Generally not suicidal....until I get triggered

wisteria

Confident
So, hello! I just joined. Just had my first appointment with a new therapist last week. Of course the intake forms/questions asked if I was suicidal. I said no. Because generally I'm not. Unless I get triggered, then *BOOM* it's all I can think about. The possibility of my acting on those feelings is low, like 10%, but it's still terrifying to feel that way. I am so afraid of feeling this way that I've essentially stopped working or even looking for work (my trigger is rejection and I was feeling much rejection at work). The past couple of days tho I've been so overcome by a low-grade anxiety that I can't think straight, instead I'm stuck with thoughts of hurting myself. I don't want to hurt myself but feel like I should.

I have a good idea where this stems from. When I was 18 I was in an unhealthy relationship, yet i was so desperate for someone to care about me that i chalked a lot of his behaviors up to him caring about me. At some point tho this turned malicious (which I of course didn't recognize). Him constantly offering up suggestions on ways to improve myself was one thing, but soon he pointed out the numerous ways that I was crazy and how I needed serious professional help. Eventually it got to the point where he would say that no one would ever love me because I was so crazy, that he tried to help me but I refused all attempts at his help, so I might as well kill myself and all the reasons why. I got fed up and said fine, I'll kill myself, the cops got involved and I ended up in a psych ward (he called the cops on my threat, the cops arrived and threatened to arrest me if I didn't go to the ER willingly, the ER checked me out and said I was fine but suggested I check myself into the mental health ward of the local hospital, which I did.) My mom called while I was in the hospital and yelled at me for how much it was costing her. We never talked about me being in there again, but when I went home a couple of weeks later for christmas break, she gave me an interesting christmas present.....an exacto knife complete with razor blades....so I could cut open boxes according to her. I thought nothing of it. It was normal to me. Okay, thanks mom.

Seriously? Jump ahead to 3 years ago when my mother told me she never had any love for me. BOOM! That's when I got to thinking, Who gives their daughter- who just got out of the psych ward- razor blades?? Especially since when I was 16 I used to be a cutter. And yet I still explain it away- that maybe she didn't know I was a cutter (despite the scars on the TOP of my hand), that maybe she didn't know why exactly I was in the psych ward (for supposedly being suicidal). That's me stuck in the mindset that she's the good mom, I'm the bad kid, my ex was just trying to help me and was apparently right when he said no one would ever love me. I get further stuck in the mindset that I'm unworthy and should probably just kill myself like they both apparently implied (well, I guess my ex wasn't an implication as much as a suggestion lol). I just get so darn stuck on those intrusive thoughts and I don't know how to turn them off. Unfortunately it's not like something you can bring up to the average layperson, cuz of course they would freak out or otherwise become uncomfortable. So here I am instead. How do I turn off these thoughts? I know I need to mention it to my therapist but seeing how he's new to me and I have serious trust issues (not to mention fear of commitment), I don't know when that's going to happen.

Also, does anyone else become massively suicidal when triggered?
 

wisteria

Confident
well, I told my therapist the story I wrote above, and mentioned that I get suicidal when triggered, and he didn't freak out like I was afraid of. He was overall fairly understanding, which I appreciate, tho I didn't go into any great detail about being triggered cuz it was the end of the session. I am terrified of getting triggered tho because I get so suicidal that it's scary. That's partly what brought me to therapy- cuz I don't want to die- I don't want to feel that way either and I'm afraid I will hurt myself when triggered.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
So, hello! I just joined. Just had my first appointment with a new therapist last week. Of course the intake forms/questions asked if I was suicidal. I said no. Because generally I'm not. Unless I get triggered, then *BOOM* it's all I can think about. The possibility of my acting on those feelings is low, like 10%, but it's still terrifying to feel that way.
It's not unusual to have suicidal thoughts - nearly everyone experiences them in some form, at some time. And, many people experience them at a level that is more intense, like the kind you're describing. When they become the only thing you can think about. What matters, then, is exactly the next thing you wrote - asking yourself, 'what the possibility (or likelihood) of me acting on those feelings?' That your answer is around 10% is good, definitely. AND - the fact that you're experiencing the feeling as terrifying - that's of course uncomfortable - but also, it's very good.

