The Days it’s a Fight to Stay Alive

coping with Bipolar Disorder, Suicidal Thoughts, and Self-Harm
A woman looking out at the ocean. | Graphic made by author with Canva AI.

Hello friend. This may be a tough post to read because it discusses how to cope with suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Make sure you are in the right headspace before you start. It may also be helpful to read this with someone who loves you and can help you work through any feelings it might bring up.

One of the roughest parts of having bipolar disorder is coping with thoughts of harming yourself. The feelings can surprise you when they show up without warning, and can occur during both manic and depressive episodes.

I survived a few of my darkest nights such as the time I stole a gun or when I decided pills would be my way out. I’m one of the lucky ones because I survived. I’m still here in the fight, but I know the feelings can return any time.

The hardest days are when it seems like a fight to stay alive. It feels like bipolar disorder is winning and the suicidal thoughts are creeping in like the evening fog.

You don’t want to deal with anything. You just want to give up, but that’s never the right choice. If you give in to the darkness, then you’re giving up on life itself. Never forget, choosing life is always the only choice.

I won’t pretend it’s easy. It’s excruciating sometimes. Bipolar disorder is a constant battle, and some days, you’re just too tired to fight. You may feel it’s pointless to battle the darkness, like your desires to self-harm or suicidal thoughts are consuming you. 

Here are some questions you may have about coping with these challenges.

Why do you feel suicidal?

The first step to cope with suicidal thoughts is to identify where the thoughts are coming from. Why do you want to self-harm? Where did the thoughts start? What triggered them?

As I talked about in a recent post, learning to identify your triggers will help you avoid them. Self-destructive thoughts usually follow a catalyst.

Negative experiences or emotions are often the first step to suicidal ideation. Learning to understand and limit your triggers will decrease the times you feel this way.

Grief can also be triggering. When I lost my best friend, I sunk into years of self-harm. It was a destructive and dangerous habit, but it felt like the only way I could feel anything in my sadness.

Identifying your triggers will take some work. It’s hard to track down those pesky monsters and fight them. Your progress will be full of high points and low points, so prepare yourself, but success is possible. With time and effort, you will learn to conquer each beast. Rely on your support system, and keep going.

You deserve the life that’s coming, but you have to hold on to get there. Bipolar disorder is hard enough without adding self-harm and suicidal thoughts into the mix, but you can beat them.

Addiction can also be a trigger, so protect yourself as much as you can.

How can you cope with suicidal thoughts?

If you’re feeling suicidal, please reach out for help. There are people who care about you and want to help you through the tough times. Please don’t ever give up. Bipolar disorder is tough, but you’re tougher. 

My friends saved me the first time. Had Patrick not broken into my house and forced me to go with him, I wouldn’t be here now. I spent 10 days in a psychiatric hospital, and while parts of it were harsh, the center kept me alive until I felt better.

If you have a friend or family member you can turn to, start there. They are in the best position to stop you from doing something everyone would regret. Any action that harms you will also hurt everyone who knows you.

The next option to cope with suicidal thoughts is to contact a crisis hotline. There are several hotlines available if you need someone to talk to:

  • Call or text 988 in the United States
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
  • Crisis Text Line: TEXT “HOME” TO 741741
  • Do an internet search for your location or country

The most vital thing is to reach out to someone. Often, just saying how you feel out loud takes away some of the pain inside. If you feel like you’re close to losing your fight, go to your closest emergency or urgent care center or call 911.

Living with a mental illness can make you feel like giving up. This post explains how to cope with bipolar disorder, suicidal ideations, and self-harm. #SpeakingBipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #bipolardisorder #mentalillnessawareness
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What is a no-suicide contract?

A no-suicide contract is a voluntary agreement between you and your therapist or support team that states you will not attempt suicide. It’s a way to get help when you’re feeling your worst. 

Does it work? Many will say no, but for me, it did.

A medical professional forced me to sign a no-suicide contract another time I was close to quitting my bipolar journey. Signing the contract was the only way the doctor would let me leave the mental health center. I signed even though I didn’t mean it. I just wanted to leave.

My signature got me out of the facility, but once I was in the parking lot, I ripped my copy of the contract into a million pieces and scattered it to the wind. I remember laughing with my most evil chuckle as each tiny bit of paper blew away. Not my finest moment.

It worked

Even though I didn’t have the paper in my hands, it stuck with me. My word means a lot to me, and the fact that I signed my name to a promise had an impact. My vow kept me alive for the next seven days until I saw my doctor again. The no-suicide contract did its job. In time, we found the right treatment plan and the feelings subsided.

