[TW: This post talks about suicidal thoughts in detail, so please take care.]
I deal with my suicidal thoughts in three ways by looking at them from the perspectives of the past, the future and, lastly, the present.
Like a lot of people with a diagnosis of BPD, things have happened to me in the past that have been difficult. I went through years of deep psychological pain during which I had no understanding and no way of coping. I translated things that hurt me into self-neglect and self-cruelty because I didn't know what else to do.
When I feel suicidal nowadays, I try to remember that these distressing thoughts emerge from a place of pain. Knowing this can (sometimes) make it easier to be compassionate, rather than cruel, to myself.
When I feel suicidal, I do my best to think of something that I am looking forward to. It seems strange to look forwards with hope when I feel suicidal, because this is kind of the opposite of what feeling suicidal is (feeling no hope?).
However, nowadays when I feel suicidal, I know that there will be a time when I won't feel like this and I will be able to enjoy drinking a cup of coffee, or chatting with a friend or stroking a dog. This is huge for me, because it means I am now able to look beyond my present emotional state and imagine feeling something else. I never used to be able to do this, and I am not suggesting that it would be right for others to do this.
Another thing I do is try to remember my long-term goals when I feel suicidal. This also seems counterintuitive because to be suicidal is to imagine no future. However, for some reason, I am now able to do this.
Because I am in the (sadly) privileged position of having the right mental health support, my main life goal right now is emotional stability. I know that acting on my suicidal thoughts would be counterproductive to this goal and remembering this encourages me to breathe through the painful thoughts rather than acting on impulse.
When I feel suicidal, I know that it is time to whip out my DBT mindfulness skills. This doesn't mean that I sit down and mediate or stare at flowers!
I feel far too agitated to do such things when I am having suicidal thoughts. What I mean is, I try to observe, notice and then describe my thoughts as per the core DBT mindfulness skill. I try to do this without judgement.
I try to say to myself: 'I notice I am having thoughts that I am so unlovable that I should die', 'I am observing the thought that I am worthless' or 'I am having repeated thoughts about death'.
This represents my attempt to get distance between myself and my thoughts. After that I usually try use more DBT skills alongside, usually self-soothe, distract or improve the moment. Often this means playing Animal Crossing or trying to watch something on TV.
If you are reading this and you think that it sounds impossible, please know that I haven't always been as able to deal with suicidal thoughts as I am now.
In the past, when my suicidal thoughts have been particularly strong, they have left me feeling completely unable to cope. This means that I have had multiple trips to A&E in crisis, even literally crying on the hospital floor.
Not knowing how to cope with suicidal thoughts has left me behaving in ways that are chaotic and out-of-control such as hurting myself in the middle of conversations because I was so distressed I didn't know what else to do.
Since starting DBT, I have been able to learn ways of coping with painful feelings and distressing thoughts. Furthermore, my therapist is helping me understand why I feel, think and behave as I do.
This is making a hugely positive difference to me because I can start to look at myself with less self-blame, self-neglect and cruelty and instead view myself with more compassion.
My suicidal thoughts seem to emerge from a place when I become overwhelmed and my critical voice takes over. The challenge is to bring in a self-compassionate voice and that, for me at least, is the biggest challenge of all...
I also want to acknowledge that everyone experiences suicidal thoughts in different ways. Some people don't find suicidal thoughts scary like me-- everyone is different.
Do you have any tips for dealing with suicidal thoughts?