Part of the danger with suicidal thoughts is that they can become frequent enough to evolve into being a chronic way of responding to external stress. Then, over time, one's discomfort level with the thoughts shifts. And as that shifts, the likelihood of acting on the thoughts can increase. And on top of all that - a person can start to lose their fear response to the thoughts, which is going to increase the level of danger they might be putting themselves into. Or, the opposite - the fear increases in a way that corresponds with the likelihood percentage - and that also increases risk, because the fear itself becomes so intense, it's possible for suicide to start to seem like the only way to escape the fear.

What's great about finding ways to talk about these thoughts, is - you can release some of the internal pressure they create, simply by no longer keeping them bottled up inside. So it's very good that you're writing about them, and it's also really great that you were able to touch on the topic with your therapist. That's an important part of many therapeutic relationships - it creates space for the therapist to teach you tools (coping skills, deescalation techniques) for managing those thoughts.

I'm curious - where are you at with things like CBT and DBT, in the various experiences you've had with mental health support?
I am terrified of getting triggered tho because I get so suicidal that it's scary. That's partly what brought me to therapy- cuz I don't want to die- I don't want to feel that way either and I'm afraid I will hurt myself when triggered.
Keep remembering what you've written here. Recalling that the feeling is temporary - because you know it is, it has passed before and it will pass again.

And remembering that you don't want to die. What you want is relief. Death and relief are not the same thing. Death doesn't bring relief - you're not around after death to experience that relief, you're just dead. Relief comes from working through the underlying issues - thoughts and beliefs about yourself in relationship to experiences you've had - that are sparking those impulses to hurt or kill yourself. And those things CAN be worked through. There is relief that you can have, and you can be alive to experience it.

You'll find a lot on this site about grounding techniques (both physical and cognitive), and ways to manage anxiety/panic, and ways to deescalate inner emotional turmoil. But what'll be most effective is finding something in the very near future that will work for you, to re-direct your focus away from the suicidal thoughts and towards something that supports better mental health. Your therapist is the best person to assess where you're at, and what kinds of tools you might try.

Learning to turn your attention away from the thoughts is key.
 

Defaultxlove

MyPTSD Pro
I can relate with this. The triggers and stressors used to be too much for me to even accept. I'm glad you're having therapy. Hang in there. Try to write everything you're grateful for everyday perhaps? In the mean time until rerouting in your brain has taken place. We must remember that we aren't necessarily as far away from our goals as they may feel or seem. It may feel too far, but the first step is the hardest. I hope you feel better.
 

wisteria

Confident
And remembering that you don't want to die. What you want is relief. Death and relief are not the same thing. Death doesn't bring relief - you're not around after death to experience that relief, you're just dead. Relief comes from working through the underlying issues - thoughts and beliefs about yourself in relationship to experiences you've had - that are sparking those impulses to hurt or kill yourself. And those things CAN be worked through. There is relief that you can have, and you can be alive to experience it.
@joeylittle this is such a great post that I find myself rereading it (all of it, now just the quoted part). I'm nowhere with CBT & DBT. Well, I previously did not like CBT- it just seemed like I was avoiding the root of my trauma- but I haven't done any DBT. I used to be chronically suicidal- kinda kept suicide in my back pocket in case I ever felt trapped again- but I weaned myself off those thoughts. Or so I thought. Maybe I just shoved them down and now when I get triggered *WHAM* there they are, in my face, stronger than before. Given my past issues with my ex, I really have a hard time admitting I'm even thinking about suicide. It's a big triggering, actually. I've got 4 hours before my therapist appointment and already I'm getting anxious. I would love to be able to talk to someone but I am so afraid to as well. Ugh. Anyway, thanks for your response!
 

joeylittle

Administrator
Maybe I just shoved them down and now when I get triggered *WHAM* there they are, in my face, stronger than before.
Yeah - a more specific way to think about this is, when you weaned yourself away from those thoughts, it's like you started using a different pathway on a regular walk through the woods. So after awhile, that older pathway became overgrown. But it takes a very long time for the traces of a path to be completely eradicated - so, it's not hard for you to end up pushing your way through that older overgrown path again, when you're stressed and default to a past coping mechanism.

