The Guilt of Contemplating Suicide

Oh Facebook…

Today I saw a picture posted by a guy I used to work with. It was a picture of a motorway bridge and a laminated note next to it saying:

Suicide doesn’t take the pain away.
It just passes it to someone else.

🙄 < my own eye roll was much larger than this.

I don’t know the origin of that photo, perhaps it was written by someone who was grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide. I also know the guy that re-posted it, and I’m sure he did it with good intentions. However, it’s a message which isn’t filled with compassion and support.

It’s a message loaded with guilt.

It says ‘I know you want to die, but if you do you’ll make someone else sad, so just keep going. Keep going with your pain, with your depression, with your memories and flashbacks of trauma. Keep living even though your own mind scares you and you don’t feel safe in your own body. Keep going even though you don’t know how you are going to feed yourself and your family. Keep going in your grief. Keep going with the pain that you feel cloaks every waking moment of your day, with the ruminating thoughts that don’t stop, with your diagnosis that you can’t get any tangible help for. Keep going with your guilt, and here is a little more to load on top of that. Keep suffering, but don’t make anyone else sad, ok?

Suicide isn’t a conscious choice. Suicide is an option that feels like the only remaining option when the pain of living becomes greater than the pain of dying.

People who contemplate suicide already feel like a burden. They know that people will be upset but their unwell mind will convince them that the sadness other people feel will be temporary and lesser than the upset, frustration and disappointment that they will endure should they continue to live their lives.

There is absolutely zero compassion within those words. There is no hope that in the future things might get better, there is no clue as to where to look for resources that might help. There is no inkling of the fact that if you are contemplating suicide you are very, very far from being alone.

There is just guilt. So, much, guilt.

People who feel like ending their lives and their suffering don’t need to be told things like this. They need to be reminded that the good days will one day come again. That there are people out there who will listen, and that the words that come out of their mouths don’t even have to make any sense. They need to be held – physically and emotionally. They need support, they need friends to sit with them in the silence when their mind is anything but. They need hand holds in the dark when it’s 4am and the tears won’t stop coming. They need governments that recognise how huge the scale of mental ill-health actually is and who are willing to put funding into supporting those who need it. They need financial support and they need appropriate treatment for their unique condition. They need to be reminded that none of this is their fault.

They need compassion, and understanding and for people to listen and begin to recognise just how complex and traumatic even the very thought of suicide is.

They don’t need guilt.


Where to find help – UK
Where to find help – Europe
Where to find help – USA
Where to find help – Canada
Where to find help – Australia

Photo by Steve Leadbeater on Unsplash

Thank you for reading.

If you have enjoyed this writing, please feel free to come and join me on my following social network pages to see my new posts and daily musings:

 Twitter Facebook

Keeping Empathy In Check

Last month, I discovered that June 9th is Empathy Day and today it is trending on Twitter, because we should all harness this inner empathy that we have, right? We should all be more in-tune with each other’s feelings and emotions, especially at the moment, right?

I am also seeing posts on social media about empathic overload, parasympathetic stress, and general exhaustion… and I’m feeling that too.

Being empathic is a funny beast. I believe that we all inherently are, to some level, empathic. But for some of us, especially those of us that fall at the more sensitive end of the spectrum, our levels of empathy can sometimes be a little too much to manage and can sometimes even feel more like a curse than a blessing. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with the notion that we need more kindness and understanding going forward, using the word ‘empathy’ as a way to propel us to this point seems a little too far, especially when those of us who are empathic can often feel overwhelmed or burnt out by it.

For a long time, a very long time, I kind of just took my own empathy as something that simply was. I am empathic, just as someone else might be classed as adventurous or studious. It was a personality trait that I had, I couldn’t exactly switch it off and so I just went about my business wearing my empathy on my sleeve. And so often I would feel so tired, I would feel heavy, I would feel sad with no apparent cause, or frustrated, or just very jumbled…

It has only been in the last couple of years that I have understood that I wasn’t only observing what other people around me were feeling and therefore sympathising with them, I was feeling it too, quite literally.

There was a moment when it clicked for me. I walked into a room where two people were having an argument without words. You know the type. There were no raised voices, there was no apparent anger at all, but you could hear it in the tone of voice, the words used… I entered that room and my mood changed, like flicking a switch, and I instantly felt my energy shift. I knew then that this sudden dip in my mood was not because of my own emotions. I had instantly, on walking into that room, absorbed some of the energy from either one or both of those people – and it was not comfortable. I couldn’t stay in there, this feeling did not belong in my body and I did not want it to be there.

