicide. If you have been exposed to suicide, especially if no one ever sat down with you and helped you work through your feelings, then it is possible that it becomes part of your frame of reference and whether its conscious or subconscious, suicide can become a potential option for you. What is vital is that you remember there are so many other options that can help you cope with your situation.
Every single one of us will experience times that test us, and everybody experiences times where we just want the day to be over. Whilst your experiences are unique to you, the themes (fear, pain, embarrassment, shame, sadness etc) are felt by people all over the world. Sadly, for some, their feelings cannot be reconciled and/or overcome, they just can’t imagine how to carry on living and they reluctantly choose to die by suicide. That’s why at OLLIE, in addition to creating suicide aware communities, we are teaching children and adults how to plan to achieve their goals and overcome their obstacles. Our aim is for people to learn how to problem solve so that suicide never feels like a viable option.
If someone is struggling with suicidal ideation (thinking) they will have so many emotions and concerns running through their mind. PAPYRUS have put together a list of FAQs that people working with those experiencing suicidal thoughts frequently get asked.
If you only take one thing away from reading this, know that you are not alone and there is help and support out there that can help you to get through this difficult time.
I can’t stay safe
If you have already taken steps to end your life, or your suicidal thoughts are overwhelming you right now, you need emergency help to help you stay safe from suicide. Please call 999 for an ambulance or go straight to A&E. Alternatively you can ask someone else to call 999 or take you to A&E. If you haven’t taken steps to end your own life but believe you will if you don’t receive support soon you can call NHS 111 who will advise you on what support is available to you such as out of hours doctors or walk-in centres.
You may also be able to visit a crisis house. Crisis houses are used as an alternative to going into hospital, for example if you don't feel safe at home overnight, or things at home are contributing to you being in crisis. Visit Mind’s website to find a crisis house near you. If you live in Hertfordshire, you can use the NightLight service which is a countywide out of hours mental health crisis service providing a safe and welcoming space for people who are feeling distressed and experiencing a crisis.
Looking after yourself and self-care
So, what is self-care? It means different things to different people. For some it’s going for a five-mile run and for others it’s a hot bath with a good book. Our favourite definition at OLLIE is that self-care is;
“The practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, particularly during periods of stress.”
Self-care is not a luxury, it’s a vital part of our day to day living, just like healthy eating and exercise and is essential during times that are challenging or difficult. Finding ways to incorporate some ‘me time’ into our daily routine is the very opposite of selfish – it means you have the reserves to keep on going and be there for others who may rely on you.
At the most basic level self-care is all those little things like brushing our teeth, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water or staying on top of our daily responsibilities. We know that when we find life difficult, it can be hard to accomplish these things. When people are overwhelmed, the tendency can be to stick our heads in the sand and ignore our own bodies’ request for some attention. When we ignore our own needs, big tasks like meeting a deadline, attending a health appointment or socialising can be even harder.
Part of self-care is also being patient and compassionate with ourselves. It can be easy to feel guilty or chastise ourselves for not meeting our own high standards or doing all the things that have been heaped on us. If that’s you, it can help to imagine that you are talking to someone you love very much - what would you say to them if they were in this situation? Probably you will find it easy to be gentle and compassionate with them. Now, imagine what they would say to you if they knew you were being so hard on yourself?
To find out more about self-care and self-help techniques check out MIND’s guide on self-care.