Mental Health

My Experiences with Suicidality... So Far


If you're affected by thoughts of suicide or feelings of depression, help is available. You can usually find quick assess to a crisis line on Google and a list of crisis lines around the world on Wikipedia. Phone and text support are each available.

I had thoughts of suicide again recently.

I'm fine. I'm totally okay. I want to make that abundantly clear and I want to preface this discussion with something that I don't think many people are aware of:

You can have suicidal thoughts even when you're perfectly happy.

I didn't know this when I was younger and when I first experienced suicidal ideation, but I did realise it when the thoughts recurred in my adulthood. I was perfectly happy, perfectly content, and...

Pop! You could walk into the ocean and just drown yourself.

It sounds dramatic, right? This thought just popped into my head, this depressing thought... but it wasn't. I wasn't depressed by it. So I want to make clear that there is a distinction between suicidal ideation (or thoughts of suicide) and suicidal tendency. The ideation aspect isn't necessarily something that only happens when you're depressed. It can be what's known as an intrusive thought, which is essentially a thought from some involuntary compulsion. Intrusive thoughts can be a serious issue for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or if you are experiencing depression or anxiety. But having this occur when I was perfectly content helped me to realise that it was just, is just, a weird quirk of the human mind. It's why I've titled this blog post, My Experiences with Suicidality... So Far, because I don't know if these thoughts are just gonna randomly happen again - they might - but I'm actually comfortable with that; I'm able to view them for what they are, which is a funny little compulsion of maybe a... misfiring neuron in my brain, or something. They don't actually mean I'm at risk of paying them any effortful thought or following them through. They're kinda just a natural quirk, a bit like remembering something you did once and getting embarrassed. I thought I'd lead with that because if you've been distressed by thoughts of suicide, it might help you to understand that those can just be a quirky little compulsion of your human mind, just like mine. They don't necessarily mean anything.

If they do make you anxious, please talk to someone.

When I was 15

It was summer. I remember that much. The sun was out and it was a beautiful day. I think school was out for summer, and I attended a school a couple of hours away so there was a big sort of distance between me and my friends... I don't know actually who my friends were when I was 15. I may have been in a bit of a transitional period. I still had friends close by, certainly. The next town over. But I guess I couldn't see them all that frequently, which meant I was kind of... the outcast of the group. An outcast among misfits. Maybe there is no way to rationalise what I was feeling. Maybe it just doesn't make sense, but... one day, that summer, I thought about killing myself. I was... depressed, certainly, and I felt isolated and helpless. I'd thought a bunch about how people do that sort of thing; they self-harm, they overmedicate, or they jump. And I had reasoned with myself that self-harm was a painful, messy way of going and medication risked failure, risked waking up and feeling worse, so... I sat in my window and contemplated the driveway below. I opened my window wide and sat, and stared, and thought.

I thought, I could jump. I could jump and I would land... pretty quickly from this second story window. It's too low, probably, and I would just maim myself. But speaking of maiming myself, I could jump further, swan dive, and aim for the spiked railing at the other side of the driveway. The thought of swan diving made me laugh. I was miserable, but I laughed. I probably wouldn't make it that far. Fuck!

I don't know how long I was in my window, but I know that afterwards I was curled up on my bedroom floor crying because I couldn't even fucking do this right. It was a low point for me.

When I woke up the next day, I felt... better. Much better! It didn't really hit me until I took a walk. There's a footpath down to the beach just across the lane from my old house. It's lined with wildflowers, and it was another gorgeous, sunny day. I felt better than I had in a long, long time. I was genuinely happy, kind of euphoric even, and I had an epiphany that I've remembered ever since: this is the first day I might never have had. The flowers, the sunshine, the cloudless sky and the stillness of the ocean. I remember that day vividly and happily: the first day I might never have had. And I resolved, then... maybe not immediately - it may have taken me days or a few months to formalise the thought - but I resolved then that experience makes life worth living, and an untimely death just limits the amount of experience you can have - good or bad.

I have never seriously considered suicide since.

When I was 25

While I haven't seriously considered suicide since, I have already mentioned that the thoughts came back. Around ten years later, autumn this time, not summer. It was another still day, I was sat on the beach and the thought just sort of happened...

Pop! You could walk into the ocean and just drown yourself.

And it was distressing at first. I wondered what... the fuck had just happened? Where did that come from? I'm happy. I'm fine. What the fuck?

I'm not sure that I knew what to make of it at first, and it played on my mind a little. It wasn't the only thought either. There was another, and then another. It got less distressing as I sort of leaned into having a conversation with myself. I analysed the thought, creating a dialogue of sort of these compulsive thoughts vs my questioning, why think that though?

It didn't actually take me that long to become somewhat comfortable with the... weird fucking thoughts, because nothing in my conscious, purposeful thinking was in line with them. My personal agency wasn't at any risk of pursuing those thoughts or actions further, so it became just this quirky, meaningless compulsive thought. It's possibly indicative of some anxiety condition that I haven't had diagnosed, and I've looked at a few and self-diagnosed or related with various conditions I've looked at. Something I didn't realise when I was 15 that I did realise later is that having a formal diagnosis (or an informal self-diagnosis) isn't a bad or embarrassing thing. It can be a relief, and reassuring to know that you aren't in this thing alone; you aren't a statistical oddity, you have these shared experiences with others.

