Suicidal Ideation: Help Avoid the Thought Trap

Suicidal Ideation: How to Avoid the Thought Trap
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Emotional portrait of abused, beautiful, teen ,caucasian woman- violence concept, high emotional
Emotional portrait of abused, beautiful, teen ,caucasian woman- violence concept, high emotional

I recently experienced a physical release in my body. I get these often as a part of my recovery. The emotions and memories have been stored in my body and I am releasing them as I recover. But the physical releases come with good and bad. I love the feeling of freedom that comes with the release. I have to expend much less energy maintaining that particular defended place. I have less muscle tension to keep me drained. However, with those releases come emotions. And they can be hard to handle.

I have also noticed that location matters. When I have a physical release in my knee, the impact can be more tolerable. I can handle the anger and sadness as long as I can keep it from impacting my family. But I knew I was in trouble with this one. The physical release happened just below my heart. I can't think of a more potent spot than that. To make matters worse, I could feel the desperate attempt to shut it back down. I had to focus for hours to allow it to stay released. I knew I was in trouble.

After the release, I was inundated with hopelessness. It is the worst feeling of all the feelings. It is the feeling that brings the suicidal ideation. To stay present with that feeling is the most difficult thing I have ever done. To make matters worse, I have noticed I am not alone. While the feeling of isolation can contribute to suicidal ideation, I certainly don't wish these feelings upon anyone. Yet I have been approached by many who are struggling with the same thing.

And while the hopelessness is terrible, it can be beaten. So I decided to write down my approach. What do I do to avoid being swallowed up by hopelessness, to keep from being tricked by the thoughts? I have six approaches that help me get through it.

  1. I check in with my body. When I first feel the hopelessness, it may show up as a physical sensation. I hold many of these feelings in my stomach, my lower back and my heart. I may feel the familiar heart racing or quick breathing which usually indicates I am fighting against an emotion. I take the time to acknowledge the physical feeling. I stay curious about it. If I can see the physical feelings before the emotions, I can stay ahead of the game.

  • I watch my thoughts. I first become aware of them. And I ask, "How are my hopeless thoughts being triggered by my current emotions?" I stay aware of my thoughts with an understanding that emotions from the past are creating thoughts about the present. And those two things don't mix well (or maybe they mix perfectly which is the problem). If I can let the thoughts go, I do. If I can watch them as an observer, I do that.
  • I figure out where I am. If I am hopeless, I am not present. So I try to figure out where I am. When I can get present enough to close my eyes and visualize my location, I usually find it is a place from my childhood or early adulthood. And as it becomes more clear, I can gain an understanding for why I feel the hopelessness.
  • I journal from that place. What does that part of self have to say? What are the specifics that my inner part wants me to know? The more information I can write down, the quicker it passes and the better I feel.
  • I practice extreme self-care. This is the not the time to run a marathon or cook a spaghetti dinner for 50 people. I do get that life has to happen. But I do my best to release as many non-obligatory tasks as possible.
  • I connect with others as much as possible. There is nothing that creates presence like connection. And isolation is the defense mechanism of choice for many survivors. So I always go against my norm. As a single mother, I can't always leave the house, but I can connect virtually. It helps that I have a forum and a Facebook page full of amazing survivors. But there are many ways to keep from isolating.
  • Don't get me wrong. This isn't as structured as it sounds. It is messy. It is very messy. I fall in to the thoughts. I forget it isn't about this moment. And then I wake up and remember it is old stuff. I give myself a guilt trip for my lack of productivity until I remember I am deep in an integration process. I block the memory for a while and then remember I want to remember it. But then, by some act of divine intervention, it passes, if only for a while, and I am a little less burdened than I was before. I have more freedom. I am more whole. And I relish in my courage for pulling through another bought of hopelessness. And I find a few moments of peace.


    If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

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