When I turned 18 my best friend gifted me a snowboard set up to use while he served a mission for the LDS church. This gift was the beginning of a major life passion for me. Within a year I was living in Utah as a sponsored snowboarder, working at a resort as well as a snowboard shop. I lived and breathed boarding.
Then the snow melted. It was horrible. My snowboarding with-drawls kicked in. I longed for the sound of the snow off my chest again. Whilst sitting outside a shop pouting I saw two boys skateboard by on longboards and a light bulb went off in my head. Within a week I owned my first deck that lead to a job at a skate shop and followed with sponsorship again. I loved it.
This all ended for me when I got married to abuse. There was no time for passion anymore.
When I turned 36 I was flown to the Dominican Republic to photograph a wedding where I would surf for the first, and only, time. I still long for this again. I was a natural. The image is me surfing my first wave.
When I, at 38, chose to leave my abuser I bought my first skateboards since I was a kid and got back on the waves not knowing that this board sport would revolutionize the way I understood Suicidal Ideation.
After years of contemplation I decided I would stay; and refuse to take my life. I got the ";" tattoo on my hand and moved forward as best I could. The ideation never left, however, and I felt like if this war was to be won I needed to fully understand what and why we get ideation. I dove headfirst into the suicidology and allowed myself to sit in the intense ideations I was having. I didn't chase them away...I sat with them, observed them.
This is when I discovered that the had repeating patterns. I studied zen, Buddhism, christianity and so much more to search for intersections. I read hundreds of stories of suicide attempt survivors and found the "universal truth". (The feelings and meanings that every science study and religious preaching had the same.)
There were three giant truths I found:
1. They always end. The SI times ALWAYS end.
2. Statistics showed that the majority of suicide attempt survivors made the decision to end their life 5-20 minutes after a crisis occurred.
3. The elements that helped people decide to stay were almost always: A person/friend that truly cares. Knowing that a person wants and believes that you can beat this. Or to rephrase this :connection to other human beings.
There we had it. The universal truths.
People were not equipped to understand, cope and sit with horrible and uncomfortable emotions (especially men due to the fact they are conditioned to feel that sadness or troubled emotions takes away points from the man card). People didn't understand that this was temporary and would end. People have become so hyper-independent and separated (covid didn’t help) that connection was lost.
So What now?
Welp... It took a YEAR allowing myself to sit in the ugly emotions of ideation and observing them to find the cycle and the plan that worked. This cycle made me realize that they were waves. Someday the winds created TONS of waves and other days they made less, somedays none. I learned that healing didn't mean getting to a point that SI never happened again; it meant lengthening the time between, time in, and lessoning the emotional crisis while in them. I learned to surf.
For the past year I had depended on my partner to surf and I sat on the board weeping as he helped me through the wave. I wore him out. He was beat, exhausted and had started to build resentment and anger up against me for asking him to surf me out all the time. I needed to learn to surf on my own.
Subsequently this surfing has saved my life, greatly shortened the time I spend in ideation and allowed me to have peace again. Self acceptance is so much easier because I now understand that ideation is a heath condition...not a mental condition. It is my diabetes, seizures... its ok. It doesn't change my ability to be loved and it certainly doesn't change my value. (NOTHING can add to or take away from my value)
I know that you and I are not sisters or brothers living next door. I know that we don't "know" each other as we would all like. I know that life has separate tribal living and pushed us into our own corners but at least here, in this crazy social platform world ~ we are family. I believe in you. I love you. Sincerely I do. With ALL MY HEART. I know that life still has so much to show you and share with you. I know that you can be happy and have joy and peace e still. I know you can learn to surf as I did!
Just last night, no joke, I sobbed so hard i accidentally hyperventilated and my heart jumped in the wrong ways. My right lung started pounding and my throat locked. up. I even worried I was having a heart attack. It calmed down with in 5 minutes of focused breathing but .... that was rough. I surf these waves mostly on my own now. I use this method:
1. I get into a safe space that is pre-stocked with hydration, comfort things and coping needs
2. I practice coping skills (there are SO many: art, jounaling, music, origami, soduko ... so many) while repeating "This will end, this feels like it won't but it will. It will always end." as well as "5-25 minutes... the waves end!" (now, statics show most SI ends with in a half hour but some can be a few days to months ~ we are focusing on the "suicidal crisis state" which is the heightened emotional state where attempt happen most frequently.) "This is a wave" I say "I can surf...it ends, all waves end"
3. I reach out to a crisis buddy/sponsor whom I have previously asked and received consent to contact in these moments. The purpose of a crisis buddy/sponsor is NOT to save us. Their job is to purely be our human contact. Decide with them, in advance, what to say that will help you. Mine say "Hi, Lindy. I see you are in pain. Thats hard, but it is ok. Remember it's a wave and you are a skilled surfer. You got this. I love you, ALL of you. I will be here on the other side of this loving you just as I always have." They don't write all this in one giant text as if copied and pasted ~ they genuinely inly text back and forth with me and stay with in these bounds that we agreed on. We agreed that if I was not feeling I could surf that I would tell them and they could call for assistance. But this simple connection is everything. I don't say "Hi, I want to die." I say, "My mind is dark, Big wave coming." and separate my thoughts from reality.
My personal rule is that when the wave starts to end I reach out to my crisis buddy and thank them, let them know I am off the board and doing better and then I do a bit of regulation. Animal play, nature walk, cold shower...
Thats is. This is how you surf. If you don't have a crisis buddy I encourage you to text or call 988. That is what the suicide hotline does. They don't call 911, they chat. They remind you of things and encourage you to have hope. I know that you are able to text them and share with them that you are ok, you are hurting and stuck in SI. You don't want to die but needed a human connection for a bit. They would be more than willing to repeat what you need to hear back to you.
Learning to state exactly what you need to hear is an art. "Hi, my name is lindy and I have been through a lot. I am feeling suicidal ideations and touching base with another human helps me ride these emotions through to the other side. Can you chat? I need to hear that this ends, that I am strong enough and that hope exists." I have even done this at a coffee shop! the barista sat with me, hugged me and I left balanced.
I have a 24 page guidebook and workbook that details out what I said in this blog post deeply. If this is something that you struggle with then I encourage you to grab one. You can get a digital copy or hard copy & there is also a healing box that includes the guidebook, gifts and an art therapy kit. If you need this but cannot afford it please apply for a scholarship on my site. (under community) I will help you. If you know someone that is struggling with this... grab them a book. It could help them save their life.
I love y'all. I believe in you all. Stay;