Photography Credit: eKate Photography
TRIGGER ALERT: In depth discussion of suicidal thoughts and plans
Note: I am not a licensed mental health provider or doctor; this post is strictly based on my experiences and these tips are based on what worked for me.
As part of my therapy, I talk to a lot of different women about their postpartum depression/anxiety experiences. So the word ‘suicide’ gets quite a bit more use in my day to day vocabulary now.
In going through my own struggle with suicide ideation, it’s taught me a lot about the human body, the mind and what suicide really is. Before I had perinatal depression, I had heard phrases such as “suicide is selfish” and “suicide is a cry for help”. I didn’t think much about it. I knew of people who had died by suicide, but I didn’t know anyone personally. Since I’ve experienced the pull of suicide during the throws of depression, both of those statements seem trite and hollow…if not just a complete misunderstanding of what drives people to take this very permanent path.
It’s a very scary topic for people. I was hesitant to bring up my own suicidal thoughts to anyone (even my care providers), because I wasn’t sure what would happen to me if I was honest about it. Would someone throw me in a hospital? Would I be able to get employment if that happened? I never really wanted to end my life, but I just didn’t see any way out of my situation. I couldn’t see an end to the day by day hopelessness. My self-worth was ambivalent. I never really thought that my family would be better without me…I just figured that they wouldn’t miss me. I knew that my husband would get remarried to someone else and my baby didn’t really need a mother such as I. It’s those thoughts and the fear of how someone will react that adds another element to the feeling of isolation.
As the suicidal thoughts began to get stronger, I began to fantasize about the sweet relief that I would feel upon starting the process. It’s a ridiculous notion. If your life ends, you don’t feel anything…because you’re gone.
But that’s how desperate I was and those were the weird things my brain was telling me.
So if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, you likely haven’t told anyone that the postpartum depression has gotten that bad. You might feel isolated due to the thoughts, which can make it hard to reach out or lean on others. You’ll need to get help immediately. Here are some quick tips to get yourself started.
Be on guard for thoughts like:
- “I am just thinking about suicide, but I don’t think I could ever do it”
- “I don’t want to die, but I just can’t go on. I feel so hopeless. This is never going to end”
- “I’m so pathetic, I can’t even kill myself”
- “Sigh. Another day that I’m alive. How am I going to do this?”
Each one of those thoughts is the beginning of a progression that can get out of control, very rapidly.
- First you start thinking about suicide.
- Then you begin fantasizing about how to do it.
- Then you start planning.
It’s critical to get help as early as possible even if you think you would “never actually go through with it”. You also have to continuously evaluate yourself and ask: “Do I feel safe today?” If the answer is no, then you need to go the ER immediately. It’s not a great experience, but you’ve gotten to the point where you need help as soon as humanly possible and waiting around for appointments and drugs to take effect just isn’t good enough.
If your answer is, “yes, I feel safe today” then you can start putting some steps into place toward treatment.
If you have access to a gun, it’s a good idea to move it out of your control, at least temporarily. Guns are enablers and temptations. Then, set up a plan to get help. Having a plan can provide just enough relief to help you get through the next couple of days (and sometimes weeks, since medication takes some time to set in).
Your plan should involve seeing a doctor or a psychiatrist. You’ll need to be up front and honest about how you are feeling, even if you’re having a good day. Talk about the bad days. If you can, be honest about the suicidal thoughts. Once you and your doctor or psychiatrist come up with a treatment plan, you then need to tell yourself EVERY night, until treatment starts to work: “I just need to get through one more day“.
If you’re already on medication and it’s just not working, don’t despair. There are a lot of different types of medications and some just work better for others depending on their chemical composition. Be honest with your doctor about the medication. Don’t settle and remember: postpartum depression is typically very treatable. You are not untreatable.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, for postpartum depression mothers. You are treatable. You can get through this. Your life will change and be full of hope again. I know you don’t believe me, but you can get better. You’re not alone.
If you need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to call the Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Can’t talk? Check out their Chat Line.
I am not a licensed mental health provider or doctor; this post is strictly based on my experiences and these tips are based on what worked for me.