Going toward the pain of suicide

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. What growth we have had as a society, as the once unmentionable subject of suicide, is more and more openly discussed. And for good reason, as suicide rates continue to increase.

When feeling suicidal, you can’t find a way out of your suffering and can’t continue with the agony you are facing. Life itself doesn’t make sense and doesn’t feel like you belong.

When this occurs, you feel utterly lost and alone with nowhere to turn. This pain leads some to turn against their life by ending it. Of course, the devastation that is felt by one has a ripple effect on those who love them.

Because of the devastation suicide has, society has shied away from discussing it, further pushing the suffering one is experiencing deeper into darkness and isolation.

But the thing is that most people go through experiences in their life where they suffer. I, too, have gone through times in my life struggling with suicidal thoughts. After working with people worldwide, I have been fortunate to be let in and trusted to witness others’ suffering. For some, it was after a suicide attempt; for others, it was the depth of depression and anxiety.  

Some try to cover their suffering by proving their worth by becoming someone people will admire, such as making a lot of money or being famous. Yet, no matter how wealthy or known they become, it doesn’t take away their pain. Others turn to overdoing behaviors that numb away the pain, such as eating, drinking, drugs, gaming, etc. Yet when the numbing sensation goes away, they are left feeling worse.  

What we are not taught to do is go toward the pain. When I’ve worked with people struggling with suicidal thoughts, they thought I was crazy, asking them to go toward the pain. “Michelle, you heard me. I am suicidal. I am in enough pain. I don’t want to go toward it.”  

Here are two things I found:

First, when you are in so much pain, the cause is often from avoiding it. For most of the people I have worked with, part of the reason their mind goes to ending their life is because it is exhausting doing everything they are doing to try not to feel the pain.

Second, your pain always has crucial information. The vital information that is often missed is that something very significant isn’t working for you. Your brain tells you that you’ve tried every which way to approach it, but it’s not your rational mind that will create the change you need.  

You need the support of your emotions to guide you. This path is not one you choose. It chooses you that it’s time to go into the darkness to unravel the pain. But you have to go in it, and if that feels too frightening, there are people trained to support you while you do it. The pain is like a giant hairball that now needs to be unraveled. You can’t just cut it out. You have to go through each strand painstakingly.

That’s when people say, “Michelle, I can’t take any more pain. I can’t do that.” But again, the pain is often in trying to avoid your suffering. When you go to it and start unraveling it, you slowly feel relief, strand by strand. But the good news is the relief feels real. The relief is real.

Your emotions will take you on a path of resolving your suffering when you learn to work with your negative feelings rather than fight against them. This is why I always tell people we have to learn to do better than managing our emotions. It’s not enough. We need to understand what precisely each feeling is communicating to us. You’ll find that when you heed the empowered guidance that your negative feelings are sharing, they will transform you, bit by bit, feeling by feeling into more of who you truly are, and help you create a life that feels good and right to you.

If you are suffering, I am so sorry you are in pain. A time of inner peace will come back, just likely not in the timeframe you expect. But it will come back. In the meantime, use whatever energy you have to knock on new doors of support. There are options available that can help you, especially now as the mental health field continues to evolve.  

With compassion,