Updated: Nov 13, 2021
In our most depressed state of being we can experience thoughts of suicide. We may feel ravaged by the world and think that the only way out is to stop living. But running from these thoughts may harm us more because running away wears us down; we become too foggy- headed to make clear judgements.
Thoughts of suicide can hit us for two main reasons: either the pain is too much for us to bear or we are so enraged with other people that we want to punish them. In either case we have given up trying to protect ourselves because we have failed in the past.
We feel backed into a corner and there seems no other alternative. All reason has gone and we are at a loss to see any other option but to take our life and end the suffering.
It is at this point that we don’t want anyone else to try to talk us out of the way we feel. When we have suicidal thoughts, people may say things like this:
‘Oh, come on, it’s not that bad’
‘Don’t be silly, you don’t really want to do that’
‘Pull yourself together, you’re talking like an idiot’
When we hear those kinds of comments we want to show them exactly what we mean. It can fuel the desire to commit suicide even more and become very, very unhelpful.
In my experience of talking to thousands of people about this subject, the one thing that seems to have helped more than anything else is: surrendering to the depression. In our suicidal state this state may seem like a foolish thing to do but the irony is that by 'giving in' we 'get out'.
Here's how surrender works.
The Power Of Surrender
If you have thoughts of suicide, surrender to the feelings that lay behind the thoughts. A technique to help you do this is to look down to the floor. This will help you to ‘feel’ whereas looking upward helps you to ‘think’.
Behind your thoughts lies the utmost pain that any human has to bear.
*You might feel the intensity of human degradation, the devastating pain of loss or the wretchedness of a lifetime’s neglect.
*You might feel your spirit has dried up and your essence has been ripped away.
*You might feel like a ‘nothing’ or a ‘very bad person’.
*You might sense that everything you touch, you damage.
*You will probably be living in a dark tunnel.You might hate every part of you as much as you hate others.
*You might feel a desire to injure others as you have been injured.
*You might want to destroy others as you have been destroyed.
*You might simply be lost.
Whatever the passion is, then just for today stay with the feelings and ignore the thoughts or the action.
Just for today hold yourself around the tummy as you recognise the emotions behind the thinking.
In this moment acknowledge that you feel so bad that you want to end your life. Don’t do anything else except surrender into it. Tomorrow you can take action, but just for today, surrender. Hold your hands up and give in to the feelings. Say out loud, ‘I surrender’.
At the lowest point of his depression, Michael felt as though he couldn’t continue because the pain of life was too hard to bear. He took an opportunity to speak to someone he trusted, Scott, and this is the essence of what he said:
‘Michael, I understand that the pain is so great that you want to take your life. I can see and hear that you are considering this option. I recognise that you see this is the only option for you.
‘If you die, I will come to your funeral. I will grieve for the man for whom I had so much compassion and respect. I will be devastated but I will also respect that this was your choice and your right. I will tell your daughter what a wonderful father you were and how you always tried your utmost. I will speak in your honour and I will talk of our friendship without betraying you. I will keep your trust and honour your memory.You will be greatly missed.’
This was what Michael needed. It was the fact that another human being was able to see and recognise that he was in so much pain that he was considering leaving his life and his child because he could hardly tolerate it any more.
Scott didn’t try to talk him out of it but accepted his thoughts of suicide. This was Michael’s ‘levelling out’ – he had hit the bottom. He was then able to tell himself that, yes, it was that bad. From that moment, he was able to surrender to the emotions and allow the pain to rush through him like a rocket.
This is the essence of surrendering. It is about paying tribute to ourselves. It is about saying, ‘I have had enough; I can’t tolerate any more.’
Some of us can reach inside ourselves and some of us need others to help us reach inside. Only you will know what your need is. People I have spoken to have stated that they felt so suicidal that they abdicated responsibility for themselves in order that they would become ‘medically sectioned’. This is more common than we realise and is a route that some people take if they feel unable to move beyond this point.
Some of us don’t come through it. Sadie couldn’t surrender to her depression and, after a long period of isolation, she committed suicide at home having organised her friend to come around that afternoon and find her in the bath rather than one of her two children. She left devastation behind her. That was Sadie’s intention and it was fulfilled.
This is the reality of depression. A few of us don’t survive. But most of us do.
However, we want more than simply to survive.We want fulfilment and fun, love and excitement, fairness and simplicity.This is our right and this is what we are striving to achieve. We can survive thoughts of suicide and come through them.Thoughts of suicide do not mean we will commit suicide; it means we are asking ourselves to stop and listen. It is the thought that we are at the end of the trail, and it is time to listen to ourselves and ask others to listen to us.
What Might Happen When We Surrender?
When we surrender to our depression, we may experience strong feelings that we didn’t know were there. We should not despair. These are feelings that we have been running away from.We don’t have to summon our courage to face them because if we are at this point, then we are already able and willing to face them. We have reached a point where we want to move forward and so our denial will have shifted enough to address the feelings that are lying in wait to come out.
The overwhelming feeling that arises when we surrender is ‘Thank God!’ This is because we have faced the truth that all is not well inside us but we are no longer willing to lie to ourselves. We might feel immediate relief and respite as the weight of holding the dam wall together dissipates. We can tell ourselves that we are actually OK; it is simply that we are depressed.
While this phase takes place, we must do whatever it takes to see ourselves through these first days.We can take ourselves to a safe place and relish the freedom from anxiety as the weight of denial lifts.
How Long Should You Surrender For?
Undertake this first exercise until you feel some new energy entering you. You may have been depressed for months, in which case you may feel one day is enough. You may have been depressed for many years and need to undertake surrendering for much longer.
Take up to a week and incorporate a sense of surrender every day. Put by an hour a day to contemplate what you have been going through. Do this while reading a gentle book, taking a warming bath, meditating or lighting a fire.
Find something soothing to do while you contemplate your thoughts. Don’t judge yourself – there are good reasons for how tortured you have felt or still feel. You will come to feel ready for the next step as you gain acceptance of your pain and fear.