02 July 2018

On Suicidal Ideation During the Good Times

I've written several times over the years in this blog about suicide. It occurred to me recently that there's an important perspective I have yet to spotlight as appropriately as it deserves, so we're gonna rectify that. Obviously, the topic itself can be unsettling, but I promise this is not going to be a graphic or gruesome post. I don't particularly care to even read such posts, let alone write them. Besides, today's topic is:

Having suicidal thoughts when everything is going well and you're happy.

Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Suicidal thoughts when things suck makes sense, but surely when you get to a good place, those should go away. And for a lot of people, they do. I ain't one of 'em, though.

See, I have those thoughts literally every day of my life and have since I was 9. I'll be 40(!) in a few months, so 75% of my life has consisted of suicidal thoughts. There have been times when they've consumed me and overwhelmed me; I've had to enter inpatient treatment for it twice in the last several years, for instance. I very nearly ended up there again last Christmas.

Most of the time, though, the thoughts are merely routine. I contemplate ending my life as casually as I decide whether I want pizza or a burger for dinner, or whether I'm in the mood for some George Strait or John Williams. Often, the process takes place so subtly that I'm only vaguely aware I've gone through it. I suppose it's a bit like when you leave the house. "Wallet? Check. Keys? Check. Glasses? Contemplate ending my life? Check. Fed the cat? Check."

A few years ago, I was invited by a friend to go on a Johnny Cash road trip. We started by visiting his grave site in Henderson, Tennessee, then on to the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. We headed west toward Memphis, stopping by happenstance at the Johnny Cash Rest Area. We toured Sun Studio.

By fortuitous quirk of fate, a Crohnie pal of mine was in Memphis the same day my friend and I were. We arranged to get together for lunch. Her daughter had been struggling with some depression issues around this time, and knowing that I openly shared my own experiences, she picked my brain. I surprised her when I shared that I was having those thoughts while we were eating.

Mind you, this was a fantastic road trip! My physical health was entirely cooperative for a change. I was having a ball. I hadn't been on a sustained upswing like that in quite awhile. It was delightful to meet an online pal in person. And the meal was delicious!

I explained that for me, because those thoughts are always there, they spike as much for me during the really good times as they do during the really bad ones. There's a certain compulsion to "go out on top."

I have no idea how common this phenomenon is. I tried some cursory Googling a little while ago, but quickly gave up because I couldn't think of a useful search parameter to help filter through all the well-meaning sites imploring you to seek immediate help. I don't mean to disparage those sites whatsoever; it's just that finding any articles that address this issue ain't easy.

I have at times had a sneaking suspicion that when people take their lives and everyone around them is certain that they seemed happy, that they may have also experienced what I do. Maybe they really were happy, and that is why they acted when they did. I have no way of knowing, and I'm not trying to speak for anyone else. I'm simply sharing my own experiences, in the hopes that somewhere in there might be something of value to someone else.