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Re: Got any effective methods for averting suicide?

Posted by Mark H. on July 1, 2002, at 23:52:24

In reply to Got any effective methods for averting suicide?, posted by bookgurl99 on July 1, 2002, at 20:25:08

My psychiatrist lets me keep Zyprexa on hand for times that are particularly tough for me. Sometimes after taking it (and subsequently getting 12 to 14 hours sleep and waking up feeling comparatively cheerful and renewed), I wonder why the heck I wait so long to take it sometimes.

In years past, decades before my bipolar depression was diagnosed or treated, I'd be on the verge of doing something that I knew was wrong, and I'd "put myself to bed" instead -- that is, I'd take a shower, make my bed, put on some comforting music, take a couple of Valium, and go to bed early in the evening. At the time, I didn't have a partner to help take care of me, and I had to give myself the comfort, protection and support that I needed. It was as though I were two different people: a lonely and despondent person suffering from debilitating depression, and a wise person who knew I needed to be treated especially well until the worst of it passed. (And that may be the most important thing to remember: that however bad everything seems when we're in the black hole of depression, it is ever-changing whether we feel like it is or not.)

And if it gets so bad that you fear you can no longer help or protect yourself, then pick up the phone and tell a real person that you need some help to keep from killing yourself. It can be a police dispatcher, a mental health clinic, a telephone operator, a friend or family member who has volunteered to help you, your family doctor, your minister or a suicide prevention hotline worker. But don't settle for a recording or leaving a message on an answering machine!

Just as you find yourself planning your suicide during times of despondency and despair, please plan your survival during periods of relative reprieve. Make a list of the people you'll call, with their names (or positions) and telephone numbers, and keep the list in your possession or by the phone. In most communities, there is a mental health facility that accepts in-patients for at least 72 hours (3 days) -- find out if they accept self-referrals in the middle of the night. Talk to your doctor about what you should do, and write it down for later use.

I have a friend who keeps a little suitcase packed for himself and ready to go -- it's his safety net. He knows if it gets too bad at any hour of the day or night, he will grab his pre-packed bag with clean clothes and a toilet kit and head for the local in-patient facility rather than giving into self-destructive despair. He has made a written plan with his doctor and his familiy to get the help he needs when he needs it.

Plan to live, to reach out, to rescue yourself or let others rescue you when your illness feels like it is spiraling out of your control. If you feel like giving in, then give in instead to letting yourself be helped. In the depths of despair, we feel as though it will never change. At those times, we need notes to ourselves to bolster our faith. The goal when we're at the bottom is just to make it through the next few hours, the next few days.

One last technique I have for self-survival: Think about the inconvenience to your neighbors. Think about how awful it would be for the person who found your body. Think about the poor person who would have to clean up the mess or move your body and zip it into a body bag, carry it away. Think about the horrible guilt that friends, co-workers and family members would feel. Think about how awful it would be for everybody, and how long it would take you to put everything in order first, how much work it would take to do it responsibly. Just the thought of so much work wears me out when I'm depressed and helps to buy me some time.

Thank you for your forthrightness in asking for help. That's a good, healthy sign that the life force in you is strong, even as another part of you would take it away forever. Even if it seems at times that your life has no purpose whatsoever, consider the possiblity that your endurance and survival can help lead others out of a similar darkness. Your job is to survive, to stay open to the possibility of your life improving, and by NOT killing yourself, to provide hope for others who suffer as you do, now and in the future.

With kind regards,

Mark H.




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