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How do I survive suicidal thoughts?

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideation, you are not alone. We receive many questions about this topic, and multiple writers on our team have fought, or are fighting, this very same war. Know that each day you are alive is a win. You already have victories because you're still here. It likely feels like you won't be able to make it another day or even another ten minutes, but we're here to encourage you and, to the best of our ability, equip you with some tools to make it through.

Also see: Why should I not commit suicide?

If Possible, Seek Counseling

We are not certified counselors or therapists at 412teens. While we do our best to pair questions with those most qualified to answer and will pray for you, we are still not certified to give professional advice. If you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, we urge you to pursue counseling if at all possible.

But we acknowledge that sometimes counseling isn't possible. Counseling can be expensive, even with the sliding scale many offices use, and sometimes other circumstances get in the way. In that case, we'll do the best we can to encourage and equip you to make it through to the next day. You are WORTH IT, friend. And our desire is to help every person know the depths to which they are loved by the God of the universe (John 3:16; 1 John; Psalm 86:15).

Even if counseling isn't doable for you, help is still available. There are numerous help-lines, chat-lines, and organizations that exist specifically to walk you through suicidal feelings. Please scroll down for resources.

Where do suicidal thoughts come from?

Suicidal thoughts come from such a variety of reasons, it's impossible to give a blanket answer. Perhaps this is the first time you've ever considered suicide; it's a vague idea with no real weight to it. Or maybe it's been a matter of months or even years that you've been resisting overwhelming urges to make the pain stop in any way possible. Maybe these thoughts have had a wide spectrum of intensities at different times.

When you break a bone, you're in immense amounts of pain. The issue isn't the pain itself, but the broken bone. You find ways to manage the pain as you work to heal the brokenness. The brain is similar. Often times, suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts result from extreme or severe depression or some other type of mental health disorder. The brain is very complex, and sometimes the symptoms of mental illness manifest in terrifying ways.

Please know that having mental health disorders is NOT a failing; they're a malfunctioning part of the human body in a fallen world that gets sick. Having depression or suicidal thoughts does NOT mean your emotional, spiritual, or mental ability to "just deal with it" has bombed; they're your brain's collapse under pressure when your pain is heavier than your ability to carry it.

If we don't have enough help with coping mechanisms, supportive communities, health management, medication (if needed), then of course our minds are going to self-destruct.

Establishing a Counterplan

Knowing that suicidal thoughts are a biological malfunction can help to an extent, but the pain is still there. How do we go forward when almost every single part of our mind is screaming to JUST STOP? If possible, while your brain is clear, create a counterplan for you to seek when your brain is LESS clear. A counterplan can take the place of another plan—the plan your suicidal thoughts are telling you. Your counterplan may involve contacting specific people, hiding certain objects from yourself, going through a meditative routine, etc.

Do you live with someone you can instantly go sit with when the thoughts get bad? Can you give them any objects you may use to harm yourself? Do you have a visual reminder of things that bring you joy or remind you of things worth living for? I have a "happy board" above my desk that is filled with photos of good friends, good memories, and pictures from shows and movies that remind me of goodness. I also have pets that rely on me to take care of them. Do you have pets that rely on you? A family member? A friend?

If you don't have someone close by who you can trust, keep a hotline number written down where you can easily access it. There are hotlines for abuse survivors, suicidal ideation sufferers, and those in LGBTQ+ community that have been ostracized or abused by family or friends. Scroll down and find the most relevant resources for what you need, and keep them on hand.

One Thing at a Time

Unfortunately, the pain that comes along with chronic suicidal ideation can flare-up to nearly unbearable levels when we least expect it. Perhaps you're driving to school when it hits; or you're cramming to finish a paper; or you're at your Subway job and you burn a batch of bread for an upcoming catering order.

No matter how bad it gets, you can still survive it by taking one thing at a time.

If you're driving, focus on navigating to the next traffic light safely. Then to the next light. Then the next light. Needing to finish that paper? One word at a time. Then you have a sentence. Then another sentence. Then a paragraph. Burned bread at work? Clean up one burned loaf, then another, then another. Then start a new batch with one roll of dough at a time.

Wait.

In an episode of pain that's so overwhelming you want it to end, REMEMBER: You are still winning battles. Every second you're still breathing is a victory. You're already surviving suicidal thoughts right now, and that takes more strength than you may even realize you had.

But...the pain is still there. What if it doesn't stop?

As scary as the pain itself is, what's scarier is using a permanent solution for a temporary and treatable problem. You want the pain to stop, but suicide stops everything. Yes, your pain, but also hope for' living tomorrow, experiencing the things you love, your relationships with friends, families, and any possibility of feeling relief.

Martha Ainsworth writes, "People often turn to suicide because they are seeking relief from pain. Remember that relief is a feeling. And you have to be alive to feel it. You will not feel the relief you so desperately seek if you are dead." [source]

Pray.

Spiritual abuse is becoming an increasingly familiar problem within Christian communities. Maybe your suicidal thoughts stem from a background where, instead of being given hope in God, a fearful faith has led to despair, loneliness, and dread. If this is the case, we are deeply sorry for the injustice that has been done to your soul.

But there is still hope: God isn't waiting for you to have it all figured out or for your heart to line up with a picture-perfect image of a "good Christian." God's love for you surpasses any human definition—or restriction (Romans 8:38-39; Psalm 91). And sometimes our suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideation DO come from some type of spiritual attack (1 Peter 5:8).

That's why it's important to keep talking to God. Even if you have no words, just cry to Him. Romans 8:28 tells us that "the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

Ask God for five more minutes. Then another. Just five more minutes. Pray that God will grant you escape from the temptation to act on your thoughts. Pray for help. And embrace the help He provides.

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TL;DR

You're not alone in the battle with suicidal thoughts/ideation. If possible, seek counseling. Even if counseling is not possible, call a crisis hotline. You are WORTH healing. You are loved and valued by the God of the universe (John 3:16; 1 John; Psalm 86:15). Suicidal thoughts are sometimes the symptom of depression, mental health disorders, or abuse. Experiencing any of these things does NOT mean you've failed or are unable to ever heal in any way. Help is available, and it's OK to get help.

Establish a counterplan to combat suicidal thoughts by writing down a crisis hotline, having a friend or family member on-call, and having a list of reasons to keep living. In sudden flare-ups of suicidal thoughts, focus on bite-sized tasks to keep moving forward. Suicide is a permanent response to temporary pain; wait instead of making rash decisions. God is always there to help you, even if He doesn't feel safe or loving based on unhealthy spiritual teaching. Ask Him for help; the Holy Spirit will interpret your heart's desires and needs when you have no words (Romans 8:28).

By: September Grace

September Grace is an aspiring novelist, book hoarder collector, and movie watcher. She has a black feline floof named Faust, an assortment of plants that seek global domination, and a distinct lack of awareness for where she is at any given moment.

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