This evening I watched “Life After Suicide” on BBC1. It was a fascinating and deeply sad documentary on suicide, its effects and its causes.
A lot of my work involves uncovering unhelpful thinking patterns and changing them. I haven’t seen suicidal clients but this programme said it was a combination of deep despair and a feeling of no way out that would make someone likely to commit suicide.
While I don’t have direct experience of suicide, I have experienced mental health problems and understand the lack of control over your own mind. In my case, after a period of a lack of sleep I became highly paranoid and believed I’d sold my soul to the devil. I had shared my heart with someone I loved who was unavailable and distant. The distance meant that my mind projected all kinds of things onto him and in my unbalanced state, archetypes from the unconscious dominated my thinking. I saw way too much synchronicity and read far too deeply into the events happening around me. Eventually, I got to a point of thinking that I had become a channel for evil and that my friends and family would all gradually be killed off. At the time, my dad actually was suffering from cancer and one of my friends was feeling down and saying he would be better off dead. I thought I’d caused it all.
I remember vividly standing in the shower in my flat and thinking “I have to kill myself to end this and protect my family.” But fortunately another part of me recognise that this wasn’t really me. When I got to work that day, I talked to a colleague who was a good friend and while I didn’t share the depths of what I was thinking, I shared enough for her to help me see my perspective might be wrong.
But the most healing aspect of all for me was talking to my best friend. She doesn’t realise what a great friend and what a great natural healer she is, but she saved me. In fact, she was with me at my worst and gently tried to pull me out of my own abyss. I hadn’t shared the depths of my despair while it was happening, but later I did. She didn’t once judge me or give me advice. She just let me speak. What I always found from being listened to like that, was that as I spoke and explained what was going on, I would be giving myself advice.
How many of us have really experienced that level of deep listening? How many of us try to jump in with suggestions and advice? If more of us could learn to hold space for a fellow human in their times of pain without jumping in to “fix” or “advise”, we’d live in a different world. People in pain would have the sacred space necessary to process their own pain and draw out their natural healing abilities to heal it. Perhaps we’d have fewer mental health problems.
Personally, after watching the BBC programme, I’m now even more grateful for the friends I could share with. They empowered me to draw out my own healing wisdom and set me on a path of empowerment and that’s why I do what I do today. I got through to the other side.