Suicide: A Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem

Douglas Bloch
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I want to return to a subject I have written about in previous blogs − suicide. This continues to be an important topic for me, as I have been suicidal at various times in my life and I work with suicidal people through my depression support groups.

Many people who have never been severely depressed might ask, “Why would anybody want to kill themselves?” After all, taking one’s life goes directly against the survival instinct that nature has programmed us with. For example, if you were walking across the street and saw a car coming towards you − your first instinct would be to jump out of its path.

Thus, from the outside looking in, suicide seems like an irrational decision. Yet, when the brain becomes overwhelmed with chronic, intense pain that seems to have no end, then suicide becomes not only a rational choice, but a compelling option. After all, if you are faced with the prospect of being in eternal hell, then taking your own life seems like an act of self-love, not an act of self-detruction.

There is only one problem with this way of thinking − it is based on an IRRATIONAL assumption that things will never get better. That is a misperception, because the only truth in the physical world is that change is inevitable, that no state however torturous can endure forever. As the Buddhists say, everything is impermanent − including the very suffering that leads one to consider suicide. In fact not only are states of consciousness impermanent, but they eventually turn into their opposites. As David said in Psalm 126, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

If this is true, the challenge then becomes, how do we endure that pain while waiting for it to change? The key is to respond the pain by increasing our coping strategies and resources. Here are some that I and others have found helpful

  1. Break the pain into manageable parts − If you feel overwhelmed, try to make it through one day at a time, or one hour or minute at at time. If you find yourself catastrophizing about the future, refocus onto the present moment through positive self-talk and constructive action. For example, you might replace the statement “I’ll never get better” with “What self-care strategy (calling a friend, going for a swim, taking an antianxiety medication, etc.) can I choose right now to get me through this period?” Then put the strategy into action.
  2. Try surrendering to the pain and experience it as a wave washing over  you. As the wave makes contact, see if you can ride the wave by focusing on your breath. Breathe through the sensations, breathing in and out while attending to the sound of your breathing. I talk about this technique more in a You Tube video called, “Bearing the unbearable pain.”
  3. Another coping strategy is to notice the moments when there is a break from the pain. For example, in the winter of my last deressive episode, Portland was unexpectedly blessed with a sunny day. As I beheld with awe and wonder the magnificent pinks and red hues of the sunset, I recalled the words of poet Robert Browning—“God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world!” The experience was made all the more poignant by its transitory nature; I knew that in a matter of hours my depression would return, and I would be cast back into outer darkness.

In another instance, a friend and I spent an evening listening to the celestial chants of the Taize monks, founders of an intentional spiritual community located in the south of France. I was particularly moved by one refrain: “Within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away, that never dies away…” As my voice merged with the voices of the audience, I was momentarily catapulted into ecstasy. Like a trapeze artist balanced on the high wire, I stood suspended above the abyss of my suicidal thoughts, safe from harm.

Having moments like this was akin to making deposits into an “emotional bank account.” When I sank back into my depression I would draw upon my stored memories and affirm that life could still be beautiful, if only for an instant

  1. If you can’t locate any respites in the presdent, then about some pleasant memory from the past. A single positive memory is a coping resource and has the same impact as something that occurs right now. This is because the brain cannot tell the difference between what is real and what it imagines.
  2. Finally, stay in touch with others, as they are your lifeline to healing. Every single person in my support group who was desperately suicidal and reached out to others is alive today.

A well known cliche says − ”Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” The truth of this was brought home to me when I learned about a person who had jumped from the golden gate bridge and survived. He is quoted as saying, “As I passed the guard rail, I suddenly realized that everything that I thought was unfixable was in reality fixable.” Fortunately, he survived and was given the opportunity to repair his life. Others have been less fortunate.

I would like to end this article with a personal message for anyone who may be suicidal or who knows someone who is suicidal.

If you are on the edge of the abyss, don’t jump.

If you are going through hell, don’t stop. 

As long as you are breathing, there is hope. 

As long as day follows night, there is hope. 

Nothing stays the same forever. 

Set an intention to heal, 

reach out for support, and you will find help.

 

I hope that this information has been helpful, and remember what they say in AA: “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle!”

* * * * *

More information about Douglas’s approach to finding alternatives to suicide pain be found at
http://www.healingfromdepression.com/suicidal.htm

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19 COMMENTS

    • I was taking psych drugs, including so-called “anti-depressants” for thirteen years before I started coming off them and for just about every day of those thirteen years, killing myself felt like a perfectly reasonable and desirable option. I thought it was me because psychiatry told me so. Now that I’m off, I don’t think about suicide so much and when I do, it’s not nearly as intense – not even close. When I was on psych drugs, every decision I made was like, “Well, I could do X, I could do Y, or I could just kill myself.”

