Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Metaphors that have helped me Cope with Suicidal Thoughts

Recently, I have had numerous (different) people Google my blog over the past couple weeks by the search words "I want to die", or "I wish I would die", "I want to die, help me". I have those feelings and thoughts a lot of the time.

I worry for the people who are looking for help so I will share a few bits of wisdom my pdoc has shared with me. This is not a preachy post, or a post telling anyone to do anything other than that which they choose. This post is just me expressing some things that have helped me. Maybe they can help you too.

In my experience, once I get through the obsessive suicidal thoughts, either by talking openly with my pdoc about them, or by wrapping myself in a blanket and hanging on for dear life, the power of the feelings over me usually fades. I cannot say the feelings ever really go away, but I try hard to survive them.

I was just reading something my pdoc wrote about how he likes to use metaphors in his practice to help his patients. He does, and his metaphors stick with me. With his use of metaphors and similes he is really good at making something insurmountable seem possible. I have shared some of these before, but I'd like to share them all together:

1) Think of yourself being on a well built, strong and sturdy ship. The wind and the waves are trying to force the ship off course. They are howling and waves are sweeping over the bow. These external forces are trying to sink the ship, to drown you. During these times it is your job to hold onto the rudder and steer. You can't stop the wind and waves, but you have some control over where the ship goes. (I almost always think of this when my depression is threatening to kill me with suicidal thoughts. It is all I can do sometimes to hang on, but I do)

2) I often feel like I am making no progress, like I am doing the same behaviours over and over and over. Like my cycling mood keeps repeating and repeating itself. Dr. X. used the metaphor of a piece of classical music (or any music really). As the movements progress there is repetition, but each time it repeats there are subtle, sometimes barely recognizable changes, until finally the piece reaches it's crescendo and the repetition becomes a glorious change.

I really like this metaphor. To think of my life as a piece of slowly changing music is a beautiful thing. If I look at my diaries from 2001 I have made enormous changes, but if you asked me on any given day I might say I will never change. My perspective is skewed while I'm in the middle of a depressive episode. I cannot see that the many subtle changes become huge change over time.

3) "Be like a tree". In this simile Dr. X. explained to me that there is nothing within the tree that sucks the life sustaining moisture out of the ground and up into every tip of every branch. He said it is the presence of an external pressure that lifts water to each of the trees branches: Evaporation. Evaporation lifts the water out of the ground and up through the tree.

He tells me this so I recognize that we all need external help to keep going sometimes. Modern psychology seems to tell us we should all be able to stand on our own, that the push to succeed, or to become well ,must come from inside ourselves. I don't think this is true. Neither does Dr. X. We are born into society as social animals. We rely on social networks and others to help us do some of the things we do.

In this simile he is helping me recognize that asking for help is not a bad thing, but an ordinary act of an ordinary person. Maybe it means I need a personal trainer to help me get to the gym, or maybe the regular appointments I keep with Dr. X. are there to help keep me on track. Maybe by scheduling myself to do things at a specific time everyday I am provided with enough of an external structure to both get me going and keep me going.

External structure and external support systems, like a set coffee time with a friend, or volunteering responsibilities, or a daily time set aside to meditate, or go for a walk, might be like the evaporation helping the tree. External structure and a small amount of external pressure might help us regain and sustain activity and maintain our growth.


deepblue said...

I really loved those. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle S. said...

These are great metaphors. I especially like (and have heard) the Be Like a Tree one before, but in a slighty different context.

My depression is often spurred on for me by feelings of inadequacy which usually come from (unnecessarily) comparing myself to others and (innacurately) thinking that things can make me happy. My therapist used to say JUST BE like a tree. Exit for the sole purpose of being and many wonderful things will come just from that - a tree exists and then provides shade, breeze etc. but its purpose is not get to to that state. Keep up the good fight and I will hope for many good days for you.

Aqua said...

Deep blue: Thanks, I love them too. They are easy to remember and very powerful for me.

Michelle: I love your tree metaphor too. It is so hard to just be for the sake of being and so hard to believe (when depressed) that wonderful things will come of that.

Come to think of it though the community of peope I have met while "being" here on this blog is astounding and fascinating and everyone is so supportive. Maybe I am being like a tree. Maybe we are all trees and we don't know it yet;>) You too keep up that good fight and likewise I will hope your tree gathers and sends out lots of beauty and joy, just by being you.

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

Great ones!!! I like 'em and will implement them into my survival kit. :)

I too enjoy the community of the mentally ill online. It feels like "group therapy" without having to physically attend meetings. I have never attended group therapy because I'm just too paranoid and anxious a person.

So having this online "group" has been fabulous for me. Hope you are well. :)

DOT said...

Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts.

I am a writer and am starting a blog called Metaphors & Similes as many people hit on my personal blog having googled that term.

I too occasionally suffer from depression but, fortunately, have never felt suicidal. I have posted on the topic a couple of times and made the observation that few people rarely describe their illness directly but by some metaphor or other, Winston's Churchill's 'Black Dog days' being the most famous. I talk of walking under a dark cloud.

My original thought for my M&S blog was to confine it to literary interpretations but your post has inspired me to look at metaphors & similes in a much wider context.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the post. I am having suicidal thoughts right now, and everytime i'm like this i surf the web for this kind of material. I now it sounds stupid, but somewhat it helps me to distract myself, until the pain descends a bit. It reminds me i'm not completely alone in this. Thanks again.