DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS

Episode #208 - Suicidal Ideation

December 18, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 208
DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS
Episode #208 - Suicidal Ideation
Show Notes Transcript

Suicidal ideation is by its very nature not sin.  Suicidal thoughts are one of the ways the body elevates emotional issues to the forefront of our mind.  While we should not dwell upon suicide or thoughts of death, it is not sinful to have them.

Episode #208 – Suicidal Ideation.  I am your host Damon Socha.  Just a warning today that we will be talking about suicide today.  In addition, if you start this podcast please listen to the entire podcast.  There will be moments in the podcast that will not make sense if you simply stop listening at a certain point.  I often wonder why the Lord sometimes delay’s my inspiration as to the subject of this podcast.  Today’s podcast was brought about by a listener willing to reach out and ask me to talk on this specific subject.  Revelation comes in a variety of ways and one way is listening to those around us.

Now to start this podcast let’s begin with the most important thing.  If you are thinking about suicide please talk to someone and get help.  Even if you don’t have plans, talking about suicide actually lessens the probability that you will move forward.  Find someone with whom you can talk openly about your suicidal thoughts, preferably someone who has understanding about your illness. It is the most important thing you can do right now.  Most of the time this will be a professional therapist but it does not have to be.  You can confide in others who you believe might be of help.  What you need to do is talk to someone.  There are several very good help lines such as 988.  If you just want to text or chat, you can also do that on the 988 line.  If you can’t do that but you can send me an email, I will listen.  I will chat with you.  

Let’s begin with the definition of suicidal ideation.  Suicidal Ideation or death ideation is the desire to end one’s life.  The means of ending one’s life does not necessarily factor into the definition, except when we are discussing an active ideation or a passive one.  We will discuss what that active versus passive means. When we discuss ideation of death we don’t always delineate between methods meaning a desire to die by accidental means or by more direct means is treated similarly.  It is the feeling that one desires to end their life or have their life ended.  This type of ideation actually occurs regularly for most individuals who deal with mental health issues, especially bipolar disorder, PTSD or major depressive disorder.  However, it can occur with almost any mental illness and can occur without mental illness under severe conditions of stress.  If you have had major depressive disorder, bipolar, PTSD or even anxiety disorder, the first thing to understand about suicidal ideation is that it is very likely to occur in your life and may occur regularly.  Suicidal thoughts are not a one-time event that goes away when someone is treating their illness.  For those who deal with regular long-term forms of mental health, suicidal thoughts always remain on a spectrum that most often flows with the symptoms of the disease.  In fact, suicidal thoughts are a symptom of the illness.

For the most part, the first-time suicidal thoughts enter the mind, they can be frightening and concerning.  However, over time a person can become very comfortable with thoughts of death.  Meaning that you might not even have much of an aversion to thinking about death.  Thoughts of death may even come with some feelings of comfort and peace.  The thoughts may be regular or periodic.  What you should know is that you are certainly not alone in your feelings and thoughts.  Many individuals experience suicidal ideation and thoughts of death without having any serious fears of acting on those thoughts.  This type of death ideation where you have thoughts but no plan, is referred to as passive ideation.  When those thoughts move into the realm of actions and plans, the definition moves from passive to active ideation.  Active ideation is far more serious in nature, especially when you have plans, even vague ones. Having thoughts come into your mind as to how you would die, is different from forming those thoughts into an actionable plan.  However, there is no hard line between passive and active.  It also doesn’t take months or years of time for one to move from passive to active.  It can take days or weeks.  What is critical is to understand where you are in the process.  You should always seek out help when you begin having suicidal or thoughts of death, even without a plan.  If you have a plan and or a timeline, you need to seek out help today.  If you can’t talk to a parent, teacher, religious leader or friend then reach out to the 988 line.  They are wonderful people.  If you can’t do anything but send an email to me then do so.  Reach out however you think you can.  Yes people will treat you differently.  Yes they might overreact.  But that should not keep you from talking to someone.  Talking about it is likely to save your life and even improve it.

Now having said all of that, I admit that suicide at one time in my life was very real.  Due to my previous bipolar disorder, I did have a moment where I realized that if I didn’t reach out it wasn’t going to end well for me.  I did seek out help and over time things got better for me.  I never have reached the same point of suicidal thoughts and actions.  However, there is something that everyone should understand.  Once you reach that point or suicide, those thoughts may never fully retreat.  They might come and go in a passive sense depending upon your other symptoms but I have found that thoughts of death for me have never really gone away while I have suffered the effects of mental illness and chronic pain. I still regularly have these death thoughts come into my mind, especially when I suffer with physical or emotional pain.  For me they occur at almost every episode and I am used to them now as signals from my body that I need to rest and recover. I would assume that this is the case for almost everyone.