(path through the woods = neurological pathway: a progression of thoughts and behaviors that one creates over time)

In other words, it's not that you had just shoved them away - nor is it that they can ever be well and truly erased. It's pretty normal actually, when the past leaps up and gets you in it's grip (aka, when you're triggered), to revert to past coping mechanisms. Just remember that it doesn't mean all your work making different coping mechanisms is suddenly GONE - you're having a very hard time seeing it, but it's still there. (if that makes sense).

Anyway - I find it helps me a lot to remember that.
 

wisteria

Confident
Yeah - a more specific way to think about this is, when you weaned yourself away from those thoughts, it's like you started using a different pathway on a regular walk through the woods. So after awhile, that older pathway became overgrown. But it takes a very long time for the traces of a path to be completely eradicated - so, it's not hard for you to end up pushing your way through that older overgrown path again, when you're stressed and default to a past coping mechanism.
I love this pathway analogy!!
 

wisteria

Confident
ever since I started therapy, the darn "i should kill myself" thought has been nearly omnipresent, coupled with a constant anxiety and tightness in my chest. and yet I don't feel suicidal. wth? last night was the worse. I should've been sleeping but instead i was stuck in tunnel vision, making plans, considering writing a note, blah blah blah, even thinking i should call a crisis hotline (something I've never done). it was horrible. then morning came and it was gone. it doesn't even feel like a bad dream, it just straight out feels like it never happened. wth? i mean seriously, wth? i should probably just ignore it but instead i'm kinda freaked out by it. remind me not to keep any sharp objects by my bed, lol.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
ever since I started therapy, the darn "i should kill myself" thought has been nearly omnipresent, coupled with a constant anxiety and tightness in my chest.
There's a common experience here - things get worse before they get better. Beginning therapy always involves starting to open up boxes that you've generally been trying to keep shut, and that increases stress, which in turn can create elevated anxiety, even panic. When the stress has a chance to lessen (usually just because of time), things can seem exactly like you describe here:
then morning came and it was gone. it doesn't even feel like a bad dream, it just straight out feels like it never happened. wth? i mean seriously, wth? i should probably just ignore it but instead i'm kinda freaked out by it.
Try and know that it's your body processing stress. You might find this a useful read: The PTSD Cup Explanation.
remind me not to keep any sharp objects by my bed, lol.
I know this thought well. And it's actually pretty good advice, too. There's a concept called "impulse control" - everyone is familiar with it in various forms. It's whether or not we eat that last cookie, or watch one more episode, or spend too much on a thing we know we don't really need...For people struggling with suicidality - impulse control relates to how well we can regulate our behavior when we are feeling at our absolute worst.

It sounds like you have very strong impulse control, when it comes to managing the worst of the thoughts.

BUT - stress can be a real beast. It's not at all a bad idea to do whatever you think is smart to safety-proof your environment. I'm not saying this to worry you - more just to let you know that it's something many people experience, and safety-proofing can seem very odd when it's daytime and things are OK. But if you know that you're vulnerable at night, taking a few minutes to make sure that you get rid of the things that are potentially dangerous to YOU - or, change how easy it is to access them - it can be part of a strategy that helps you dismiss the thoughts, when you're contemplating suicidal actions.

Calling crisis lines can help, too.
 

wisteria

Confident
yea.....safety-proof.......I remember once when I was a teenager and an avid cutter, I woke up in the middle of the night and indeed did cut myself, so I suppose I was only half joking about the sharp objects. overall my 'objects of destruction' are far away from where I sleep, but I can't bring myself to get rid of them entirely. I certainly contemplated getting rid of them but I guess I'm not there yet.
 
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