The Suicide Rats

Lately, I don’t think very much about suicide. It’s not that I have been beating down suicidal impulses, but simply that when I’m doing better, I don’t think about dying.

But then there was last night.

I think that when I was sick with the stomach flu over the last few days, I didn’t end up getting the right dose of everything. In particular, I think I may have not managed to get enough Effexor into my system. But who knows; I had also continued decreasing my Wellbutrin earlier in the week. Meds management is one of my biggest challenges in 2017.

Anyway, it started up in the late evening. The sense that there was no point, no purpose, and everything was just much too difficult. Early in the evening, my husband and I had been talking about planning a trip to the South Pacific in the fall. I don’t know if we’ll really do it or not, but travel is just about my favorite thing ever. I’d been feeling kind of excited about the idea. But by bedtime, I wondered why. Then I thought, well, maybe I would go and feel the sun on my skin and swim in warm ocean, and at the end, that would be the end. I’d just kill myself and never come back home.

At bedtime, I couldn’t fall asleep. I paid attention to my breathing. I listened to a guided meditation. I read. I tossed. I think we went to bed at 11:00, and I know I heard the clock strike 1:00. The dogs woke me up at 4:00 to go out, and although I sometimes tell them to go away and go back to sleep, Daisy had been injured a few days before and was off her regular routine, so I was worried about her. I got up and let them out, waited a bit, brought them back in, and crawled back into bed. But there was no more sleeping for me after that.

Instead, I couldn’t go of the suicide thoughts. No, it would be more accurate to say: they couldn’t let go of me. They were rats, gnawing away at my brain, chewing through any promise of future pleasure or satisfaction. They were relentless, insistent. “There’s nothing left for you,” they said. “You will always come back to this, only this, the emptiness and the worthlessness and the loneliness.”

I moved into the guest room, to leave my husband in peace. I played another guided meditation. I briefly thought about my breath, but soon shifted to think about a belt around my neck, tightening. There’d be a little bit of fear, a little bit of struggle, but not so bad. The bad part would be my husband’s suffering. He doesn’t deserve that.

Better to swim out into the sea and just keep swimming and swimming, until I’m too far from land and too tired to swim back. Then he’ll think it’s an accident. It will be easier for him to bear. The problem with this “plan” is 1) I don’t live near the sea and 2) even if I drive to the beach, the water here is so cold I can’t even bear to wade in up to my waist. This would have to wait for a trip to someplace tropical.

Which matters more, my relief or my husband’s ability to keep going?

I was fully aware that these thoughts were probably chemically induced, which meant they would pass. But the rats felt more powerful than this awareness, just as they were more powerful than my mindfulness skills. (“That’s because you are so lazy,” the critical voice says,  “if you practiced more each day instead of only 10-15 minutes, if you had some self-discipline, you would cope a lot better…”)

At some point, I remembered that breathing isn’t my only coping skill. Acceptance, that’s right. I can allow hard feelings. I can allow suicidal thoughts. “Okay, rats,” I can say, “you are digging and chewing and destroying. And I will be as kind to myself as I can while you do what you have to do.”

My husband’s alarm was beeping in the bedroom. It was Friday morning, he was tired, and he wasn’t responding. “Time to get up, honey.” I got up with him, made oatmeal, fed the dogs. I spent the morning being gentle with myself, reading a book, taking a short walk, allowing myself to notice how big the potato plants have grown in our garden.

It is sad and lonely and discouraging to have suicidal thoughts take over my head yet again. It’s different, however, than it was even six months ago. I know they will pass. I can simultaneously loathe myself and think I should die, but also be kind to myself, simply because I know that’s the right thing to do. Or at least I am choosing to believe it’s the right thing to do, even when those big, sharp-toothed rats suggest otherwise.

14 thoughts on “The Suicide Rats

  1. I hope this passes quickly once you are no longer sick and able to take your medications on schedule again. It’s a big achievement, being able to simultaneously have the suicidal thoughts and also hold the awareness that they will pass even though that doesn’t “feel” true.

    It’s funny, what it feels like for me has rats in it as well – in my case the agitation that accompanies suicidal thoughts brings up the image of a rat running around and around in a metal box in my head (an old and tarnished and dented biscuit tin to be specific), beating itself bloody on the walls as it tries to escape.


  2. It can be disconcerting, these episodes. I have it from time to time as well but the periods in between has grown longer. Am at the stage I ‘hear’ the rats as you so aptly call it but no longer take them too seriously either. I even get a bit cross and sad when such an episode pitches up. Nothing to do but sit it out. Have you tried your hand at poetry?


    • I haven’t, actually. I appreciate good poetry but don’t have the slightest idea how to go about writing it.

      It’s heartening to hear that your rat episodes become less frequent. That’s where I think/hope I am headed, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Poetry has helped in my healing. I like to rhyme in most, but to start if you want to, just write out your feelings and thoughts. An order and meaning will connect as you grow in doing so…
        Psalm 62:8 Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
        You can write to God better than interacting with a friend… The idea with starting to write is just “pour out your heart”
        for example: what you’re thankful for, what you’re struggling with, what you’re needing; asking for help…


  3. Rats gnawing is a powerful way to describe feeling suicidal. I’m so glad to hear that you were able to be kind to yourself even while feeling so down and depressed. It’s so hard and draining when those thoughts arrive. Sending you warm thoughts and thinking about you


    • Yes, it is so hard, so draining, to deal with those thoughts. They just take over everything! They are big, noisy, powerful, painful. I can’t override them–or at least I’ve never found a way to far. But I think this method, the one that says, okay, here they are, this sucks, AND I will still be good to myself anyway, this may in fact be the best coping mechanism I have. And today (Sunday), I am in a better place than I was on Thursday night and Friday, so clinging to “it will pass, it will pass” seems to be an important piece as well. Perhaps I am learning.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you are aware the thoughts will pass and also that you aren’t allowing them to control everything. I’m sorry you are feeling so bad, and I hope by now those rats are gone. Sending support and hugs. Xx


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