After that moment, I began to notice more how my mood would shift around certain people and, perhaps even more importantly, I began to notice the energy of other people and how it impacted me. Most people have a pretty neutral energy I find, it’ll change depending on circumstance of course but on the whole, it makes things very straightforward. However, some people can have very powerful energy – and this isn’t always a good thing. It may all sound a little far fetched at this point, but I have met people before who have had very confusing and chaotic energy, these people are not bad to be around necessarily, but I find that I do become quite tired after spending time with them. I have also met a couple of people that have very dark energy, and these people I do find it hard to spend time around. Around people like this, I usually get a headache and a real heaviness in the back of my head. It will quite often feel like someone has pulled the rug from underneath me and I get the feeling that I would rather be anywhere else. It is not comfortable and it will usually leave me exhausted for days afterward.

I don’t know, at this point, whether this is an empath trait, a thing that most people feel, instinct, or just an off-shoot of being at the more sensitive end of the scale when it comes to my surroundings. But I do feel that how we pick up on and perceive other people’s energies does link into how just being close to or around someone can impact our mood, and to an extent, our own energy.

Is it any wonder then that, at the moment especially, there are people who feel completely exhausted and burnt-out, but with no apparent cause? In the first few weeks of this pandemic, I felt like I was just wiped out. I didn’t feel like I could settle to anything, my thoughts felt jumbled and I struggled to make decisions. I was suffering from empathic overload. The whole world was experiencing a form of collective trauma. Suddenly everything that everyone knew – our routines, how we shopped, what we did when we left our homes, our children’s schooling, our jobs – were all thrown up into the air. Overnight we had to adapt, we had to get our shit together so that we could, at the very crux of it, survive. Here in the UK, we saw how this virus was affecting Italy and Spain and we were told that we were a few weeks behind these horrifying death tolls, we knew that this unstoppable force was coming. We watched as people panic bought toilet rolls, as governments who should have been keeping us safe floundered amongst the panic. We worried about older relatives and friends and our jobs and what this all meant long term and we did it all whilst suddenly having to be alone with our thoughts, without the distraction of work and routine.

And then the shocking images of George Floyd being murdered, and the realisation that systematic racism exists even within our own homes. That no-one, even if you consider yourself to not be racist, is truly not racist. To witness and hear what generations of people have been through and to have to hold yourself and your own culture accountable for centuries of pain and hurt and torment and know that what you feel right now does not even compare in the slightest possible way to what millions of people feel every day, is really, really hard.

People are suffering everywhere right now. Watching the news is really hard, even scrolling through social media is hard because you want to be able to help in any small way you can but all you can feel is this pain, that doesn’t even fully belong to you. It is overwhelming, it has a physical effect on our bodies when our cortisol levels raise, and we can find ourselves trapped within the ‘fight or flight’ trauma response – and usually within one of the lesser-known variations of that; freeze.

That, to me, is my definition of empathy and recently I heard it summed up perfectly by Elizabeth Gilbert:

“Empathy is “You’re suffering, and now I’m suffering because you’re suffering.” So now we have two people suffering and nobody who can serve, and nobody who can be of help, and if you knew how your empathetic suffering actually makes you into another patient who needs assistance, you would be more willing to dip into compassion. And what underlies compassion is the virtual courage, the courage to be able to sit with and witness somebody else’s pain without inhabiting it yourself so much that you become another person who is suffering and now, there are no helpers.”

I do not want to be someone that freezes in the face of someone else’s pain, but there have been times throughout my life – including very recently – where that is what I have done. Many times over the past few weeks, I have thought back to this passage of text and this interview in general and tried to face things with compassion, rather than empathy. Because empathy can become so strong that it destabilises us and renders us useless in the face of someone else’s struggles. I do feel pain for others and I do feel very overwhelmed with everything that is going on in the world right now, but I do also have the power to step back from it. I have the power to limit my news intake and I have the power to choose what I read and when I read it.

We so often hear analogies along the lines of ‘you cannot save anyone else unless you put your own breathing apparatus on first’ and (whilst I disagree with the whole notion of ‘saving’ people) this is absolutely true. Because what good is all of this desire to help and be the light within someone else’s darkness, if you are suffering as much as they are to begin with?

It takes courage and it takes strength to hold your own behaviour up to the light and examine it. And I am not saying that empathy is ‘bad’ – I firmly believe that it is a good thing to be able to empathise with someone else and to be able to help them from a place of kinship and understanding. But there does become a point where it can become too much and we can become unstuck. Do it too often and too intensely and you end up exhausted, do it without even realising, repeatedly, and you end up with burnout. Do it with one person within a relationship and you end up on a codependency spiral where you reach the point of only being ok, if they are ok. Like anything – including the good in this life – it is good to keep in check and use in moderation.

And for everything else, there is compassion.

