People need to have an escape in their mind from the stresses of their current situation. When my three children were very young, I used to research cruises online after they went to bed knowing full well I was not going to book one. I would look at the destinations, excursions, photos of scenery and imagine not cooking or cleaning or being responsible for anyone other than myself for one week! It was a great mental escape for that time in my life.
It can also look very different than planning an imaginary vacation. You may rehearse in the mirror saying all that is on your mind to someone or writing a letter you will never send. Perhaps you imagine quitting your current job or tackling someone in the NFL! These are all part of our brain’s escape route, the mental fight, flight or freeze.
For those who have an avoider-type of personality, oftentimes the imagined escape is self harm or even suicidal thoughts. Considering suicide is the ultimate avoidance for those who struggle with conflict. It is a thought of “checking out” or getting out of a current difficult situation.
It is important to learn and understand the difference between saying, “If I weren’t here right now, this would not be so hard” and thinking through ways to die. Some people may feel so overwhelmed that they think “If I die in my sleep, that would be okay” which is a STRONG contrast to imagining ways to intentionally not wake up.
Having a mental escape is a coping mechanism that is normal and helps people get through difficult situations. But making plans that would cause harm to yourself or someone else is not okay and is an indicator you need to talk to someone professionally. Finding a counselor is not a weakness or a failure, it is bravery, strength and courage.
This life is hard and some of life’s situations are overwhelming, but hurting yourself is not a healthy option. As someone who has been deeply impacted by someone who died by suicide, I encourage you to not “quietly slip away.” There is nothing quiet about suicide. The ringing of the pain, emptiness and sadness left behind echoes on and on in the minds and hearts of those trying to understand what they may have done wrong or why you did not ask them or anyone for help.
It does not truly avoid pain; it transfers pain to those who love you most. Don’t give up. The world needs you.
The National Suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 anywhere in the US to talk to a person trained to remind you that you are not alone.