It’s basically impossible to talk about realistic recovery from complex trauma or dissociative disorders without talking about suicidality.
If you’re in recovery from a complex trauma, it’s highly likely the thought of killing yourself or wanting to be dead has crossed your mind.
It’s also likely that, if you’ve mentioned that to someone, you’ve had at least one person, probably more, respond VERY strongly— and perhaps very negatively.
Our culture famously doesn’t quite know what to do with the concept of suicide. It stokes all kinds of emotions and fears in us.
But if we’re going to be real about what trauma recovery entails, we have to address it— because the desire to be dead is overwhelmingly common among people who have abuse and neglect in their history.
You’re not weird, bad, or unusual for having those thoughts.
Not all thoughts or wishes to be dead are the same. Like any thought or urge, thoughts and wishes to be dead exist on a continuum, and have different meanings for different people.
For many people the thought is no more developed than, “I wish I didn’t have to deal with this every day, or ever again.”
For some people the thought is entangled with overwhelming shame— “how can I live knowing what was done to me/what I did?”
For some people it’s just a matter of exhaustion and utter burnout— having over felt and over functioned day after day after day for decades, they just can’t imagine continuing on.
For some people the idea of dying is entwined with dissociative self-states, sometimes with various parts having different reasons for wanting “the body” to die.
As far as I’m concerned, we have to be honest about our thoughts and urges when it comes to suicidality for the simple reason that realistic trauma recovery means we are not ducking or dodging ANYTHING important anymore.
A bedrock of my trauma recovery philosophy is that we have to size everything up as realistically as possible— and if thoughts of dying are a big part of your world, we have to acknowledge that.
Here’s the thing about the suicide fantasy, from a trauma recovery standpoint: I don’t care if you have that fantasy of an “escape hatch.” Many more people have that fantasy as an “escape hatch” than will ever admit to it.
I guarantee you encountered an actively or passively suicidal person today, whether you know it or not.
I DO care, however, if that fantasy is getting in the way of your trauma recovery work.
Make no mistake: the work of trauma recovery takes a lot of effort and a lot of patience. It often sucks. It’s often frustrating. It’s often boring.
I’ve seen the fantasy of suicide as a way out get in the way of some survivors’ motivation and focus in their recovery.
Why bother with all this stuff that sucks, part of them might think, if I can just push the “eject” button and be done with it?
That’s the danger of the suicidal fantasy, in my experience. It can distract us from doing the things we need to do in trauma recovery to actually build a life, little baby step by little baby step.
It is easy to get judgmental with ourselves or others when we have suicidal thoughts or wishes.
But when we are in that space, we do not need judgment— and we do not need pressure.
We do not need to be lectured— and we very much do not need to be labeled “selfish.”
What we DO need is a teeny, tiny glimmer of hope that trauma recovery MIGHT be possible.
There is a reason why I have chosen to focus my work not just on trauma recovery, but REALISTIC and SUSTAINABLE recovery from trauma and addiction: because I need you to know that, to me, this “recovery” stuff isn’t hypothetical.
I want recovery to be a REAL WORLD thing that can ACTUALLY compete with the escape hatch of suicide.
And here’s the thing: it can.
I wouldn’t say that, certainly not on a blog that’ll be read by thousands of people, if I didn’t believe it.
I want your recovery to be so real world, so realistic, so doable, DESPITE how much it can suck some days, that you DON’T feel like your only option is to hit that “eject” button.
That’s why I say take this one day at a time.
That’s why I say focus on practical skills, tools, and philosophies.
That’s why I say work on making the inside of your head and heart a safe place.
Because I don’t want ANYONE to feel like dying is their ONLY option.
I swear to you, it’s not.