    • I agree with you, Darby. With respect to certain specific circumstances, it is not the least bit “irrational” (author’s word) to believe that things will never improve. Do you remember the movie Sophie’s Choice? I’m sure the protagonist would have considered the description “permanent solution to a temporary problem” a mere platitude, which it often is.

  1. I agree that purposely trying to die goes against our nature, but then again, our society goes against nature, so it can be pretty easy to find one’s self in multiple double-binding loops that lead to chronic and extreme distress, for those unaware of how they are being oppressed and controlled. It can be impossible to pinpoint, intellectually, when in the midst of experiencing it, but it is easily felt in the heart and spirit as devastating.

    The messages we get from outside of ourselves can feel very shaming, demeaning, and discouraging, and when this becomes internalized, it will distort our self-perception and lead us to believe we will never know joy, fulfillment, and peace of mind. I know this is an illusion, but it is a powerful one that feels very real and insurmountable in the present moment, which can feel like an eternity.

    As long as society is out so out of balance, and one of scapegoating mentality (lack of self-responsibility), we can, indeed, be a danger to ourselves and to each other. I say this on a collective level. Individuals merely reflect what is at the core of collective beliefs. After all, our national suicide rate is exorbitant. I can’t even imagine the numbers on attempted suicide. What kind of society have we manifested, where suicide and suicide attempts are epidemic? That’s the reddist flag I can even imagine.

    To me, this is a community issue, not individual. Toxic communities will inherently have its victims.

  2. ****Don’t read this if you are subject to triggers****

    I have several issues with CBT and one of them is that if things can get better, they can also get worse. One never knows.

    I just work at it one day at a time and don’t particularly expect anything except that I am coping at the present moment.

    • I have the same experience. I tried it for like 2 sessions and only got angry and frustrated as the person was teaching me “coping strategies” that I either have discovered when I was 6 or sounded like complete and utter bs. Thank you but I am not a moron. Take these:

      “If you can’t locate any respites in the presdent, then about some pleasant memory from the past. A single positive memory is a coping resource and has the same impact as something that occurs right now. This is because the brain cannot tell the difference between what is real and what it imagines.”
      Yeah, because there’s nothing better when you’re down because of a divorce and start thinking about nice things from the past, like great holidays with your ex, or the smell of his hair, or your first date… I bet that’s going to make you feel wonderful. When you’ve just heard a diagnosis of say ALS, just think back to your great moments enjoying a brisk walk in the sunset or winning a marathon. I don’t know about the author’s brain but mine is perfectly capable of distinguishing past and present and even making predictions about the future, pretty accurate in most cases.

      “Finally, stay in touch with others, as they are your lifeline to healing. Every single person in my support group who was desperately suicidal and reached out to others is alive today.”
      Yeah, especially when you can see how people either avoid you because you’re spoiling their day with your lack of optimism and whining or they are so worried about you that it drives you mad or you just simply down want to see them because if you do you’ll explode and say things that should never be said.

      I’ve heard there are people who find it helpful and more power to them but for me it just felt pointless and paternalistic.

    • “I have several issues with CBT and one of them is that if things can get better, they can also get worse. One never knows.”
      Actually that is the most “helpful” from the unhelpful things one can say. At least it acknowledges reality of “life sucks and then you die” and “the world is not just”. Everything else is just a bunch of wishful thinking.

  3. [QUOTE]Finally, stay in touch with others, as they are your lifeline to healing. Every single person in my support group who was desperately suicidal and reached out to others is alive today.[/QUOTE]

    I find this particularly interesting Douglas.

    What I have noticed is that reaching out to others is likely to get one handed over to Mental Health Services who then subject you to the brutality of involuntary admission and forced drugging etc. This can add to the burden that the person may already be carrying.

    Given that 25% of suicides of people who have “reached out” for help with Mental Health Services occur within one day of being discharged from hospital, I hope that whatever it is you are doing in your support groups is conveyed to these people.

    Their were 250 + suicides of people who reached out to Mental Health Services in my state in one year. They are failing miserably. I’d be careful who I reached out to for help given these statistics. I’d also warn any family members concerned for their loved ones to think twice before handing them over to a service that is failing miserably. Trust in haste, regret at leisure.

