If you’re here reading this, it’s likely something in the title caught your attention. Maybe it is a word you connect with, or have some curiosity about, or maybe it is hope for connection. Whatever reason brought you here, welcome. I’m here to tell you a little story: my story about resilience and overcoming suicidal ideation.

My first suicide attempt was when I was 7 years old. Since then, I’ve attempted suicide a handful of times with my last attempt in 2015, just after my 22nd birthday. For 15 years, I have lived with the guilt of suicidal ideation.

It began very simply. I couldn’t understand why I felt the urge to no longer exist, but even at 7 years old, I knew these thoughts were unusual. I was raised, partly, in a Catholic household, and I was taught that dying by suicide was a one-way ticket to hell, even before I actually knew what suicide was. This belief system I was raised to uphold added to the stigma surrounding suicidal ideation. Now, I understand that suicidal ideation is a common feeling for those with anxiety, depression, or many other mental illnesses.

Over the years, I learned that there are different types of suicidal ideation. One is “active ideation” in which you’re not only thinking about suicide, but you have a plan and intentions to carry out the thought. The other is “passive ideation,” which means you wish you didn’t exist anymore, or that you could die so you don’t have live in the agony any longer; however, you don’t have plans to act on these thoughts. I spent a few periods of my life in the “active ideation” stage where I had a plan to take my life and was ready to set my plan into action. I also spent many, many more years after that in “passive ideation.”

For me, the real kicker was not overcoming the “active ideation;” I knew deep down that I didn’t want to die because I always held hope for a better future — one worth living. For me, the hard part has been overcoming the “passive ideation” of suicide, even to this day.

It sneaks up on you: when you’ve had a bad day and you’re feeling exhausted; when the universe seems to keep kicking you down; when nothing seems to be going right, no matter how hard you work. The passive ideation sneaks in and offers itself as an outlet; even when you don’t feel suicidal, it’s there. Sometimes it doesn’t even look like suicidal ideation. Sometimes it looks like smoking a pack of cigarettes in a day because maybe you’ll get sick from the chemicals. Sometimes it looks like sleeping all day because the thought of getting out of bed breaks your heart. Sometimes it’s just thinking to yourself “I wish I could die.” Suicidal passive ideation creeps into your mind, intrusive and unbearable. BUT! There are many ways to move past the suicidal ideations and create a life worth living! For me, it was growing my resilience muscle.

Resilience – re·sil·ience, noun – The capacity to recover quickly from difficult situations.

For the last five years, I’ve worked on growing my resilience muscle. Yes, I think of resiliency as a muscle, and like all other muscles, if you put in the work to grow it and make it stronger, you’ll likely be able to do things and overcome obstacles you never imagined possible.

How to grow your resilience muscle:

  1. Practice thought awareness.
    Resilient people work on managing the negative thoughts and focus on consistently practicing positive thinking.
  2. Learn from mistakes or perceived failures.
    Resilient people tend to see mistakes or failures as lessons learned or as opportunities to try something in a new way.
  3. Maintain perspective.
    Resilient people understand that while an event or crisis may be overwhelming in the moment, allowing time to reframe perspective can be beneficial.
  4. Develop strong relationships.
    Resilient people know that no one person can do it all, and we all need a strong support system.
  5. Ask for help when you need it!
    Resilient people know that asking for help is the single best step you can take when trying to overcome suicidal ideation. If you don’t know who to ask, call The Center Support Line at 970.252.6220. It’s free and available to you anytime you need to talk.

Recovery and resilience will always be my chosen path to my best life. I truly have a life worth living, but it wasn’t easy getting to this point. Growing up in poverty, I had a difficult time rallying support and finding resources to feel better. Apart from maybe three people, my mental illness and struggle was kept a secret because I was ashamed and embarrassed to have these feelings and thoughts. Of course, I showed many, many signs of mental anguish and suffering, yet I went about this journey all on my own without much support.

After my last attempt at 22 years old, I met with a primary care doctor and decided to try medications for my mental illness. I was able to find stability, and with my lived experience, I found a job as Peer Specialist at The Center for Mental Health. For the first time in my life, I was connected with a therapist and finally discussed my experience with suicidal ideation. It was monumental for me. It allowed me to really push forward in life and blast through the walls that I had built. I truly valued my time working as a Peer Specialist, and I learned something from every single one of my clients. Through my personal and professional experience, and with the inspiration of my clients, I wrote a poem that I would like to share with you today.

“What I Wish My Clients Knew – An Ode to Resilience”

First things first,
most everyone working in the mental health field is here
because we have a history,
just like you.

It’s ok to cry.
I do it too, often.
Crying can help release anger, frustration, sadness, grief, and loneliness.
You may feel relief after crying.
It’s ok to cry, and it’s ok to cry in front of me.
I will never judge you for it.
Men – even you are allowed to cry.
I will never think less of you for it,
and I will never judge you for feeling emotions.

It’s ok to back slide.
It’s ok to fall down.
BUT, you have to get back up, dust yourself off and try again!
The only true failure is giving up!

It’s ok to be vulnerable & it’s ok to hate vulnerability.
I understand how hard it is to offer yourself up to change.
The fact that you’re currently sitting in my office
is a good sign that you’re practicing change and vulnerability.
Give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far.
Men – it’s ok to be vulnerable around other men.

It’s ok to be scared or unsure.
Not just of life, but of the people who are helping you.
It’s ok to be unsure of your past, of your present, and of your future.
It’s ok to be scared; in fact, it’s completely normal.
Don’t let fear stop you from making a difference in your life.

It’s ok to celebrate the small successes in your life
(after all, that’s exactly what resilient people do!)
Pat yourself on the back for waking up.
Be proud of the fact that you made it to your therapy session.
Give yourself a round of applause for not letting an anxious cycle take over your day.

Celebrate the small achievements you’ve made.
That’s a sign that all your effort is paying off!
It’s ok to ask for help!
This goes for everyone, everywhere.
If you need help, give yourself permission to ask for it.
That doesn’t mean you’re weak or fragile,
it means you’re human
(welcome to the club, there’s about 7 billion of us.)

What I wish my clients knew:
I have been there.
Exactly where you are… Scared, lost, hopeless.
Unsure of what steps to take,
how to move forward,
how to release the anger and pain.
I found my way of doing it,
and I want to help you find yours.

Together we can create a path to freedom –
freedom from the hurt, the depression, the anxiety, the pain, the darkness.
A better life is waiting for you, and it’s possible.
I have been there, and now I’m here…
and I want you here with me.

Written by Leticia Garcia, Administrative Assistant at The Center for Mental Health

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or is experiencing suicidal ideation, please reach out to The Center for Mental Health. We are available 24/7/365 at our Crisis Walk-In Center at 300 N. Cascade Ave. in Montrose and by calling our crisis and support line at 970.252.6220.