Most people with borderline personality disorder struggle with strong, frequent suicidal thoughts. In fact, BPD has one of the highest rated of suicide among all mental illnesses. Nearly 80% of people with diagnosed BPD attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime. Furthermore, approximately 10% of them succeed.
My therapist recently asked me when I first experienced suicidal ideation, and my answer astonished her. Why?
Because I told her I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t experience suicidal ideation.
As our discussion continued, we came to a somewhat startling conclusion. I’ve spent so much of my life with the hum of suicidality in my ear that it’s a comfortable, automatic response to almost every emotion I feel.
Basically, my mind has created a funnel labeled “suicide.” As my neurons fire and I begin feeling an emotion, I toss it directly into the funnel. I don’t stop to label the emotion. I also don’t consider what I could do instead of jump to suicidal ideation. In other words, my body associates any emotional response as a horrible thing, and that the only solution to feeling an emotion is to die.
While this may not be why everyone with borderline personality disorder struggles with frequent suicidal urges, it’s definitely a great insight into why I wrestle them so often.
But, if I’ve trained my brain to respond to any emotion by jumping straight to death, how do I make these automatic suicidal thoughts stop?
I’m not completely there yet. However, I think the first step will be spending lots of time labeling my emotions. By labeling my emotions, I can add a step to the system that’s in place. Furthermore, I can also create a moment to really stop and utilize my emotion regulation skills from dialectical behavior therapy before my brain merely starts down that funnel of suicidal ideation.
Then, once I can better identify my emotions, I can start creating new pathways in my brain for each emotion that I feel. Instead of lumping everything into one output, I can build numerous shoots and trails to follow. Hopefully that will not only help lower the intensity of my suicidal thoughts, but actually reduce their frequency as well.
Although I don’t know if I’ll ever live a life where suicidal thoughts never cross my mind, I do hope that this new insight will ultimately allow me to diminish the number of times I consider suicide as an escape.
If, like me, you constantly wrestle with suicidal ideation, I encourage you to really stop and think why you encounter those thoughts so frequently. Perhaps that tiny bit of insight will ultimately lead you to answers and, eventually, a way to reframe your thoughts. We all deserve a life full of experiences. That includes me, and most of all, it includes you, too.
Previously Published on The Mighty