From Dr. Glenn Doyle: “Part of being trauma-informed is understanding that trauma survivors often use suicidal thoughts as a coping tool.
. . . To live with complex trauma is often to live in pain. That pain is almost always emotional, and not infrequently physical as well. It’s very frequently pain we can’t just lay down or take a break from. Sometimes it’s not even pain we can adequately distract ourselves from.
. . . For many trauma survivors there’s quite often literally NO escape from the emotional and physical pain of post traumatic stress— especially in early recovery. The pain of our trauma traps us. Corners us. Does not give us an out.
Suicidal thoughts are often that out— mentally and emotionally, anyway.
Some people reading this might be familiar with some diets that recommend discipline on six days a week— but one ‘cheat day’ per week, on which the dieter gets to eat anything they want, particularly the things they denied themselves the rest of the week. The reason diet ‘cheat days’ often work is, fantasizing about that ‘cheat day’ can provide a dieter with the focus to power through the ‘discipline’ days— with the promise of something sweet ahead, if the dieter just hangs in.
Suicidal ideation can kind of work in the same way for trauma survivors. We might have a perfectly awful time carrying on day to day, when there is no end to our pain in sight. When we feel trapped, cornered, forced to carry on, to keep living despite the enormous pain we’re in, we can REALLY go down the rabbit hole of despair.
But if we have a potential ‘out’— the possibility of suicide— that transforms our ‘have to’ to a ‘choose to’ situation.
We’re no longer being FORCED to endure the pain we’re in— we’re now CHOOSING to stay alive and work toward healing, because we DO have an alternative.”
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