A few years ago I saw comedian Robin Ince, very early in the show he boldly asks the audience “How many of you, when standing on the top of a hill, wonder... what if I let go of the baby I am holding?”
I was on the front row, I nervously put my hand up, the person sitting next to me shuffled awkwardly. In my mind I am thinking... “where is Robin going with this“ and “please don’t speak to me and uncover how weird I am”. I glimpse around the room. There are about 5 other hands up about 1% of the audience. Each of those people looks normal, normal but slightly fearful of what is coming next.
“Yes - you are the people I want holding my child” Robin enthusiastically states. We breathe a sign of relief, a comedian well known for wearing cardigans and presenting science shows trusts our ability to not throw a child of a cliff DESPITE having thought of it. He even believes we are the safest as we have had the strength and power not to act on the thought.
What Robin was referring to in this show is called an “intrusive thought” they are incredibly common and are a way our thoughts are processing information and addressing concerns and doubts. We have all sorts of thoughts but we do not need to act on them. Late night driving on a motorway a common one for me is “What if I did a u turn and went the wrong way” - don’t worry, I have no intent on doing this but the fact I have to explicitly offer reassurance indicates that as a society we tend to hide away anything that we might be ashamed of.
So why am I sharing this? It’s because the moment we feel shame or guilt about having a thought we add meaning to it. That meaning can have significant consequences to our own wellbeing. The theme of this years mental health awareness day is suicide prevention. The graphic above is from mental health foundation and I am glad to see that rather than asking people to reach out and talk it is asking people to reach in and ask.
Not many people are going to open up about thoughts they consider in my case “wierd” but it turns out weird is normal. Having suicidal thoughts is common and normal - you are not going ”mad”.
They can be a form of intrusive thought. They are often triggered by a way of looking for options as to how to manage a situation. There are a number of reasons why you might not reach out and ask for help but if you are worried about someone one of the safest things you can do is connect, ask and listen.
When I was at my lowest I wanted there to be a big pause button so I could stop the world from spinning. Suicide isn’t a pause button. I would have done anything to not feel how I was feeling. The feeling has now passed.
If you are the person with the thought you may be scared of the response and consequences. Other people aren’t perfect, so you don’t know what the response will be but by being truthful you start to explore it. Give yourself the chance to widen your options rather than to act on the thought and make a permanent decision.
If you are someone who has asked for help and you haven't recieved a compassionate response- I know this isn’t fair and I know it makes it more difficult to ask for help again but it comes down to us living in an imperfect world and despite the world being imperfect you are worth more than you know and regardless of what your mind tells you, it means a lot that you have used your resources to keep yourself alive, I am going to selfishly ask you to keep going as your life matters.
There was a man I never met, he acted on his thoughts a couple of months before I moved the area. Each year myself and hundreds of others from the local area walk to raise money for his trust He didn’t know he mattered but he does. I would much rather he be still here than for me to be going on a walk in his memory.
My hope is one day you don’t need to keep yourself alive for someone else, such as me, but you will be able to do it as you will have found internal reasons to live. Whilst I am not the one living with your pain so it is easy for me to make that request, from middle of the ocean it is impossible to see the coastline but it is there.
If you are the person worried about someone else. Don’t be afraid to ask. Asking and talking about suicide does not increase the risk of it happening.
Don’t be afraid of the answer, it is OK for you not to be able to fix something and it is OK for you to be be clear about how you can help.
I am mindful that as someone that advocates the power of physical exercise to improve mental health that I don’t want to tell you there is one simple solution. If it was as simple as going for a run and eating your greens then no sportsperson would ever have a mental health difficulty. Going for a run is far easier than a daily battle of feeling numb, worthless or angry but they are not mutually exclusive. Instead we have complexity. As individuals if we start to talk about the uncomfortable then I hope there can be a slight shift in society in which we can compassionately start to make life worth living.
Related Blog: Every mind matters
Sarah is an Occupational Therapist and personal trainer who is passionate about helping people flourish @MoodLifterPT She is always happy to be contacted if you want to find out more. #healing #depression #wmhd2019 #wmhd