The closest I ever came to committing suicide involved holding a loaded gun to my head. It was a few weeks after my fiancée, Dan, had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. When my finger touched the trigger, it was pure exhilaration. There was no sadness, no despair, no darkness. It was pure joy. When I began to increase the pressure on the trigger, everything that had ever been in my life just opened up and fell away from me.
At that moment, I was free. Free of everything. I doubt I can make you understand what this means with words, unless you have been in that same instance as well. I suppose in that one moment, I found what the Buddhist monks search for. And truth be told, I can only hope that as my natural death approaches, I will find that moment again.
I’ve wrestled with what happened next, trying to understand it. Was it my own subconscious? A guardian angel? Simple, dumb luck? What ever it was, it saved my life. As I began to pull the trigger, a vision flashed before my eyes. My friend – whose apartment I was in and whose gun I was holding – walked in the door. He saw my bloody, lifeless body on the floor holding his gun. He knelt beside me, cradled my head in his hands, and screamed.
Everything suddenly came crashing back to me.
With shaking hands I removed the gun from my head, thankful for whatever had just saved me and vowed from that moment on, I would kill myself “the right way”. I would not be selfish, I told myself. I would not traumatize anyone, leave a bloody mess for anyone, or leave without a proper explanation to all my loved ones.
I continued to be suicidal. I made my detailed plan, got all my ducks in a row. But luckily, THAT moment, of letting go of everything I ever was, never came again. Ever since that moment, however, I have had a complete understanding of how and why people suddenly – and without warning or explanation or seeming regard for anyone else – commit suicide.
So, how do you save someone who reaches this “Nirvana” point of suicide ideation? In all honesty, I’m not sure you can. I believe at that point, only the person contemplating suicide can save themselves. In any case, the most important step is to recognize that this moment exists and prevent yourself or you loved one from reaching it.
Here is a the link to a past post I wrote on recognizing the warning signs and helping someone who is suicidal: How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal.
If you struggle with Depression and thoughts of suicide, please read the article. You CAN be your own friend, and you CAN save your own life.
As always, if you find yourself in a crises situation, please call 911 or your local emergency response number. The people on the other end of that line want to save your life!
If you are alone, though, there are other things that you can do to help yourself. You are not always 100% committed to dying. I will reckon that there are many times in your life when you do not want to die. During one of those times, you can take steps to prepare for your lowest points.
- For starters, you can sign a “No-Harm Contract”. This can be a great tool to help you step back and stabilize yourself when you feel like falling. If you are caring for someone who is suicidal, discuss the “No-Harm Contract” with them. Unfortunately, people don’t always abide by them, but many times they will. Here is one form that I have created, based on others I’ve seen: No-Harm Contract.
If you fall into a crises situation, the best thing you can do is reach out for help. But often times, for any number of reasons, people do not do that. If you are alone, in crises, and unwilling or unable to get help, the best thing you can do to immediately help yourself is to distract yourself from self-harm or suicide until the feeling passes, or you ARE able to get help.
- Come up with your own list of distractions and add them to the No-Harm contract. Make sure that you have what you need for the distractions you choose. Distractions can be simple or complex, here are a few examples:
- Watch a favorite show. It may sound silly, but Star Trek saved my life! Although the characters you love will NOT cure your depression or grief, they CAN keep you company and distract you from your suicidal thoughts. My eternal gratitude goes out to the supporting cast of Deep Space Nine, especially, as I watched their episodes over and over. If you’ve read my book, you know I also owe a debt of gratitude to the cast of Galaxy Quest, Re-animator, and Death Machine. 😉
- writing what you feel instead of carrying out what you feel. I kept a journal and wrote pages and pages of letters to Dan.
- listen to upbeat music. Depressing music may speak to your soul, but your soul is telling you to kill yourself, so speaking to it isn’t exactly the best idea right now.
- take your dog for a walk. It will remind you that you love someone, and someone depends on you
- call a friend or loved one. You don’t have to tell them you are suicidal if you don’t want, but it will connect you to someone that loves you
- Do something completely spontaneous (but harmless), like geting your hair cut (or dying it purple!)
- Go somewhere – the mall, the art museum, Starbucks, the library, to the movies, the park – anywhere that you enjoy and can distract you, uplift you, make you smile
- Come up with your own, unique distractions. Think outside the box. My teenage daughter took to drawing intricate patterns and artwork on her body to distract herself from cutting and suicidal thoughts. It takes her time, patience, and her thoughts must be focused on what she’s doing. And, I must say, the end results are quite beautiful!
When your thoughts become profoundly suicidal, it would be almost impossible to “make” yourself do any of these distractions. Prepare ahead of time. Make that contract with yourself, or someone who loves you. Get your distractions ready by purchasing a bottle of purple hair dye, or all 7 seasons of Deep Space Nine (hey, I had to watch TV recorded VHS tapes, commercials and all!). By being prepared, you will be much more likely to follow through when thoughts of self-harm become overwhelming.
- Write a “Suicide Prevention Letter” to yourself ahead of time. I tried to find something like this online, but was unable. So, I’ve kind of winged it here and created my own. You can either use mine, or come up with your own letter, or template. Write it during a time when you are completely committed to living. Imagine you are inside a window, talking to your other self who is standing on a ledge, ready to jump. You MUST convince yourself not to do it: Suicide Prevention Letter to Myself.
Keep your No-Harm Contract and your Suicide Prevention Letter to yourself with you at all times, or some place where you won’t ignore it. If you hide it away in a filing cabinet somewhere, the likelihood that you will dig it out in times of crises are diminished. If you keep it on top of your dresser however, in easy reach, you can look at it, and update it, often!
- Get all that lethal junk away from you! Especially firearms! It takes very little contemplation to pull a trigger. Get rid of those things you are most likely to kill yourself with. Pretend that your suicidal self is a child. You would not leave guns, 10 boxes of sleeping pills, or razor blades around a child. Don’t leave it around yourself either.
I am not a mental health expert. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide, please get professional help. Clinical Depression is a physical illness of the brain, not an emotional frame of mind, or weakness of character. It can not be over come by strength of will. It must be treated medically. Please help end the stigma of mental illness.
What do you think? Have you ever been suicidal, or cared for someone who has? Do you have any other suggestions for someone who is in crises right now? Please feel free to comment below!