A Letter From a Therapist to a Human with Suicidal Thoughts: You Are Worth So Much More Than Your Thoughts are Trying to Convince You
By Kristin Canan, LICSW
Dear Fellow Human,
I want to start off by apologizing, not from a place of pity, but from a place of genuine sorrow that so many people and environments have misread you, stigmatized you, and contributed to you feeling like you had to navigate this alone. I’m sorry for any direct or indirect messages you have received that suggested that what you are experiencing is too much or too scary for others to know about, much less help you carry. I’m sorry you’ve had to navigate moments that have felt so dark and lonely that the only light at the end of the tunnel seemed like ending it all. I’m sorry for any interactions you have had with services that are set up to help you that have overreacted from a place of fear, shamed you, or were not able to hear your deep need to connect and feel seen in this dark, lonely place. And I’m sorry for the lies your brain has been mercilessly berating you with that make you question your worthiness of continuing to take up space in this world, your hope that things could get better, and your value to those around you.
So from a therapist who doesn’t fear the depth of your pain, I hope you let me walk into it with you and share some truths.
- You are not crazy for experiencing suicidal ideation. Suicidal ideation is one way some of our brains attempt to experience relief from pain, overwhelm, and distress. Attempting to find relief is a normal, understandable, and biologically engrained function of our brains. Just like other coping attempts, it does not mean that suicide is the only way for our brain to find relief, but for a variety of reasons, your brain has decided that suicide is one way it could potentially find immediate relief.
- You are not too much. Your story is not too heavy or too scary. There are people who can hold what you have to share. If other people have negative reactions to your suicidal ideation, it is usually out of fear and their own lack of understanding.
- You have nothing to be ashamed of. You did not ask for this or cause this. You have done nothing to deserve this. This does not make you an inherently flawed human. You are worth so much more than your thoughts are trying to convince you.
- You do not have to navigate this alone. There are people who can and want to walk this with you. Find a therapist who specializes in suicidal ideation and prevention. If there is not one in your area, it is more than okay to ask a prospective therapist for details on how they approach suicidal ideation. If someone is not comfortable answering that question, cannot give you specific descriptions about how they respond to suicidal ideation, does not have a safety planning protocol, and/or does not specifically identify when they would need to reach out to ensure your safety, it is okay to find another provider.
- The intensity of the pain you are experiencing is temporary. If you can ride out suicidal ideation with other coping skills, distractions, social connection, etc, I promise the intensity of the feeling in that moment will fade.
There is hope for things to get better. As referenced in Truth #1, suicide is not the only way for your brain to find relief. It may have felt (or may currently feel) that way based on resources that were available to you at the time your system became overwhelmed, but it does not mean that suicide is the only way for your brain to find relief. When we can help your brain find other ways to cope and process through the reason(s) it felt overwhelmed in the first place, we can offer your brain relief without you having to take your life to stop the pain. There are many therapies and medications available to support rebalancing brain chemicals, support healing from traumatic and overwhelming experiences, aid in reframing thoughts, and developing other coping skills. For those of you who feel like you have tried it all, for those of you who feel like you don’t want to do it alone anymore or are tired of trying to fight it, and for those of you who have experienced suicidal ideation but have felt too ashamed to name it, I encourage you to reach out. If you are in or around Burnsville, MN perhaps Water’s Edge CHC can be a source of healing, call 952-898-5020 and we can talk through options. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has people available 24/7 who specialize in suicide prevention and want to be there to walk with you as well. You can reach them by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by texting 741-741. Things can get better, and you don’t have to fight this battle alone.