That is because our bodies are wired in such a way that it gives off signals when we are under intense stress, strain, scrutiny or pressure.  Those random suicidal or thoughts of death are actually signals to the brain that the body feels as though it has deep problematic emotional difficulties that it can’t resolve. Thoughts of death or suicide are the body’s way of elevating our response to the emotional problem.  Because we have a very strong will to live, when the body elevates these suicidal thoughts it understands that our survival instinct will kick into gear and create the distress needed to address the problem.  The body wants the problem forefront and on the top of the to-do list.  And so it causes emotional distress signals to occur.  This is what you are feeling to a greater or lesser degree when intrusive thoughts of death enter the mind.  The greater the emotional distress of the body, the more likely the thoughts are to be intrusive, deeply felt, and sticky in the brain.  The body wants a reduction of the emotional stress and wants it addressed and while the method may seem troubling to some that is the way the body responds.

The reality of these emotional signals from a spiritual perspective is that they are not sinful in any way.  To think about suicide or death because of an emotional disconnect in the body is not sin.  Remember that this is a signal for help from the emotional core.  The emotional core is not necessarily attempting to end its life.  It is looking for relief.  It is a signal for us to find help.  Now hopefully we find our help before our stress causes the suicide signal, but many times we do not.  It was true for me.  I attempted some help but did not get serious until I realized how serious it was.  We should not see feelings of death or suicidal ideation as sinful.  These are hard wired emotional signals within the body.  I even struggle to see suicidal thoughts that lead to action or a planning as sinful.  Most often when we are in that state of emotional distress, it is not possible to fully comprehend death as a sin, or sufficiently feel the Spirit of the Lord so as to fully understand the reality of suicide.  Many times those plans and thoughts come with feelings of peace and comfort.  This says to me that we are not in a state to fully understand our actions or suicide.  To feel peace at the thought of our death is also not sin for me.  It is the body’s reaction to finding some type of solution to the distress, pain and suffering.  This type of peace is an emotional response to pain reduction.  Interestingly enough as we make plans and set forth actions, we can feel the result of the actions in our emotional response.  The peace we feel is placing ourselves outside of our emotional pain.  We are in a sense living the actions we are planning.  So even the peace we can feel is not sin to me.  It is a biological reaction foreseeing and living what the body feels will be the reality.

Suicide for me is not sin in the same sense of sin that we talk about regularly.  If you have come to a place where you have overcome your survival instinct in an effort to remove your pain and suffering, you have crossed over a line of understanding suicide from a sin perspective.  You are in a sense not fully able to comprehend that suicide is in one sense murder.  You can through your emotional distress become so disconnected from truth and reality that you are no longer capable of making decisions in the sense of sin. You become temporarily like a child who has committed something we might call sin.  Children are not held accountable to sin because they cannot comprehend truth and cannot understand the consequences of their actions, thus are unable to commit sin.  The Savior covers these pseudo-sins through the atonement and in a similar way covers almost all suicide.  I believe that the Lord will have compassion on those who have committed suicide and their state of mind and emotional distress will be taken into account. 

However, suicide does not solve any real problems.  While it might solve a temporary physical chemical imbalance, it creates very serious and real problems on its own.  When you pass through to the other side of the veil, we do not forget our trauma experienced in this life automatically or our mortal relationships.  If anything we have access to the full memories.  Anything we experienced in this life that has become embedded in our spiritual emotional core, we will need to address.  Healing does not automatically occur as we pass through the veil.  We will also feel terrible about the pain and suffering that we caused others by our actions.  Meaning suicide might solve one temporary mortal chemistry problem but causes us far more difficulty on the other side.  

I believe that trauma is best healed on this side of the veil.  While we don’t know specifically why, we do have some understanding that it is far more difficult to change our nature on the other side of the veil.  This would mean that any unresolved healing would be perhaps far more difficult to address.  We might just find that death or suicide may not solve any real problem in our lives but only complicate things.  I know that might be frustrating to many individuals who have suffered trauma by the hands of another.  We do not necessarily become another person as we pass through the veil.  Yes mortal weaknesses that are a direct result of our body’s chemistry will be removed with the body, but everything else will remain.  Healing only occurs through the Master Healer.  Only the Savior can heal the hurt, pain, suffering, through trauma that occurs in our lives.  This is true on this side of the veil and the other.  We will take emotional pain and memories to the other side of the veil.