      • Trouble is anon that most roads lead to Rome.

        Once you have experienced the brutality of the system, then reaching out seems to be a dangerous exercise. I’d suggest that many of the suicides that I mention above occur precisely because the system has made it clear that reaching out may mean further brutalisation.

        I know thats what it has done for me, I wouldn’t speak of my intentions ever again because of the vicious response it may invoke.

        Once bitten by the system, they effectively isolate you, and therefore increase the likelyhood of suicide. I believe what im suggesting is borne out by the statistics.

          • Ah yes anon, a truly safe space.

            Strangely for me that safe space was found with someone who also has intent. She has a progressive disease and wishes to end her life before being “locked in”.

            We discuss the best methods and places etc.

            Personally I thought that because Mental Health Services ‘intervention’ was the “major contributing factor” to my suicidal ideation, that they would have at least some responsibility for assisting with my suicide. And did have a psychiatrist tell me that he would if he could but….. rules is rules.

            I know that my wife calling these people for help was done thinking she was getting a surgeon, and ended up with a butcher. There’s a call she will regret making for the rest of her life.

    • “What I have noticed is that reaching out to others is likely to get one handed over to Mental Health Services who then subject you to the brutality of involuntary admission and forced drugging etc.”
      Exactly. I wish I have never “reached for help” it only made my situation 10000 times worse. I not only had my original problems but also my family suddenly freaking out, my friends running away because it was “too much” for them, mental so-called health system abusing the crap of me and a huge problem at work resulting from that (there’s nothing better than a psych hospital contacting your employer to explain them why you didn’t show up for work and contacting your family without even informing you about it).
      When I see all these campaigns: when you’re depressed seek help I just feel rage. And an urge to go up to any poor to-be-victim to shake him/her up and tell them: “keep it to yourself, it’s really better this way”.

      “I’d also warn any family members concerned for their loved ones to think twice before handing them over to a service that is failing miserably.”
      I told my family that if they even refer me to mental health “professionals” I’ll break all ties with them and never want to see them or speak to them again.

  4. I find that your thoughts and strategies on coping with suicide can be beneficial for people closest to the sufferer (usually a parent or a spouse), who become depressed thinking that the situation is unchanging. I was never given to depression until I found myself parenting a son who received a psych diagnosis. Then, it was like living the Magritte painting of impending doom. I would wake up every day and try to figure out why it was that I was feeling uneasy. I would wake up at night and not be able to get back to sleep because that black ball of doom was pushing down on me. Just thinking of my son’s future would trigger panic and fear. A terrible experience that I have gotten over largely due to mindfulness, breathing techniques, positive messaging and more. And, life got better. Change happened like it’s supposed to happen. Thanks again for reminding me of these coping strategies. I know my situational depression was mild compared to what others go through, but I do think the coping strategies are universal.

  5. I enjoyed this article but felt there was glaring omission in regard to drug induced suicide. I was never suicidal before psych drugs, I was suicidal the entire time I was on until such point as I understood that it was the drugs…..and then I learned how to respond to those feelings by repeating, “This is not me, this is the drugs”. Until drug induced suicides are discussed in the same breath as non-drug induced, people will continue to be misled like I was. Frankly, it was torture. Brainwashing is torture.

  6. “There is only one problem with this way of thinking − it is based on an IRRATIONAL assumption that things will never get better. That is a misperception, because the only truth in the physical world is that change is inevitable, that no state however torturous can endure forever.”
    Pardon me but I disagree with your arguments from the get go. There are situations where making an assumption that “things will never get better” or even “things are going to get much worse” is a very rational one, based in evidence. Take an example of an elderly person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who knows close to 100% they are going to only deteriorate and become much more of a burden to their family. Or a person whose kids died in a horrible accident and they are not coming back. Or someone who is disfigured and cannot find love. Someone who is severely disabled. There are real reasons why people feel their lives are shit and not about to get better and in many cases they are 100% right. And please spare me the argument of “you never know” because miracles are exceedingly rare. I find it super arrogant and in fact adding insult to injury when people say that a decision to take one’s life is irrational or based on wrong perception of reality. It makes an assumption that “normal” people somehow know what is the “right” perception of reality. I can make a very logical argument that everyone should be depressed and kill themselves because life has no objective meaning and please try to prove me wrong.

    I understand that people try to change the mind of a suicidal person by offering him/her hope but it’s about changing someone’s subjective attitude to life rather than “making them see that their view on life is irrational”. It’s not irrational it’s just different fro yours.

    “Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
    ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote