Suicide, the difference between wanting to kill yourself and wishing you didn’t exist

Contact with fellow patients who are currently feeling suicidal is part of the norm for many patients with chronic conditions. Anyone who’s been there ‘gets it’ and if we’re strong enough to support without our own coping mechanisms being compromised then of course we do so. Because we’ve been there. And though we each have to dig ourselves out of the mire it helps when there is someone out there saying “I believe in you”.

The reality of suicidal thoughts is not that someone wants to ‘kill themselves’, the thought of having to do the ‘killing yourself’ part is horrible so you want to find the least horrific way to do so. The ‘killing’ bit is not the point. The point is that someone who is considering suicide can see no way forward. No way out. Their situation has become so overwhelming that their coping mechanisms just can’t balance everything out. This is not a failure on their part. And if you’re reading this and you feel like this right now – this is not a failure. It is human and understandable. And you are not alone in this, there are people out here who understand how you feel and why you feel this way.

It is also not something to be ashamed of. It is understandable that someone with health issues that are changing their life, to the extent that they don’t feel like it actually is their life any more, feel this way. With pain levels so high that is impossible to think, to function or to see further than the darkest of times that currently make the light seem like nothing but a long lost memory. And not just pain. Crawling along the floor because your body is trying to make you pass out. Feeling like you’ve just won a medal because your body has actually allowed you to have a poo and this time you actually didn’t end up on the bathroom floor with your body temperature going through the roof, stomach thinking it should vomit right about now, body wanting you to lie down or it’ll make you faint and meanwhile you watch the room spin and spin whilst your head throbs so hard you just wish you’d pass out and miss having to experience this bit. I mean seriously, when your life has changed so much, no wonder you’re left reeling. And no wonder you just want to opt out. Many fellow patients know about this. You are not alone.

Time and again I’ve heard fellow patients echo my own words from years before, “it’s not that I want to kill myself, it’s just that I wish I didn’t exist”, “if I could just choose to not wake up…”

If you’re feeling this right now, I get it. I understand. I’ve been there.

As Rellacaffa also pointed out, society tends to say “Shhh! You don’t talk about suicide“. And you know what? We should. To not talk about this is to leave all those experiencing it feeling alone, forgotten, left on the sidelines and with no way out other than the very final way. Seriously the number of people who have been through this is huge. And to come through it is truly hellish but, trust me, when you start to build that way-out the light begins to seep in again. There is another way.

And you are not alone. (If you’re feeling these things right now I’m sending you a hug right here, xx)

When I realised just how different wanting to kill yourself is from wanting to not exist, I got stubborn. Why should I be stuck looking at opting out in such an extreme manner when I knew that the situation had overwhelmed me so utterly that my coping skills just weren’t enough any more? Why should I be put in a position where I’m considering giving in, how dare the world work that way? So I decided that I needed to take a new approach or things were not going to change.

When you hit rock bottom you are faced with two glaring options a) opt out, or b) refuse to opt out. But if we want to refuse then things can’t stay as they are. It’s that simple. Things have to change. So the options really are: a) opt out or b) change things.

With our coping mechanisms so severely outweighed the changes have to be of importance to us. And when we reach such an extreme stage in our journey we have to be prepared to take a step back and be honest with ourselves about everything. We get our head to separate out different aspects of our life and allow our heart to be honest with us on each one. Then we have to make a decision about what needs to change. What is most important to us. What will keep us alive? What will make us want to stay alive?

For me my change was to upsticks and move home. Which seems massive when in that state but it was what my assessment of my life at the time led me to and frankly if it’s going to stand a chance of changing things so that the coping mechanisms stand more of a chance of balancing things out then it’s worth it. I had been continuing to live in an area that I used to work in. I had already managed to get my mentally abusive boyfriend to finally go away. (It’d only taken about a year of asking him to go and him refusing. Yep, I was that run down that I couldn’t even call the shots on my own relationship, doh)! And the subsequent fleeting boyfriend had opened my eyes to what life could be like if there was someone who wanted to spend time with me and even help me get out and do things. That realisation that another life was possible was what tipped me over the edge once I was back in my isolated existence again, but it’s also what drove me to push for the changes. I wanted a life. I accepted my health issues, but I did not want to accept the unnecessary additional negatives too.

For others the main change might be having to give up work to remove some of the stress levels and allow for better pain management, or contacting the local pain management team to ask about training in handy psychological tools for patients with chronic conditions. Certainly a change of focus is required and we need to point ourselves firmly in the direction of life and refuse to dwell on health stuff. I mean we obviously have health stuff in our faces all day every day, but there’s a difference between productive temporary thinking and circular negative thinking. The first can be useful when required then put to one side so that life can happen, the second takes over our continuous present so that life gets squished out of the picture. We deserve to have an existence that we want to hang onto. So we need to figure out what it is that we want to hang onto and what it is that prevents us or makes us feel like we don’t want to hang on. What is it that lifts us that we can get more of by changing something? What is it which brings us down which we can remove or change so that we are not quite as overwhelmed?

Talk to someone you trust, whether near of far, allow yourself to put what you feel into words. If there’s no-one you’d feel truly comfortable doing this with then contact a support line, or get referred to a clinical psychologist (often also available through pain management teams) who can help you to gain handy tools and to figure out what needs to be changed. You deserve this support. You have a right to this support. It is part of the health issues you face and you do not have to do this bit alone.

I know many fellow patients who have also been through this. And their strength and optimism probably means that others do not realise that this is a part of their (our) past, but coming through this has that effect. We are stronger, we know ourselves better, and quite frankly when you’ve stared that option in the face and found another way instead then you know that you can handle anything that comes your way. So there isn’t just another way, it is one heck of an amazing path that can lead you to places you currently can’t see or imagine, but we all started where many patients are now. Where maybe even you are now. We were there. We understand. We ‘get it’. You are not alone and there is another way.

Love and strength,



Additional links for medical staff:

Experienced nurse in multiple areas, Isy Aweigh writes here on some hugely important tips and insights for medical practitioners with potentially suicidal patients.

Michael Negraeff, MD, wrote last month of an experience with a suicidal patient here, and his thoughts link in with Isy’s article above.

7 thoughts on “Suicide, the difference between wanting to kill yourself and wishing you didn’t exist

  1. Thank you for this wonderful blog post on such a taboo subject. You word it perfectly and this difference between don´t wanting to exist and wanting to kill yourself is so right, and I´m sure you have helped lot of people with this post.

    I love your blog and your posts are always so educating


  2. Brilliant piece, Elle. Really.

    For me, I had no hope and no drive left, and even being angry was beyond me. In the end, it was curiosity that pulled me through. I just had to find out what happened next. Not knowing would have killed me, so to speak, and I just couldn’t live, or not-live, or un-live, with that 🙂 Once I realized that, determination pulled me through, but that raw basic curiosity was the thing that would not let me go.

  3. Pingback: SDRC Suicide algoneurodystrophie | sylvieghyselscrpsdrc

  4. So what happens when you feel like you have no one to open up to and don’t trust doctors, specialists, or support lines? or when you do have one person you feel like you can open up to but regardless of their support feel guilty and bothersome? Can these feelings not create a divide between you and that rare person you trust, and would that not further the self loathing and depression that may have brought you to this point in the first place?

    Just some food for thought

  5. What do you do when those things that you need for a change are those things that you cannot control? Namely, the (in)actions of others? Or, the state of the world? Support isn’t always available or helpful….

  6. Opt out, or refuse to opt out. Well put.
    There is a third option though- one which involves your spiritual orientation.
    Mine is Buddhist- and that involves accepting karma and reincarnation. Beliefs in Buddhism are funny things and we often adopt them as thought experiments to see if it makes our lives better, as promised. That belief system completely derails the suicide thing– it is just not going to work. You will end up with Groundhog Day.
    However you can raise the bar, and take the Bodhisattva Vow- and promise to keep coming back forever to care for and be of service to all beings.
    — but yeah, I do know where you are coming from. I have had 25 years of pain of varying levels. The last 10 have often been horrific – with much associated loss and trauma. Sometimes every breath has been torture. I can think of many times when I was in agony, lying on my bed thinking of ways to end the pain. Even though I knew I would not go there, fantasising about it was comforting.
    That sort of pain creates a dreadful stress state, and leaves me very foggy minded ( too long to explain, but I understand why).

    There is good news though. I have had a run of luck with new treatments including Vagus Nerve Stimulation, craniosacral therapy and a 3 week yoga intensive/ camp in the subtropics in Australia.
    (Hare Krishna retreat centre Eungella near Murwillumbah, Northern New South Wales.

    After some interesting premonitory signs, yesterday morning the pain stopped and all the tense muscles in my chest surrendered from their plot to kill me.
    Ten years of hard work, all leading to this point, then with the right stimulus, it all drops in. Fantastic.

    Never give up hope. The chances are that you are closer than you imagine to escaping the pit of pain.

  7. Hi… I was reading your article and while doing so I realised under tears that I should probably look for help once I find time for that. Thanks.

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