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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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