Your Pain is Not Forever

Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent.

Mignon McLaughlin

"Although you may feel that your pain will never end, one day it will."

The motivation for suicide is the desire to escape agonizing, unbearable pain. As you struggle to cope with this pain, you might be thinking to yourself, “If only I knew when this pain was going to end. Then perhaps I could tolerate it.” 

Psychologically, humans can be much more resilient if they know when a challenging time will end, because they can hold on and focus on that endpoint. For example, if you were diagnosed with a serious medical disease but were told by your doctor that on August 31st your disease would go into remission, you would no doubt start counting down those days. As you moved closer to the endpoint, you would become increasingly relieved, anticipating the end of your ordeal.

But when someone is depressed or suicidal,  there is no doctor or therapist who can say with any certainty when their suffering will cease. And without a clear vision of a better future, after months or years of suffering, it is easy to conclude: Perhaps this pain will never end. Perhaps I am stuck inside this hell forever. If that is the case, then it would be better to end my life right now than continue to suffer for an eternity. 

You Are In A Season

In the page “Four Words That Can Save Your Life” I said that one way to change your outlook is to remember that the only constant in the universe is change—i.e. This too shall pass.” Another perspective that can help you to reduce your suicidal pain is to think of your life as a series of seasons. In the song “Turn, Turn, Turn,“ written by the singer-songwriter Pete Seeger, the chorus goes: “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Right now you are in the season of darkness. You are in a season of hopelessness. But just as spring follows winter, your season of darkness will give way to a season of light and rebirth.

In the 23rd Psalm of the Bible, King David says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” The keyword in this statement is the word through.  David is walking through the valley. He is not pitching his tent in the valley. He is just passing through. The valley is not his home.

In the same way, your current state of mind is not your permanent home; it is only your temporary residence. Therefore, your best survival strategy is to keep moving forward as best you can. Eventually, this dark season will end. This is why Winston Churchill, who battled with depression, said, “When going through hell, keep going.” 

Tell yourself you are in a suicidal episode

Based on what we have said so far, I suggest that you begin to view yourself as being in a “suicidal episode.” Much like an episode of your favorite TV mini-series, your suicidal episode also has a structure — a beginning, a middle, and an end. When you say to yourself or others, “I am in the middle of a suicidal episode,” you are communicating to your subconscious mind that your suffering is finite and that one day it will end. 

Focus on the present, not the future

If you are in the middle of a suicidal episode, it is natural to wonder, “When and how will I feel better?” If you ask that question, your imbalanced brain will lie to you and say, “Never! You are never going to get better.”

Therefore, rather than worry about what is to come, ask yourself: “What can I do to change the way I feel right now?” In doing so, you shift your attention from the future to the present-moment coping strategies. For example, you could call a friend, take a walk around the block, or listen to some calming music. The more you can direct your mind away from a catastrophic future, the less despair you will feel.

In summary, I want to repeat that your pain is not forever. Like the food that you buy in the grocery store, your pain has an expiration date. Your episode has an endpoint. As a result, you will not always be feeling this way.

Journal Reflection:
Looking Back at the Seasons of Your Life

I believe that if you can take some time to reflect on the larger perspective of your life, you will be heartened to discover that your life is like a sequence of seasons, with one season being followed by a new one. 

  1. Look back over your life and identify a time when you were facing a significant crisis. Perhaps the crisis was due to health challenges, mental health issues, relationship conflicts, or career difficulties.
      • How would you describe what you were going through?
      • Did you ever feel worried that your circumstances would never change?
      • What occurred that brought you out of the crisis? Was it something that you had anticipated?
  2. Now, look at your current circumstances. Having seen that change occurred in the past, can you see the possibility that your present situation could change?

If you can’t think of any way that your present situation might change for the better, write down the positive changes that you would like to see happen. Consciously focusing on the outcome you desire can shift your awareness and make you more open to the help and support that is around you. I describe this principle in detail in the page, “Setting the Intention to Heal.”