What Happens When You Keep The Idea Of Suicide As Your Ace In The Hole (by Dee Chan)

What Happens When You Keep The Idea Of Suicide As Your Ace In The Hole

I spent years trying to commit suicide and probably made more than 15 attempts in my life. Thankfully, none of them were successful although there were  a few which came pretty darn close. I used to hoard pills and keep them in a bottle which I hid under my bed. It was my “ security blanket”. My stash was my “way out” if things got to the point that I could no longer stand to be alive. I would go into my room when my kids were at school and open the bottle and count them just to make sure they were all there.

I would do research online about what the lethal dosage was and whether or not it was best to combine them with alcohol. Yes, that was the best way to make sure they would actually kill me.

At other times I would fixate on how my suicide would impact the people in my life. Who would come to my funeral? How much would they cry? Who would be the sorriest for all the terrible things they had done to me?

Nowhere along the line did I think about what my suicide would do to my children. Scientists know that children whose parents have committed suicide struggle to recover, and many never recover at all. Even though I knew this in the back of my mind, this was never enough to dissuade me. That said, I was acutely aware of the fact that I didn’t want to actually die. I just wanted the pain to stop and I would go to any length to achieve that objective.

Keeping my stash eventually became a crutch for me. I knew that if things got too bad, I had a way out. So, I was never motivated to work on the things in my life that needed changing, namely me. I lurched from one therapist to the next, discarding them like soiled handkerchiefs when they didn’t “fix me”. I lived in a state of unbearable desperation always looking for the quick fix instead of taking a good hard look in the mirror. Because I had a way out. Because I could choose to leave it all behind if I couldn’t stand it anymore.

The problem with this mindset is that it didn’t really give me a “way out”. In fact, it kept me locked up tighter than a person in solitary confinement. I became completely unable to relate in any kind of normal way to anyone else because I didn’t “have to”. I was so in love with my own pain and misery there was literally no room in my life (or my heart) for anyone or anything else. I gradually began to shut down all my intimate relationships but constantly bemoaned the fact that I had no meaningful relationships in my life except with my husband. Even that relationship became problematic as my suicidality knew no bounds. Nothing anyone could say or do enticed me to believe that life could be worth living. Finally, after too many years of living like my own emotional hostage, I admitted defeat and agreed to go to a hospital in the United States for long-term inpatient treatment.

All this suicidal behaviour, however, kept kept me in a highly dysfunctional state for more years than I like to admit. It gave me the excuse to not do the emotional work I needed to get past my chronic suicidality and address the deeper, more meaningful issues. When I finally started to do that – looking at the issues around my abandonment as a baby and what that had done to me, how it set me up for a lifetime of failure, I was able to finally start to do the grieving I needed to do in order to put those events into a box so I could move forward it my life.

When I was discharged from the hospital and returned back to my home community things were still pretty difficult even though I had learned some vital and important coping skills. Despite all my therapy, though, it still took many years for things to really “click” and for me to finally begin to make the headway into getting better. I finally turned that corner after my last and, hopefully, final suicidal incident. I  was admitted back to the hospital which felt like a profound failure. All the therapy seemed to have been for naught. I decided to look at it as a ten year “tune up” and began the painful work of starting over. Again, I was reintroduced to mindfulness meditation and the gentle art of practicing gratitude and I was finally able to finish my healing. When I was discharged from the hospital that time, I was able to finally take the stash to the local pharmacy and ask the pharmacist to dispose of them for me.

Doing that allowed me to finally start to live in a way I never had before. When I was always so fixated on the act of dying I closed myself off to actually living and I boxed myself into a very narrow existence. Saying goodbye to that behavior was liberating beyond belief.

[irp posts=”8592″ name=”What I Learned After My Last Suicide Attempt (by Dee Chan)”]


About the Author: Dee Chan

Dee Chan was diagnosed with BPD more than 35 years ago back when the diagnosis was still fairly new and not very well understood. She has been living with it and coping with it ever since and finding ways to thrive despite it. She has been able to put it into complete remission and turned her life around completely through the practices of gratitude, forgiveness and accountability. Find out more about Dee’s work on her website bpdnomore.com.

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Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response (which is where the physical feelings of an anxiety attack come from). Walking will help to burn the adrenalin and neurochemicals that have surged the body to prepare it for flight or fight, and which are causing the physical symptoms (racy heart, feeling sick, sweaty, short breaths, dry mouth, trembly or tense in the limbs etc). As well as this, the rhythm of walking will help to calm their anxious amygdala. Brains love rhythm, and walking is a way to give them this. 
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Try to help your young one access their steady breaths while walking, but it is very likely that they will only be able to do this if they’ve practised outside of an anxiety attack. During anxiety, the brain is too busy to try anything unfamiliar. Practising will help to create neural pathways that will make breathing an easier, more accessible response during anxiety. If they aren't able to access strong steady breaths, you might need to do it for them. This will be just as powerful - in the same way they can catch your anxiety, they will also be able to catch your calm. When you are able to assume a strong, calm, steady presence, this will clear the way for your brave ones to do the same.
The more your young one is able to verbalise what their anxiety feels like, the more capacity they will have to identify it, acknowledge it and act more deliberately in response to it. With this level of self-awareness comes an increased ability to manage the feeling when it happens, and less likelihood that the anxiety will hijack their behaviour. 

Now - let’s give their awareness some muscle. If they are experts at what their anxiety feels like, they are also experts at what it takes to be brave. They’ve felt anxiety and they’ve moved through it, maybe not every time - none of us do it every time - maybe not even most times, but enough times to know what it takes and how it feels when they do. Maybe it was that time they walked into school when everything in them was wanting to walk away. Maybe that time they went in for goal, or down the water slide, or did the presentation in front of the class. Maybe that time they spoke their own order at the restaurant, or did the driving test, or told you there would be alcohol at the party. Those times matter, because they show them they can move through anxiety towards brave. They might also taken for granted by your young one, or written off as not counting as brave - but they do count. They count for everything. They are evidence that they can do hard things, even when those things feel bigger than them. 

So let’s expand those times with them and for them. Let’s expand the wisdom that comes with that, and bring their brave into the light as well. ‘What helped you do that?’ ‘What was it like when you did?’ ‘I know everything in you wanted to walk away, but you didn’t. Being brave isn’t about doing things easily. It’s about doing those hard things even when they feel bigger than us. I see you doing that all the time. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do them every time -none of us are brave every time- but you have so much courage in you my love, even when anxiety is making you feel otherwise.’

Let them also know that you feel like this too sometimes. It will help them see that anxiety happens to all of us, and that even though it tells a deficiency story, it is just a story and one they can change the ending of.
During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens

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