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This is such a great topic and I've avoided it for too long. But a comment on an old post reminded me that you have to hear the other side of suicidal ideation. This is sanitized a bit. The bold font is mine.


I am a victim of a violent crime by a person in my family. Now I am planning on being a psychologist/counselor. I know that it will be difficult but I want to be there for those who have gone through this situation and I want to let them know that they don't have to let this ruin their lives. Depression is one out of many symptoms, I know, but is it normal to have the desire to kill yourself every time you remember your past? I have had trust issues because of this, so I sympathize with all the victims out there and only wish that I could bring forth justice in all their lives.

I'm not sure where, "Just shoot me," entered my particular vernacular. Some of us say this then put a cocked index finger to one ear, click, pretend to off ourselves, and everyone laughs.

Anyway, I've been saying it a lot when I hear about things in my personal life that leave me speechless, make me shake my head, as in, "What now? What next?" When I'm frustrated with people.

What's interesting about, "Just shoot me" is that the person who says it obviously doesn't mean it, is just signaling frustration with life's impossibilities. We can't control most of it, certainly not the behavior of other people. So we laugh it up, say, Shoot me.

I give up.

Which implies that someone else wins, but it's okay. We concede the victory with relief. Let it go.

I think this happens on a much deeper psychological level in trauma victims. If a person suffers a trauma, even secondary trauma (hears about someone's trauma and feels the pain), it can trigger suicidal wishes and fears.

Immediately after a trauma or during the trauma, the thought, I would be better off dead is seeded in some neuropathway. Then you get the emotion, the fear, the terror, or it's there first, doesn't matter. But the reasoning, the thought processing about the event becomes unconscious, and that happens rather quickly. All that remains for eternity is the conclusion, I want to die. Sort of stuck like a broken record. You can turn off the juice, but someone keeps turning it on when you least expect it.

And the fears remain, associated with the conclusion, better off dead. You never wanted to die, you never wanted to be raped, to use a common example, or sexually harassed, perhaps, but the thought and the fear originated at the same time, under heightened arousal, and became inextricably linked in the brain.

Our brains are simply out of control. You would think they would get a grip.

But no. Get a bad thought, link it with a negative event, and there's your negative thought, warmed over easy again and again with the thought of the event. And then, the evolved negative emotion, the depression that lingers beyond fear. Fear may have burnt itself out. Maybe not. Just shoot me.

If you grow up with someone who is suicidal you are literally fed this thought with every suicidal threat, wish. You could be a happy go lucky kid, someone with a fairly happy little neurotransmitter, and you listen to the gloym and doym and you think, Oh, for crying out loud. You don't get a corner on suicidal ideation, I have my own, damn it. And you do, not because you want it, because you breathed it.

Hard to be tough sometime, hard to have great boundaries, to know,in your heart,
This is not what I want, this is not who I am. This is merely something I thought once, under a great deal of stress.

Or

It's something someone else wanted, under stress. But it has nothing to do with reality, not mine. I really don't want to die, I certainly haven't the guts to kill myself even if I did.
But here are these stupid thoughts, coming home anyway.

So I wrote her back, said something like this:
Not to answer you personally, but hypothetically people do have what I call "normal" suicidal desires and fears, and these mean absolutely nothing, meaning, people who have these desires and fears would never in a million years kill themselves. You might be one of these people, probably are. That said, for sure, you gotta get therapy to work it out and you really can work it out. Reading about it on the Internet probably won't cut it.
So you want to know, don't you, what happens in a therapy that works it out?

You go over the trauma, for there usually is one, even if it is imagined. Some people have amazing imaginations and they make themselves upset with their own creativity. Doesn't matter if it's real or imagined, most of the time it's real. You go over it again and again, line by line, verse by verse, and examine your responses, how they were normal fear generated thoughts under stress and how wanting to kill yourself rather than face others in the shame of it all felt like a normal solution.

Then with your therapist you do a cognitive behavioral therapy. You challenge the date on the inserted thought.
Wait a minute. The date on that thought is August something, 2004! It's now November, 2009! That thought has expired!
And you let it expire, die a natural death.

You challenge your shame, you say,
And I did nothing to deserve this! Why should I kill myself over something that happened to me?
As my daughter is fond of saying, Most of the time things happen to us. And she's right. We can take responsibility, sure, and we should, and we should rectify whatever we can, make whatever amends are necessary, do whatever we can to right life, but owning things to the degree that they make us sick? Forget that.

Be charitable, pass them along.

therapydoc

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