Count no blessings: how a suicidal mind works

People very often make the mistake of assuming there is some sort of logic behind suicidal thinking. They assume you must want to die because something, which would certainly make sense. And because they don’t want you to harm yourself, they try to argue you out of your desperation by listing reasons why you should live, looking for the blessings in your life in order to say, See? You think you have reasons to die. But I’ll give you reasons to live.

They may tell you that you are a nice person, a good friend. They remind you that you mean a lot to them. They might point out that you do well at your job, that you have worthwhile hobbies. If you have a partner, a spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend, you will be asked to think about your supportive relationship, and what it would do to your loved one if you took your own life. And if you have children…well, what could be more reason to live?

I am grateful to Stephen Fry for disclosing that he made a suicide attempt last year. For here is a man with blessings galore, a National Treasure, no less. He has a long and notable career, which frequently allows him to travel and no doubt provides more than sufficient income. He has endeared himself to the nation in print, on television and on the radio. And yet none of that was enough to deter him from trying to take his own life, because that is simply not how the suicidal brain works.

But you’re a wonderful person!

Imagine that you have no sense of self-worth. You don’t have low self-esteem. I’m not just saying you put yourself down. You go far beyond that and believe you are nothing, worth literally nothing.

And you’ve got a lovely bloke

You look at your partner and remember how you once brought something to the relationship. You can’t imagine what that can have been, because now you know you can never be anything but a burden to that person. They say they don’t, but how they must resent you. It would be impossible not to, because you bring everyone around you down. You didn’t mean to, but you have turned the person who was once your lover into – oh, God, how clinical – your carer and they must hate you for it. This isn’t what they signed up for, feeding you pills on time, holding you while you cry for hours, driving you to the hospital in search of emergency psychiatric help.

Look at all the work you’ve put into your career

You look back at your work life, you qualifications, your achievements, and it all seems so utterly pointless. Why on earth did you push for those promotions, strive for those grades? None of it can save you. None of it can make you happy. You feel like a fool, a fool and a fraud, for daring to put yourself forward, for imagining you could be someone else’s manager. You asked for responsibility, and now here you are, unwashed in bed at 2pm while your team has to work extra hard to cover for your absence. All your past successes only serve to underline your current crushing failure as a human being.

And think of your children!

They want you to look at your children, to look at their faces and then you’re supposed to realise that you want to be around to watch them grow up after all What they don’t factor in, is that you know you are a terrible mother. Once upon a time you used to be able to manage the mundane stuff of motherhood – bathtimes, dinners, affection – but now you can’t even do those basics. You love them so much but you know you are failing them, that you’re not the mother they need. You can’t be like the other mums at the school gates when you can’t even get up. You know that you may well be responsible for passing on faulty genes, dooming them to the kind of mental torture that you now endure. And you know that in being ill, in not being present for them, you are only making future mental ill-health more likely. You are damaging them, just by being their mum. And here’s the Cach-22: you’ll damage them more by taking your own life. Whatever you do, you will be wrong. Whatever you do, you are a terrible mother.

So please don’t tell me to count my blessings.


About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
This entry was posted in Mental health and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Count no blessings: how a suicidal mind works

  1. silenibhroin says:

    Thank you for writing this wonderful, insightful and scorchingly honest post. I hope that, though you clearly know how it feels, that you are not currently feeling suicidal. Be safe, and thank you for your honesty and articulation of those hard-to-justify/explain (especially when you are feeling them!) feelings. Your writing is so helpful, as always.

    • I’m actually doing well now. And I think I could probably only have written this post from a position of strength. Thank you so much for the positive feedback 🙂

  2. Anne says:

    WOW, you have nailed it.

  3. portiasmart says:

    I love this. I’m finding it hard to express why but I just need to thank you so much for writing it x

  4. Lindsay says:

    Scary to read what was once in my mind. Luckily not there now too.

  5. gillpage says:

    thankyou you have made me understand a dilemma best wishes

  6. Very much my thought process too. Thanks to you.

  7. @AmandaPanda75 says:

    An honest & realistic insight the old me can relate to! Thanks for sharing 🙂 may peace be with you x

  8. sue trainer says:

    How eloquently you put the thoughts and feelings of those who have felt suicidal into words. Your writing is inspirational and it is comforting to know that even those who seem to have the world at their feet are not immune from suicidal thoughts. Big hugs to you x

  9. Andrew says:

    It reminds me of my sister. Like many others, I tried to remind her of her blessings, that she had things to live for and people who loved and cared deeply about her. I had the feeling at those times that it wasn’t cutting any ice, that she was deaf to the message. Her eyes glazed, looking elsewhere into the disctance whilst inside her head I think she was saying ‘but you don’t know, you don’t know how bad I am, how useless I am, what a bad mother I am, how ashamed I am of myself, you just don’t know, but I do…’. At times like these she was a closed book, dialogue was not possible. I couldn’t even tell if she was listening anymore, she had become an island. Oblivious to what was going on around her, completely alone, existing only inside her own head. As for me, I worried and worried, like the others who cared. I felt totally powerless as though whatever I did would make no difference. All I could do was hope that she would come around and that the darkness would pass.

