Depression and other kinds of emotional distress can knock you down and keep you flat. When crawling through this fog of hopelessness and despair, it’s often tough to visualize what’s ahead.

People in pain — physical or emotional — generally want to do whatever they can to stop that pain. If you can’t see any clear path to improving your situation, suicide might seem like the only method of relief.

First, know there’s no shame in suicidal thoughts. It’s normal to want to stop hurting. It’s also common to feel irritable — even resentful — when people with good intentions try to tell you why suicide isn’t the answer.

When you’ve reached your limit, it doesn’t mean much to hear:

  • “You have so much to live for.”
  • “So many people care about you.”
  • “Tomorrow’s a new day.”

As someone who’s experienced both mental health crises and suicidal thoughts, I know firsthand how empty and meaningless these words can seem.

My own experiences guided me to a career in mental health writing and inspired me to become a text crisis counselor. I’ve been where you are now. I know how it feels. And I know how much it matters to hear from someone who really does get it.

Just a few years ago, I thought about suicide often. I didn’t have a concrete plan, but the idea was always simmering on the back burner. It took time, effort, and therapy, but eventually those thoughts quieted. Eventually, they disappeared entirely.

I believe they will for you, too. But I also know that might not seem like reason enough to live right now, so I’ll give you a few other things to keep in mind.

I’ve spoken to people in crisis who truly believed no one cared about them, making them feel ashamed or afraid to open up. This just made them withdraw even more.

It may seem like everyone has their own preoccupations keeping them busy. In reality, people often just don’t know what’s going on in your head. But if they did, chances are they’d be more than happy to lend a listening ear or help you find the support you need.

If talking to people you know feels too difficult, you can still talk to someone who cares and wants to help:

These resources are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at no cost.

Hotlines can be a lifesaving tool, but they’re not for everyone. Luckily, they aren’t your only option.

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, that’s usually the only thing you can see.

Again, the desire to avoid pain is completely normal. And when you feel consumed by it, suicide often seems like the most efficient way to get relief.

You might feel pretty bleak right now, but note those key words:right now.”

This is a prime example of tunnel vision — or the tendency to only see one possible outcome in a given situation. The problem with tunnel vision is that it lies.

Whether you’re lonely, facing abuse, about to become jobless or homeless, or anything else, no situation is impossible. There may be solutions you just can’t see yet, and that’s why it’s so important to give yourself some time.

Once you get out of crisis mode (easier said than done, I know), possibilities you haven’t considered may present themselves.

Here, too, an outside perspective can help, whether it comes from a close friend or a mental health professional.

In a crisis, you might feel trapped because you don’t see any way out. You might think you’ve blown your chance to have the life you wanted or permanently lost a friendship that really mattered to you.

Thoughts of suicide often stem from desperation and helplessness, but these feelings don’t have to be permanent states of being.

When your emotions threaten to overwhelm you, get some distance by focusing on the facts instead.

Here are two important ones to start with:

  • Emotions aren’t permanent. No matter how isolated, hopeless, angry, or lost you feel right now, you won’t always feel that way. Emotions come and go, and you can learn how to better manage them.
  • Situations can change. Maybe you messed up or made the wrong choice. But continuing your life gives you the power to take back control over the circumstances and improve them.

The key thing to remember is this: As long as you’re alive, you have the chance to make changes, learn from the past, and grow as a person.

Many people dealing with suicidal thoughts believe life lacks meaning or see themselves as a burden.

Perhaps you live with physical or mental health symptoms that affect your quality of life. Or maybe you have a hard time recognizing what’s gone right — or even well — in your life.

Giving up can feel easier when life seems pointless. But just as pain keeps you from seeing solutions, it can also pull the joy and significance from the things that used to matter.

Your life does have meaning, though. Challenge yourself to discover this meaning — or create it for yourself. It may not be large or earth-shattering, but it’s still there. Consider skills, abilities, and other things you take pride in. Think about your connections with others or goals you once had.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to ride a horse, take a road trip, or visit the desert. Or perhaps there’s a book or music album you’ve been waiting for, or even another season of your favorite show. No reason is too small.

Pets provide meaning, too. My cat was one of the main reasons I never fully gave up, and it wasn’t just because he made my days a bit brighter. I worried about what would happen to him if I died, since it’s not always easy to find good homes for senior cats with health issues and behavior quirks.

It’s common to lash out when you’re struggling, to do or say things you don’t mean. The pain you cause can make you believe the people you hurt are better off without you, which can intensify suicidal thinking.

But consider this: They wouldn’t feel hurt if they didn’t care. Let this be proof that they care, and let it give you strength to apologize, make amends, or work on repairing the friendship.

Try opening up about the darkness you’re feeling. Not everyone knows anger and irritability often show up as a symptom of depression or other mental health conditions.

Maybe you’re feeling so miserable because you made a huge mistake you know you can’t repair. You might see yourself as a terrible person. This remorse you feel, however, suggests the opposite: “Bad” people typically don’t care when they hurt others.

For me, suicide was a last-ditch “get out of life” card I kept in my back pocket. When I made too many mistakes, when no one wanted to be around me any longer, when the mess I made of my life was too big to clean up, I would reassure myself I could just end it.

But the longer I put it off, the more clearly I could see how to repair those mistakes and make better choices going forward. Those goals gave me a purpose, something to work toward, and noticing my own growth gave me even more strength to keep going.

Everyone messes up sometimes, and feeling bad about your mistakes shows you want to do better.

Giving yourself the chance to repair your mistakes allows you to prove you can, in fact, do better — even if you’re just proving that to yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the first one you’ll want to mend, after all.

You’ll often hear suicide described as a permanent solution to temporary struggles.

I don’t love this description, because not all problems are temporary. Time doesn’t erase your experiences or change events. If you’ve lost a loved one or experienced trauma, you’ll continue to carry that grief.

My lowest point came after a serious breakup. My ex no longer wanted to talk to me, though I was still completely in love with him. I was so distressed, I couldn’t envision any future happiness for myself.

A lot of my feelings stemmed from my own dependency and the fact that the relationship itself wasn’t terribly healthy. I’ve since moved on and developed other fulfilling, healthy relationships, but I still carry that reminder of pain and loss. The difference lies in how I’ve learned to manage those feelings.

Things really will improve, though you’ll probably have to work at it. Your future may look a little different from what you envisioned, since not all damage can be repaired.

But even when you can’t repair the damage, your experiences can still lead you to a rewarding future. The only catch? You have to give life a chance to surprise you.

Life takes courage. Period.

It’s scary to live with unknowns, to wake up each day unsure of what it holds. Considering all the possibilities and potential pitfalls that lie ahead can terrify you into never taking a step.

But the truth is, you just don’t know what lies ahead. No one does. Things might get worse — but they could easily get better. Considering challenges you might face allows you to plan for them.

If your fear of the future tries to take over, consider this instead: Each day ahead is a possibility, a lump of clay you can mold. Your choices help shape the clay. You can do things differently and maintain power over your fears, and a therapist can help you take the first steps.

And finally, hold on because you matter. However low you’re feeling, remember this.

Life — and people — can always change, and you deserve another chance. Your life deserves another chance.

When you look back a few years down the line (because you will make it through this moment), you might find it hard to recall exactly how unhappy you were. Your experience with the dark and ugly aspects of life will help you notice light and beauty more easily — and give you more capacity to enjoy them.

There’s still hope, as long as you’re still here. So, stay here. Keep learning. Keep growing. You’ve got this.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.