Now having said all of that.  The grace and mercy of the atonement will heal a great deal of things that we simply cannot overcome.  I admit that some hurt, pain, suffering might be too deep to see beyond in this life and to feel the necessary healing.  I fully believe that if we do what we can to forgive, forget and move forward in our lives, the grace condition of the atonement will takeover and provided the needed healing in the next life.  When we have done what we can on our side and petition heaven for the healing blessing and some hurt remains, I believe that we will receive the gift of healing we desire and our pains will be removed as we pass through the veil or shortly thereafter.  The Lord can provide the difference through the grace clause of the atonement.  We should not concern ourselves if we still feel hurt, betrayed, or indifferent to someone else, if we are trying to forgive and love them.  If we continue to work with the Lord then all will be well with us in time.

Now personally I don’t believe that suicide because of mental health issues will be treated in any way or form as murder.  I believe that the Lord fully understands the individual’s mental and emotional capacity at the time of the event.  From what I have experience and heard from other’s, no one who has arrived at the point of suicide through mental health disorders is in a place to fully comprehend the act as sin.  Again I want this to be understood, the Savior has covered the sins of those who do not comprehend the law and this covers those who have become sufficiently disabled emotionally and mentally so as to not comprehend suicide in the moment, and this also means a temporary disablement through emotional illness.

I also do not believe that the Savior sees death ideation or suicide ideation as a sin.  If we choose to deliberately develop those feelings, then perhaps it would be, but I don’t know anyone who does this or would do it purposefully.  He sees this type of ideation for what it really is, an emotional call for help.  This is how I now look at it when those thoughts return to my head.  My body is basically saying, I have had enough of this.  I am done with it.  I realize for me that I need to refocus my thoughts and often sleep.  A nap or sleep has often allowed me to refocus my thoughts and to exclude those moments of death ideation.  I have also used such things as hobbies, movies, music, meditation or other thought refocusing methods.  What is key to understanding this emotional problem is that the body needs help and getting that help is critical to quieting the voice.  

We should continue to seek out the spiritual even when feeling spiritual emotions is difficult.  We should listen to scriptures even when we don’t feel that we are getting anything.  We should listen to good music and avoid music that would allow for our ideation to continue.  We should get the medical help we need.  For some this will be counseling, for others it will be medication and for still others it will be both.  In addition to mental and emotional counseling we should seek spiritual counseling from a trusted source.  Many times counselors or therapists can also help us spiritually if they understand and practice our religion.  We can also seek out a leader who is understanding.  The Lord can speak through our leaders even if they have little to no experience in mental health issues.  However, you can be cautious in your approach to any counselor.  Listen to your instincts.  If a certain counselor and you don’t mesh or work well together, then find another one.  Not all counselors work for every person.  If the medication you are using doesn’t seem to be working then seek for something that will.  If there is one thing I have learned, you have to speak up and take charge of your mental health.  The mental health system is fragile throughout the world and you will need to take charge or have someone take charge for you if you cannot do it yourself.

In all of this, seek out the Lord.  Go to the temple regularly, if you can.  If you can’t sit through an endowment session, then simply do sealings.  Pray regularly and all the time if you need to.  Be honest with the Lord and yourself about what you are feeling and what is happening in your life.  We need to be respectful with the Lord as our Savior and creator as we speak with him, but you can tell him anything even when the words don’t seem like the right way to say it.  I have had conversations where my emotions have done more talking than my words.  I have had prayers where all I can say is that I need help. Seek the Lord and I promise that you will find him and his love for you.  If you can get a priesthood blessing from someone you consider spiritual, then seek him out.  Do not be concerned about asking for a second or third blessing as you work through your mental health issues.  I realize that a sentiment exists that we should not be asking for priesthood blessings all the time that we should rely upon the blessing we have received.  I do not know where that is thought doctrinally and I don’t believe that I have ever heard it said in conference.  If we need spiritual support a priesthood blessing is a good way to obtain it.

Finally, find ways to reduce worry and stress.  Many times my problems have been exacerbated by worrying about things I really cannot control.  Yes I know that is easier said than done.  But you can ask the Lord for help in this matter and then seek out methods that allow for stress reduction.  A variety of good mortal methods exist for calming the mind and reducing our stress. Naturally many spiritual methods also exist.  Do not concern yourself with those intrusive suicide ideation thoughts.  Remember that these are simply signals from the body not emotions to be acted upon.  Act upon the signal not the emotion and find solutions that provide for your well-being.  You are not a sinful person because suicide has come into your mind.  You are not a sinful person for feeling the way you do.  You are beloved of our Father, Mother and Savior.  They are very concerned for your well-being and your mental health and they desire to help.  Seek them out and you will find relief.  May the Lord bless you to find peace in your life and to find happiness through the atonement of Christ.  Until next week do your part so that the Lord can do his.