Let me start off this post with a huge TRIGGER WARNING for suicidal thoughts. I debated writing this post at all. It is not my intent to cause anyone harm, to trigger underlying feelings, or to somehow validate the idea of taking one’s own life.
If you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, please skip this post. It won’t hurt my feelings. Your health is more important than anything I could write. Please, please, reach out for help. If you feel comfortable, my DMs are always open on Twitter. If not, please check out the National Suicide Hotline here.
Suicide has become kind of a buzzword since Netflix aired their adaptation of Jay Asher’s YA novel, 13 Reasons Why. More people than ever are talking about teen suicide—about why it happens, what we can do about it. Unfortunately, sometimes, these conversations turn into arguments about whether or not Hannah Baker’s decision was justified. As much as I’m glad we as a society are talking about teen suicide, I’m concerned that these conversations are not the ones we should be having. (For more of my thoughts on 13RW, I did a post a while back.)
I’m not actually here to talk about suicide, despite the trigger warning. I’m here to talk about my experiences with what I call Passive Suicidality, or Passive Suicidal Thoughts.
If you’re new around here, a little background: I’ve been dealing with clinical depression for about 10 years (at least, that’s when I was diagnosed). I’m fortunately relatively high functioning, and I’ve never struggled with self-harm or attempted suicide. I am lucky. But in other ways, I’m not so lucky.
From the age of 17, I developed pretty severe anhedonia (loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities), and I basically woke up every morning wishing I could just stop existing. I didn’t really talk about it; when I did try to voice my feelings, I was told to stop being dramatic. For some reason, when a teenager expresses the will to die, it’s rarely taken seriously. And then, because I never attempted to end my own life, most people who knew about my depression didn’t see me as a suicide risk.
But there’s a different kind of suicide risk than the one that’s talked about in the media. I don’t want to take away from kids out there who are truly, actively suicidal. Those kids absolutely need help. I just want to shine a light on all the other kids out there who maybe aren’t vocal about it, but are going about their days with no will to live.
This was (and still is, some days) my reality: waking up with this huge hole in my chest where the will to live is supposed to be. For most of these years, none of my friends knew, or they didn’t take me seriously because I didn’t fit the stereotype of the suicidal teenager. I wasn’t depressed enough to “deserve” attention or help. But just because I didn’t have a plan didn’t mean I didn’t fantasize about dying. Just because I wasn’t physically hurting myself didn’t mean I wasn’t in a lot of emotional pain. Something I’ve come to terms with (multiple times) is that everyone deserves to get help. You never know what another person’s threshold is, and needing help doesn’t make a person weak.
Passive suicidal thoughts are a lot sneakier and harder to combat because they’re less aggressive. How do you make yourself want to live? It’s not a question for which I have any real, solid answers. I generally avoid advising people on dealing with their depression. No matter what a person’s intentions, telling someone how to feel better always has mixed results. What works for one person may not work for another. Still, I want to share some of the things I’ve implemented at various points that can help ease those pesky thoughts of non-existence.
1. Get outside.
(I realize this is not always feasible—especially during the winter months.) Maybe this is just my Taurus self speaking, but there’s something to be said for getting outside in nature. Even if it’s just taking a walk around your neighborhood, or venturing to the local park. Changing your surroundings and giving yourself something new on which to focus can help get your mind off negative thoughts.
2. Do something physically stimulating.
I know, it’s so annoying to be depressed and have people tell you that you should take up exercising. It seems impossible, when you’re in the depths of depression, to even contemplate getting out of bed sometimes. If that’s where you’re at today, that’s okay, and I understand. I used to hate when people would tell me I should just try yoga…but then I started doing yoga, and I saw their point.
It doesn’t really matter what the physical stimulation is, to be honest. Some days, I just sit in my yoga mat and focus on breathing, and that’s as far as I get. I do think there’s something about connecting to the physical body that can have healing properties. The harder I push myself physically, the more powerful I feel. As my dad likes to say, “the body adjusts to what you ask it to do.” Physical exercise floods the body with endorphins and it can distract you from negative thinking.
3. Write it down.
I’ve been doing this for longer than I even knew I was depressed. Journaling is one of the few things that keeps me going. It doesn’t have to be the best writing you’ve ever done, and no one ever has to see it. Sometimes, just getting those words onto the page makes you feel just a little bit better.
4. Make a list of some silver linings in your day.
This kind of goes along with #3. When I’m having a particularly rough day, I write down how I’m feeling. But before I close my notebook, I write down at least one positive thing. It can be something that happened that day, something as simple as making it to work on time, or getting some amazing book mail. It doesn’t have to be something huge, but the act of forcing yourself to think of something happy can get your brain off the negative energy train for a little while. Bonus! The more you write down silver linings, the easier it gets to come up with some. It becomes a habit.
5. Make a list of things you like about yourself or things you’ve accomplished in your life.
It sounds so cheesy—and it totally is—but it works. It’s not always easy, either. Depression is great at making you hate yourself, but the best way to fight back is to work at loving yourself. It’s so easy to get trapped in a fog, where all you see are the worst things about yourself, and all your failures are on display. At first, you might not be able to compliment yourself very well—which is why I like to write down things I’ve accomplished. Even if it’s something seemingly small, like having passed a really difficult class in school, or getting through a really bad day at work. Everything counts, as long as you let it count.
6. Take a mental health day.
I’m a huge advocate of this. I know it’s not feasible for everyone. I also know that, when overused, this technique loses its meaning. Still, there’s something to be said for acknowledging that you need a day to take care of yourself. Doing little nice things for yourself—making tea, having a bubble bath, listening to your favorite music—reminds you that you matter. When you treat yourself with kindness, you’re able to realize how much you deserve that kindness.
Again, these are the things that work for me. They might not work for you—or they might work for you, but not today. Listen to yourself. Acknowledge where you are in your head right now, and know that it won’t be like this forever.
I hope this post has helped you in some way, whether it’s just feeling like you’re not alone, or maybe helping you to keep fighting for yourself. Whoever you are, know that you’re loved, and you’re not in this alone.
Thank you so much for reading this post. It means the world to know that even one person can relate to what I’ve gone through. I love you guys so much, you don’t even know.
Have you had similar experiences with depression? Did I miss any self-care tips you think I should add to this list? Let’s talk in the comments!