How to Survive Suicidal Thoughts



The standard advice you’ll hear if you express suicidal thoughts is to call a suicide hotline or check yourself into the hospital. Trained volunteers, such as those at The Samaritans, provide an invaluable service to severely depressed people who call or email them in desperation. But for some of us, suicidal thoughts can be present for many months or years, and we can’t hang out on a suicide hotline or live in the hospital psych ward indefinitely. We have to learn how to become our own trained professional who helps us tease apart our thoughts until we arrive at the truth that will keep us safe from harming ourselves.

The most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life is to resist taking my life in the midst of severe, intense, chronic suicidal thoughts. I try to remind myself every now and then that no matter what I do from here on out, I am already a success because I am alive. I somehow managed to resist the incredibly convincing messages of my brain — the forceful urges of my psyche — to make an exit out of this world. As I mentioned in another blog, not taking your life in the midst of intense suicidal thoughts can be like not sneezing when you have an urge. Everything inside of you thinks that disappearing from this world is the only way that the pain will subside, so you listen and follow the cues without thinking.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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13 Responses
  1. Lizzie

    I can relate to what you are saying. I have spent the last ten days feeling suicidal after a really good period of feeling well. I was sure I was cured. It started with anxiety and sleepless nights which are tortuous in themselves.
    Previously we have moved house in a bid to improve things and now I feel isolated where we are living.
    Ruminating about past mistakes fuels the fire. My body doesn’t like being shut in but trying to venture outside in a alien neighbourhood doesn’t feel possible. I threw the baby out with the bath water and now paying the cost. Anxiety led me to not being able to say no to moving. I find we make a decision in one mood and then it changes but scared to say no when you change your mind.
    This in itself leads to the spiral. I miss friends and my garden and lost money in moving. I beat myself up and the depression kicks in. No escape from past decisions made in an attempt to run.
    I have laid here planing my suicide and at one point even thoughts of my children didn’t seem to register.
    I feel like a big blob, no exercise , no fresh air. I did go and have my haircut but unable to say no I don’t want layers and four inches off – I came back feeling worse and again and beat myself up for not being assertive.
    I am so tired of this battle and just when you think you have beaten it – it visits again laughing at you.
    My existence is so far below functional. When I am well I make plans and have hope.How many times will I believe this trick of the mind.
    I will try to say if I am breathing I am successful. My mistake has been to run from it. Move house – different place- I will feel doesn’t work. Unfortunately you can’t run from yourself.Lizzie

    1. Anne

      Dear Lizzie
      I am here
      I care
      though I do not know you
      I do not know what is hurting you
      you are so very loved.
      know that what you are experiencing
      is not your fault…
      that you have been dealing with it the best you could
      and that
      it is okay to be tired
      it is okay to be overwhelmed
      it is okay because
      we are human
      we are made fallible
      and sometimes
      the way a computer hangs
      too much happens
      and the system crashes

      and it … you don’t know, you don’t know how to fix it
      but it can be

      it can
      i have been in blackness
      though it seems as though there is no light
      that the tunnel is endless
      there will come light
      lights will light your way
      and guide you home…

      you are very loved
      if you feel as though you aren’t worthy of love
      as though you won’t believe it even if loved ones say so
      to you
      i love you

      Did you see the film V for Vendetta?
      This is Valerie’s letter.

      ‘I don’t know who you are. Please believe. There is no way I can convince you that this is not one of their tricks. But I don’t care. I am me, and I don’t know who you are, but I love you.

      I have a pencil. A little one they did not find. I am a women. I hid it inside me. Perhaps I won’t be able to write again, so this is a long letter about my life. It is the only autobiography I have ever written and oh God I’m writing it on toilet paper.
      I don’t know who you are. Or whether you’re a man or a woman. I may never see you or cry with you or get drunk with you. But I love you. I hope that you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better, and that one day people have roses again. I wish I could kiss you.



      1. Lizzie

        Thank you Anne for your kind words.i haven’t seen the film but will watch it.i am still breathing Therasa.

  2. Doing What I Can As I Can


    My heart goes out to you. I wish I had some words of wisdom, but I don’t. I can say though, that I have been in a similar situation. This post is great and I hope it will be a help for you at this terribly, truly, extremely difficult time.

    I also hope there is someone you can talk to who can help you through this…even if it is a Suicide Hotline.

    Please know that there is a stranger out there praying for you.