  10. damien says:

    Very interesting read and I’m pleased to see that your follow up comment confirms you’re now doing well. What would you recommend people should say / do to help you whilst you’re suffering such low mood?

    • Well, for a start it would be better to try to help someone come up with their own things to live for/look forward to. Much more chance of them feeling invested in that way. If they can’t, personally I would favour giving conditional support, reminding the person that you are not going anywhere and that you will help them with anything they need to feel better. The best thing anyone can do for me in that situation is remove and worries/burdens from them. Having someone else take care of the kids, and knowing their safe; or have someone manage my finances so they don’t get into a horrible state; having regular meals brought to me, having someone else do housework…the less there is for me to feel that I have “failed” at, the less there is to add into the guilt loops. Does that make sense?

  11. Jess says:

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing this, my dad took his own life this year following severe depression and anxiety which accumulated in a psychotic episode. This helps me to understand what torture he was going through. I wish everyone who has said to me ‘but he had so much to live for’ could read this and understand. Thank you.

  12. Bipolar Life says:

    Thank you. All way too familiar.

  13. Pingback: What’s it really like to live with mental illness? Stephen Fry, bipolar and suicide | Sectioned

  14. whythispath says:

    Dearest Charlotte,
    This was very well said and so very heartbreaking. I understand the feelings, which scares me, because I feel so worthless myself many times during the week, however I don’t consider myself suicidal. Yet, here it is, my feelings, my depression in your words. How do we get here? What can others do to help? How can you help when reasoning fails?

    I am so very glad this isn’t where you are now. When I first clicked on the blog from the Femenalists I didn’t realize it was your work, and when I recognized you as the author I had a start of concern.

    Perhaps you don’t know that I check in on Twitter see how you are doing. And that your presence in my virtual reality makes my day better. But, I do and it does.

    Thank you for your words darling.

    • That is such a lovely comment, I think I might have to print it out and carry it around to look at when I feel awful! This was strange to write…it was like accessing a part of my brain that is dormant right now…but I know that part will always be there. It’s dispiriting to remember that have been having active suicidal thoughts, with planning, since I was 13 – the age my wonderful daughter is now. It’s sad but true to think that my teenage brain was probably influenced by having those thoughts…no wonder I still have them now. Bu don’t worry, I am in a safe space right now, and feeling more and more confident that I am finally stabilising xx

  15. Pingback: Count no blessings: how a suicidal mind works | Far be it from me -

  16. Thank you for a great description of some of the circles the depressed mind gets stuck in, I have never yet found the words to describe the void, absolute bleak black miasma that enveloped me during my suicidal years. I do know that being told that a good mother does not try to kill herself was no help whatsoever. The state of my mind meant that I thought I was doing everyone in my world a huge favour.
    Thankfully I am in an ok place now and so pleased to hear that you are too.

  17. David Pugh says:

    Good for me to read and I am glad somebody said it.
    I remember years ago my friend and neighbor pinned me down on the bed and shouted at me right into my face. That memory remains with me. I was suicidal then but different things happened after that. It worked for me. I didn’t hear anyone telling me why I should stay alive. That was years ago and I am still alive. I did break my neck and skull in my latest attempt (2008). The police and the hospital kept me alive. I am still here. Perhaps I should share my experience too; like a shout in the face! Good Luck Everyone.. .

  18. Moersalijn says:

    very informative information. thanks

  19. Eugenie says:

    I am awestruck, reading your blog. You have summed it all up. How ignorant some peoople can be. They will never understand, not even my mother. I feel like such a failure, ALL THE TIME! I thank you for writing this. Thank you most of all for your topic on mindfulness, that really helped me a lot.

  20. Jane Vaughan says:

    A moving and courageous post. It reminds us not to assume we know what is going on for someone else, but to listen with empathy x

  21. neverbenormalagain says:

    Fantastic, a spot-on look at the suicidal mind. Thank you!

  22. Pingback: Who makes the difference? | neverbenormalagain

  23. Pingback: Suicide isn’t selfish | Delusions Of Candour

  24. Oh my word, this probably could not have been any more perfect. Thank you for writing this. Literally made me cry.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s