Live. In other words... don’t kill yourself.
If you are in intense emotional and/or physical pain, remember that your judgment is being clouded by that pain. If you are considering suicide, you are trying to end that pain. Please do not confuse ending your pain with ending your life. The two are very different.
--Kevin Caruso, www.suicide.org
If you are feeling suicidal right now, please make a phone call. Try 911. Or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (or if you’re like me and hate having to figure out what numbers are associated with the letters – that’s 8255). Call someone you can share your true feelings with. There are people who would like to help you because your life matters. I am sending you a virtual hug. Guess how I know about these resources?
When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
-Harriet Beecher Stowe
It does get better. You will go through this, and it does get better. How can I be so sure? Watch this video:
If you are not feeling suicidal right now, that doesn’t mean you get to skip this Key! It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that suicide is one of those things where prevention is the only cure. Maybe you feel fine right now, maybe you think you won’t ever hit this kind of rock bottom. That’s great, but please, while you’re in a good place, come up with a plan of what you will do if you start feeling suicidal and write out this plan. Your therapist can help, and you can even find a “suicide prevention plan template” online. This work is intense. You can get through it, but you’ll increase your chances by doing this. Working with each of the other Keys will also help, particularly Keys 2, 4, and 7. Regularly reflecting and writing about the progress you make in this journey will give you something to refer back to when feelings of hopelessness arise (notice I said “when,” not “if”). Another great writing exercise to do while you are feeling good is to write a letter to your future depressed self.
Part of your plan might include who to call, whether a friend, a therapist, or a hotline. As Dan Siegel’s work on interpersonal neurobiology tells us, interacting with another person can change your brain activity at a cellular level. You don’t need to be a scientist to see this is true – just watch the movie Her, for a good demonstration of this.
Depression is marked by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and the remedy for this is not well understood. There are prescription antidepressants available that you may wish to speak to your doctor about and see whether the upsides outweigh the downsides of taking them. Some studies have shown that regular exercise is just as effective as the antidepressants that are currently available. Some people swear by “natural mood booster” supplements. More research is being done on various drugs, including ketamine (street name “Special K”) which has been shown to have a rapid antidepressant effect (acting within two hours). Research on psilocybin (a.k.a. “magic mushrooms”) seems promising. Research participants reported the ability to think through difficult subjects without the internal reaction to those subjects. The fact is, there’s a lot of room for more research and development of prescription medications for depression, and psychedelics have shown promise. The latest research on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is especially promising (61% of study participants were cured of PTSD) - and this is on the FDA's version of a fast-track for approval. To learn more about research on the clinical use of psychedelics, visit the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Consider the potential side effects before taking any drug.*
It can be a very personal decision of whether or not to take medication. What’s important to keep in mind is that if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are more than just thoughts affecting you – there are also neurotransmitter imbalances in your brain, and there is no shame in seeking medical attention.
There may also be other medical issues that can impact mood, including blood sugar levels, vitamin D deficiency, or thyroid problems. Certain medications may also cause depression as a side effect. These are just more good reasons to have a conversation with your doctor. And keep your resources that you wrote down in Key 2 handy.
*Ten Keys does not promote or endorse illegal activities.
Ten Keys is not meant to take the place of consulting with a medical or mental health professional.