“Choosing To Live”

I’m reading a book right now titled Choosing To Live by Thomas E. Ellis, Psy.D. and Cory F. Newman, Ph.D., with a foreward by Aaron T. Beck, M.D.  Those names might not be familiar to you, but Dr. Aaron Beck is the father of modern cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, in the psychological realm.  The subtitle of this book is, “How To Defeat Suicide Through Cognitive Therapy”.  Now that the book is set in its context, you might wonder why on earth I would read such a volume.  Well, first of all, I have a Master’s degree in Psychology and hope to one day Pile it Higher and Deeper (get my Ph.D.) in Psychology.  Another reason is that I want to be able to understand myself better, because I am not immune to suicidal ideation.  No one is.  I want to know how to combat those moments of irrational thought when they come.  I think of it as strengthening my coping skills for real life, because I deal with PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety on a daily basis and there’s no telling what life is going to throw on top of all that at any given time!  A crisis is not a crisis because it was planned ahead of time, if you get my drift.  Crises, I’ve learned, can come up at a moment’s notice for any and every conceivable (and inconceivable, more often than not) reason in this world and the next, and when I’m overwhelmed, I lose the ability to think as rationally as I could otherwise.  That’s a common response due to blood flow and fight-or-flight responses to hormones in stressful situations.  I have the added challenge of controlling my oversized, oversensitive, overactive amygdala (thank you, PTSD, for changing my anatomy and physiology) – the part of the brain in the limbic system that controls raw emotions like anger and fear.  That part of my brain gets fed all the oxygen by my blood supply during a perceived crisis, and my frontal lobes – the “thinking” part of my brain – gets starved of that oxygen and can’t do its job properly until I calm down some.  Neurotransmitters spill out everywhere and my zamboni doesn’t clean them up right away like the average person’s would (again, thank you, PTSD), so the emotions shoot sky high and stay in the stratosphere for quite some time (much longer than the average person’s).

So, for people who get suicidal during times like these, there is help out there.  The key is to prepare ahead of time for these overwhelming crisis moments and prolonged times of distress.  You can do this by educating yourself on coping skills that may work for you and reading books such as the one I’m reading right now.  You may even want to seek professional help.  Now, wait.  Before you say, “I’m not crazy and I don’t need professional help,” listen to me for a minute.  You don’t have to be crazy to seek professional help if you just can’t seem to find happiness or adjust the way you want to be able to adjust to the life you’re living.  You’d be crazy NOT to seek some help if this is the case.  Professional mental health counseling and evaluation, even presciption medication from a psychiatrist or family doctor, is not a weakness.  It’s a strength.  It takes the courage to say, “I’m going to live the best life I can because I only have one life and I’m going to make it a great one.”  You’re much stronger for seeking professional help than for self-medicating with alcohol or substance abuse, settling for a miserable life, or killing yourself.  Understand?  If you need help, GET IT!  You’ll be glad you did.

Now, there are some resources that I’ve found on the internet that can get you through a tough spot when you’re alone (or feel that you are) and can’t seem to get help.  One of my favorites that I’ll share here is http://www.metanoia.org and through this website, you can contact The Samaritans, who won’t be calling any police or ambulances, who are not professional counselors or therapists, and who are not going to rat you out to any professional that you might be seeing.  The Samaritans are just there to listen.  You can contact them by phone or by e-mail and they will respond.  It may not be immediately, but they respond within 24 hours to e-mails, and often sooner than that.  They will “converse” with you about your troubles over the e-mail anonymously (your e-mail isn’t kept on file, and there is no record kept after the interaction is over) and help you sort out what to do next.  Part of the beauty of this is that it disarms the impulsivity that often comes with suicidal ideation and crisis situations.  Give them time to respond, because they will.  And they do truly care.  I have used this service several times with fantastic results and they’ve gotten me through some tough times.  If you’re overwhelmed, try talking to The Samaritans.  You don’t have to be religious – it has nothing to do with that.  It’s just a name for a group of people who want to help and are available.  Of course, my disclaimer here is that, if you’re acutely suicidal and are absolutely going to kill yourself right this minute, dial 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Department immediately.  DO NOT DELAY GETTING HELP!!!  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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