I also think it's reassuring to know that there is an effort among clinical psychologists to push for a new model of diagnosing personality disorders that recognises these conditions as falling on the spectrum of human experience. It's an alternative to the categorical model which essentially qualitatively says either you do or do not meet the criteria for this condition, and instead aims to recognise that these conditions sort of fall on a bell-curve of natural human psychology. Which is to say... in all of my sort of self-diagnostic sessions where I've said, hmm, maybe I relate to this condition, it isn't necessarily the case that I would exhibit the condition quite enough to be formally diagnosed, but that doesn't mean that I - or that you, if you do the same - are a statistical oddity that clinical psychology would fail to describe. The emerging quantitive approach, I think, would be better at recognising that.

These thoughts can be associated with anxiety and depression, but you won't necessarily feel those things when intrusive thoughts occur. And all of these things relate to how our brains are wired, and our specific neurochemistry which can be imbalanced to varied degrees. And that being the case doesn't make you particularly weird; the human experience is multi-dimensional and each of those dimensions represents some quality that falls on a bell curve. Weirdly casual dramatic ideation just happens to be one of the quirks my brain sometimes exhibits.

And Now...

I had thoughts of suicide again recently. That's what I said at the start of this blog post. This time it was as a result of intoxication. I haven't been terribly uncontent recently, just anxious. I'm not sure how anxious. Anxiety can be difficult to quantify, difficult to recognise in its totality. You can find yourself too busy or too distracted to acknowledge it fully.

This time around, the suicidal ideation didn't conjure up imagery or any suggested means, it just presented a sort of twisted logic that... I should kill myself, because... And that because pertains to a paranoid delusion I've had in the past, born out of inebriation and existentialist philosophy. I allude to it in my previous post, The Meaning of Life:

I can clap my hands and demonstrate that I have a material form, I can look out toward the horizon and observe that there is a whole lot of world between me and there, I can converse with other people and realise they too exhibit the presence of conscious minds like mine. But I cannot know, truly, any of that.

I occasionally have this paranoid existentialist dread that I might be alone in the universe, that everything else is imagined, and that I might therefore be some kind of failed god. Like I said in The Meaning of Life, it doesn't behoove any conscious agent in this universe to believe that that's the case. Nonetheless, inebriation sometimes takes me back to the existential dread I experienced as a teenager. If that sounds like something that might concern you too, I might encourage you to read the section, Is Happiness Reasonable? in that blog post because while I do acknowledge that it's an unresolvable question, I do think I make a solid case for why it's reasonable to believe that the material universe actually does exist. Having reasonable grounds to believe it is not the same as being certain of it, I know, but it's likely as good as philosophy can do. In science, in epistemology and in philosophy, occasionally justification plays the role of proof, so I justify the belief that reality itself does in fact exist because, of course, it's a reasonable conclusion given that I see it, given that it has an internal consistency I am able to review (the sciences), and given that I am unable to act as though it doesn't - I eat, drink, breathe from it, etc.

So um... that got a little heavy there, right? Even by the standards of a blog post that is ostensibly about suicide. Here I am just talking about that and then all of a sudden going, "oh, and by the way, the universe might not exist and that shit scares me..."

I'm fine. I'm totally okay... I want to make that abundantly clear. But I've been feeling a familiar sense of derealisation recently, and that's not great.

Derealisation can be a symptom of severe stress. I've felt it before and... it's not great. One tends to feel unreal or detached from reality. It's related to another condition called depersonalisation where you feel detached from yourself, not yourself or kind of like you're on autopilot to the extreme. Scary phenomena but they're more common than you think. Up to 74% of people experience one or the other or both at some point in their life.

Looking back, the feeling of derealisation could explain a lot. That paranoid delusion I have of being separate from reality, some of my depression as a teenager that I struggled to understand. It could stem from an at the time unrecognised feeling of derealisation caused by heightened anxiety.

That helps.

I didn't realise I was going to be self-therapising here, as I wrote this blog post, but it does actually make me feel a little more grounded in reality again to be able to acknowledge that actually that profound existential fear might just stem from the onset of derealisation caused by my anxiety.

So I guess that in closing I want to firmly restate that talking to people about this, accepting therapy and even pursuing formal diagnoses of anxiety conditions should never be a thing that embarrasses you. It can be relieving- No, it is relieving to be able to properly recognise what is going on with you, to put names to it and understand the shit that's going on, and to know that you aren't alone. This shit happens to a lot of us. I've said before and I'll say again yet that biology is an imprecise phenomenon. We aren't perfect beings; we all fall somewhere on a multi-dimensional set of bell-curves. None of us are the same and our collection of experiences are our own, but there is also so much experience that is similar and that we share with others.

If you're feeling particularly stressed or depressed, I'd encourage you to speak to a doctor - as I have done in the past. And if you feel like you or someone you know needs urgent support, please check out the crisis line links I've dropped at the top and bottom of this blog post.

This is something I've been wanting to write for a long time, because I do believe in what I'm saying here. I didn't realise that when I did write it, I'd go into my existential dread and sort of self-therapise toward the end. My hope is that if anybody reads this, they find a little something that sounds like shared experience and we can, through that small connection, heal a little more.

If you're affected by thoughts of suicide or feelings of depression, help is available. You can usually find quick assess to a crisis line on Google and a list of crisis lines around the world on Wikipedia. Phone and text support are each available.