Josh with hoodie and jacket

“Like mine, your progress may be slow, but it’ll be worth every effort.”

I remember a time when I thought about suicide every day. A time when, if you told me I would be able to recover from depression, I wouldn’t have believed you – I was simply in too much pain to see another way out.

Though it started years earlier, over the course of a few months things quickly spiraled out of control. I kept reaching new lows, feeling worse than I knew was possible. All this led to me making a plan to take my life, and then trying to end it – that was nine years ago.

It’s been a long journey back with some hard times along the way, but I now haven’t thought about suicide in years.

Here are some tips on what helped me recover from depression and stop thinking about suicide:

1. Believing that my recovery (and not my suicide) was inevitable:

I’ve shared more about my story and attempt in other posts. After my attempt, I was so surprised and caught up in the emotions to have survived and to be able to see my family again that my mood lifted for the first time in months. Although it didn’t last long, it proved to me that even after everything I had been through, I was still mentally and physically capable of feeling well again. This gave me a clear goal.

From then on, each step I took to fight depression, each time I met with my doctor or my therapist, each time I mustered the strength to get out of bed, each time I was able to go for a walk outside, it felt like it was part of something bigger, that all the work wasn’t just prolonging my pain but actually leading towards my recovery.

2. Learning to manage suicidal thoughts in the moment:

Any thoughts about hurting yourself are tough to deal with. It’s especially hard to feel safe when suicidal thoughts follow you around all day.

Though I survived my attempt, in the days and months afterward I was still in a dark place and had thoughts urging me towards ending my life. Here are some tips on what helped me the most in overcoming suicidal thoughts, including deep breathing, visualizations, removing myself from danger, and how to reach out.

Over time I got better at managing these thoughts and they slowly started to come less and less often.

3. Learning to stop listening to depression:

When I was most severely depressed, I couldn’t remember a time in my life when I felt happy – I couldn’t remember what happy was. It was impossible to see a future where I was able to recover and enjoy life again.

Before my attempt, I had started to understand that depression was affecting my mood and thoughts, but I failed to understand how deeply depression was also robbing me of my memories of joy in the past and hopes for the future.

It’s hard to remain hopeful when your mind won’t allow you to envision anything positive, so I had to stop trusting my thoughts about how bad things would be and instead trust in my ability to recover.

4. Developing skills to fight depression:

Once I began to truly understand more about depression, I learned how stress, sleep, diet, social life, and physical health are all tied to depression, and how each of them also offers an avenue to fight back against it.

I learned that one strategy might work for a few days, but later I might have to try another tool to deal with the same issue.

Learning how to be patient was essential, as I slowly began to develop more skills to cope with depression.

5. Leaving shame behind:

One of the main reasons I waited so long to reach out for help in the first place was because I was ashamed of being depressed and thinking about suicide. I thought, like many guys, that depression only meant weakness and that reaching out meant admitting defeat.

But having a mental health issue is no different than having any other serious illness (like cancer or diabetes). It gets a lot easier to fight depression when you don’t have to hide things from friends and family and instead have their support (and support from professionals), on your side.

There should be no shame in being depressed. There is nothing wrong with you as a person, and there are steps you can take to get better.

6. Learning to not let suicidal thoughts sink back in:

These days, whenever I have any thoughts or feelings of hopelessness, I do my best to stop them right there before they get any more serious.

Before my attempt, I never really believed I would act on these thoughts, so I would lie around ruminating all night, fantasizing about escaping from life. I didn’t really realize it, but what I was really fantasizing about was suicide. I now understand where these thoughts can lead and how important it is to reach out right away and talk about what’s going on that’s making me feel like this.

Many people have thoughts about suicide at some point in their life – don’t give these thoughts the chance to get to the point where they turn into plans and action.

Reach out, believe in your recovery, and work slowly and steadily to get there – you have the rest of your life to live.

– Joshua R Beharry
Project Coordinator
HeadsUpGuys

 

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