Guest Post – Too Intense

Today’s guest post is brought to us by the beautiful April from Tales Of Night Creatures – a wonderful blog of ‘Short stories, poetry, fiction and thinkpieces for the witching hour’. You will see from the first paragraph down below how talented she is and I am truly honoured to have her contribute to my series of ‘Too…’ posts ❤

Image credit: Joshua Newton @ Unsplash

Too… Intense

Having or showing strong feelings or opinions.”

I often feel, while I’m here trying to be authentic and open and compassionate, focusing on my vision and making things better… that people find it too much, too intense. That I’m too much myself, and that’s a bad thing.

Being too intense means it’s wrong to care about things a lot, to be conscientious or want to make things better, to do a job thoroughly and well.

To have feelings about things and want to express them properly. Or to have passions and interests and pursuits that aren’t mainstream, or which focus on issues or big picture stuff, or that mean you talk about true things and it’s not socially acceptable.

To have strong feelings and to express them can be too intense. As a writer, this ability is somewhat necessary. To translate the emotional inner life into language which can express and resonate with another human being, in a performative act of empathic connection- this is powerful on the page.

In real life, people don’t like it very much.

Feeling strongly about something can be empowering. It incites action, momentum, change. I trust the intensity of my instincts and feelings to give me important information about people and situations. I trust the authenticity of my passions to enable me to act accordingly with my values and to sometimes act on behalf of others, who otherwise may not have a voice or advocate.

However, this doesn’t always translate well. A milder response may be amusement at my animated reaction, or befuddlement. Sometimes people can glaze over and look bored or change the subject. And occasionally it can be met with derision or hostility. This is hard if it comes from those whose opinion we value.

It leads to feeling ashamed, of being too much or too intense. It was stupid to care, and it was stupid to talk about it. My self-talk becomes critical and harsh, my mood plummets and I become very upset. This upset, of course, is deemed disproportionate and too intense for the cause.

Being labelled “too intense” is shameful, because it means you have been labelled as unacceptable, you have overstepped your prescribed boundaries of status. As sensitive types, we self-regulate and monitor and keep ourselves in check, dreading this censure. To be too intense is to possess too much feeling in a world priding itself on its logic, control and detachment from nature. It is excessive, coded feminine or weak, not always valued.

When you act from a place of authenticity, sensitivity and passion, you tend to think and feel very much about what you’re doing and saying, and whether this is in alignment with your truth. You question everything, because you notice and feel everything, and you want to make things better, because things being the way they are is not acceptable if that means others are disadvantaged or in pain. Somehow, maintaining a façade, or petty matters of convention, don’t seem to matter as much.

And because you very much want to make things better, or to make others feel better, you propel yourself forward into situations and conversations where you’re pushing the boundaries of what others want to think and feel about.

This isn’t about pushing or enforcing a dogma onto other people, or being controlling; it’s about maybe being really enthusiastic about the environment so that you instigate recycling initiatives at your workplace, litter pick on the way home and gently but consistently talk to others about ways to cut down on plastic waste.

Or feeling so strongly about trans and non-binary rights that you firmly but politely challenge hateful speech and jokey transphobia socially, share petitions and go to march at Pride with a transgender youth group.

It’s about feeling so acutely that something needs to be done to help others or to make things better, you can’t help acting. Even if the cost is misunderstanding or being judged.

Being too intense can be synonymous with being too sensitive. Taking things deeply to heart, considering the weight and import of conversations and interactions, or communicating honestly about those feelings and thoughts can be too much for a fair number of people.

I would like to challenge them by asking why.

With current mental health statistics demonstrating that many of us are negotiating dark and painful territory, often in isolation, talking about our true feelings can be a release.

In relationships, communicating honestly and openly can alleviate many issues. And, from experience, it can save time right from the beginning to be bravely honest and expressive about what you want and need in romantic relationships. This doesn’t necessarily mean a declaration of love, but in terms of values and behaviour and boundaries you have or desire or will accept. And being true to who you are and what matters to you will attract like minded kindred spirits, and repel those who wouldn’t fit well anyway.

Having intense feelings and empathy for others fuels us to acts of compassion and kindness. The art we create is rooted in this capacity to feel as others do, the caring professions we work in are motivated by the desire to alleviate pain and ease discomfort, the social causes and charities we support soar when we act from a place of love and respect for others.

 Our ethics and values which respect the lives and well-being and wholeness of other beings arise from both our emotional empathy and our earnest belief in those feelings as possessing worth and substance.

Maybe, for some, I will always be too intense. Or too serious, or sensitive. That’s okay, because to reclaim these as positive characteristics is to repurpose their place in making our world and our lives a better place.

Check out Aprils other writings here: Tales of Night Creatures
And you can also follow her on Instagram and see some of here beautiful artwork here: Aprilydaze