While a no-suicide contract worked for me to cope with suicidal thoughts, don’t take chances. If you or someone you love is extremely self-destructive, seek immediate emergency care. 

Where I was at the time, the contract kept me going. If I had been given a contract the time my friends took me to be committed me to a hospital, I doubt it would’ve been enough. Things were so out of control then that I needed 24-hour care and protection.

Consult with your support system and decide what type of care you need. If those who love you think you need to go to the hospital, don’t argue with them. It’s better to protect yourself than leave those who love you with a lifetime of grief.

Is self-harm okay?

No. Self-harm is not okay. It’s an unhealthy coping mechanism and a dangerous one at that. Bipolar disorder is tough enough to fight without adding in self-harm.

I used self-harm as a way to cope with suicidal thoughts, but it filled me with shame and self-hatred. Every episode made me feel worthless and weak. In time, I learned to break free, but it was a hard road to get there. Now I can proudly say it’s been over a decade since my last slip, but the urge still pops up.

Your best way to beat self-harm is to never start. It’s a slippery slope, and like alcohol for an alcoholic, even one session is too many.

There are no safe forms of self-harm. Anything you do to hurt your mind or body is unhealthy. If you’re already in the habit, it’s vital you stop today.

A man looking away. | Graphic made by author with Canva AI.

How do you stop self-harming?

Once you start self-harming, it’s hard to stop. Conquering self-harm was one of my roughest challenges with bipolar disorder.

Many begin to self-harm when they are feeling numb and want to feel something, but it’s the wrong way to get your feelings going.

I engaged in self–harm for a long time. The scars I bear today remind me of how awful things were, but they could have been better if I took steps sooner.

So how do you stop?

Steps to Stop Self-Harming

First, tell someone. It may be embarrassing, but you need help with this habit. Tell your medical care team and your close family or friends. They need to hold you accountable and check in with you.

Next, make a commitment to yourself to stop. Avoid places or activities that make you want to self harm. This may mean avoiding certain music or staying away from TV shows or movies that have been triggering in the past. 

A streaming service recently recommended a series to me that seemed harmless enough. Halfway through the first episode, one of the characters started to harm herself. There was no warning, and the images hit me like I’d been electrocuted. 

Be careful what you watch and turn off anything that starts to lead you down the wrong path.

The commitment to stop will require changes on your part, but they’re necessary.

If there are items you use to self-harm, get rid of them. Sometimes just having the object around is triggering. It’s better to do without it than risk the consequences. For a while, I couldn’t have any candles in my house. Just seeing them reminded me of past episodes.

You need to fight, to keep going even when it feels too hard. Remind yourself every day that bipolar disorder will never beat you. You are stronger than mental illness, and you will continue to fight until you win. It may feel impossible right now, but trust me, you can beat this.

Suicide and self-harm are never the answer. Bipolar disorder is a war, but it’s a battle you can win. With the right treatment and support, you will succeed and learn to cope with suicidal thoughts. 

Never forget, you only fail when you stop trying. So never stop.

Until next time, keep fighting.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What should I do if I feel suicidal?

If you’re feeling suicidal, please reach out for help immediately. Contact a trusted friend or family member, call or text 988 in the United States, or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

Can a no-suicide contract help in my situation?

A no-suicide contract is a voluntary agreement between you and your therapist or support team. It can provide a layer of accountability during turbulent times. However, it’s not a substitute for emergency care if you’re in immediate danger.

Is self-harm an acceptable coping mechanism to cope with suicidal thoughts?

No, self-harm is not okay. It’s a dangerous coping mechanism and is not a healthy way of dealing with feelings or emotions. If this is a habit you’re struggling with, reach out to your support system and seek professional help.

How do I stop self-harming?

The first step to stop self-harming is to let someone know. Share with your family, friends, or medical care team so they can support you. Make a commitment to stop, avoid triggering places or activities, and dispose of any objects you use to self-harm.

Is it possible to live a fulfilling life with bipolar disorder?

Absolutely. Managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be challenging, but with the right treatment plan and support, you can lead a meaningful life. It’s important to remember to keep fighting and never give up. There are many resources available to help you cope and thrive.

Besides this blog, you can find help for living with bipolar disorder in these places:

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Reach out for help when you need it and never give up hope. You are strong and can live a great life with bipolar disorder. Keep fighting, and you will win.

Living with a mental illness can make you feel like giving up. This post explains how to cope with bipolar disorder, suicidal ideations, and self-harm. #SpeakingBipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #bipolardisorder #mentalillnessawareness
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