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.

2 Comments

Dee

How great it is that you recovered .I pray your kids are ok and function g well..my mom tried 20x to kill herself and I still struggle with the affects of it…

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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