  3. Rick Reynolds

    Therese — Thank you so much for this post. … So many people are dealing with these thoughts — they’re are all around us — and yet, almost nobody really is discussing or writing about things like “death thoughts”; or at least not in a meaningful way. …
    One of the few others, besides you, is Bishop TD Jakes — by many coincidences and more than a few wrong turns, I accidentally happened to see a TV broadcast of the Bishop’s program, “The Potter’s House.” … He (and you) talk about and discuss things nobody is taking about; and both of you help me keep going and keep my small flame of faith flickering.
    Rick Reynolds

  4. Anne

    dear therese
    you are so strong
    i havent had time to read any articles lately
    but simply seeing the email in my gmail inbox
    the title that reminds me of something important
    such as this one
    i havent even read it

    i had a rather hard day and haven’t slept though it is the small(wee) hours now
    i thankfully had an appointment with my psychologist scheduled to make my way down and
    talked through some of the things that have stayed in my heart like a knife would.

    feeling suicidal is
    a place of blackness.

    it is a place where the abyss is one that is hard to go back to, and look down into again.
    it is a place most people do not look at
    a place that we tend to perceive with peripheral vision
    today when i needed to take time off my job, my first job that i worked for three days at, to go for my appointment…..
    my superior triggered a breakdown as she asked quite cuttingly about what ‘therapy’ I was going for when she checked my appointment card and saw the entry for my appointment today(yesterday, really)

    she was not cutting in the typical sense
    I worked in the HR department of a bank, handling reference checks that included sensitive things
    so I do understand they dismissed me … that it was immediate- based on needing to keep the information protected

    What hurts me is that she probed into an open wound
    Just to dig for information that was not necessary for her to ask when… it clearly wasn’t *convenient
    for me to elaborate on right then

    It hurts
    I enjoyed working there
    I did my job efficiently
    I think I pushed too hard, really

    All these thoughts that haunt me still
    from last year when I felt that I did not want to live any more

    It is hard even for me to think about these things without tearing…
    words like ‘trauma’ ‘severe’ we avoid so carefully …. when my psychologist brought such words up today, I felt the knife twist,
    but in a way that felt that it was being retrieved…

    sometimes there is so much hurt in my heart that I can only close my eyes and try to block things out; sometimes all I can do is put in my earphones and turn my music to full volume; to drown the things that threaten to drown me. When I was a preteen I … I self harmed… to try to cope with all that was happening

    These things happen.
    And I am glad
    that my generation
    is now.

    That I live now,
    ‘in the right time,
    even if it doesn’t always
    feel like it.’

    I am still trying to deal with much, still trying to recover, and I know there is a long way to go
    Even though I walk in circles, I walk.
    though i am full of broken pieces, i am not empty
    emptiness i fill up with love;

    “Peace I leave with you.
    Peace I give you as the world
    does not give.
    Do not let your heart be troubled
    and do not be afraid.”

  5. Lizzie

    Anne I am sorry you feel so bad.I don’t understand why they had to ” give you the push?.”
    Little chinks of light keeps us going. But they are hard to see. It is comforting to know there are other people out their feeling the same way. But sad because I don’t want anyone to hurt as I do.
    You are not alone. We are not alone but it is the loneliness that hurts so much.
    Love and Light Lizzie

  6. Chad McCarty

    You are a person of such strong and amazing character. The fact that you can maintain this blog and your family during times of such crises is truly inspiring. I bumped into your blog not too long ago and I read through it periodically. It gives me strength. I can relate to EVERYTHING you speak of. You have helped me to accept myself and my illness. Thank you so much Therese.

  7. Elizabeth

    I’ve been curious – when it is not about the thoughts but rather the pain, you know – the pain that leaves us writhing on the floor begging God for relief, for just a moment, to catch our breath.

    Thoughts can be changed and managed but the pain cannot – at least not for me. I can distract from it – sometimes sugar, sometimes self-harm. I am not ashamed of these things. People in pain do unimaginable things for a moment’s relief. I’d be curious to know what people think about bearing the unbearable.

  8. Mike

    I read this quote once and it has helped me during times of unbearable pain in depression.
    “I’ve got to keep breathing, because tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring.”

    And at these very very difficult times, get support, from a friend, family member, colleague or someone in healthcare. You are just ill at the moment and this will pass. Just letting someone know will help to give you the feeling you don’t have to bear this all alone.
    I know it is almost impossible to see the future getting better, and an urge to end one’s life might be very strong, but this is why this quote has helped me. I just need to focus on breathing, keep breathing and things will pass.

    No one wants people to die in this way. People will want to help you if they know how much you are hurting. The people I have told have been very understanding and willing to help. Although I know sadly it may not always like this.

    If you are going through this now, I know it is bloody bloody hard, but this pain will pass. “Who knows what the tide will bring”

    (Original quote from Tom Hanks, Cast Away movie).