As someone who’s eagerly participated in discussions about suicide and depression in the past, I find enormous comfort and healing in being open about my personal recovery.
I also love hearing other people’s stories of struggle, because seeing them now in a place of recovery and strength continues to give me so much hope.
But while connecting with people who have faced similar struggles helps me, the frequency and time spent conversing on the dark times in our lives can also inadvertently cause harm.
A vital skill I’ve learned in recovery is self-care. Participating in discussions about suicide prevention — which I’m deeply passionate about — helps me continue to heal. But understanding my limits and taking care of myself when things feel too much is key.
Here are the essential ways I care for myself while also trying to care for others. If you’re struggling during this month, please know you’re never alone. Help is out there. There’s hope for you.
1. Set limits with how much time you spend talking about this topic on social media and in your everyday life
It’s all right to limit the time you spend online or in person engaged in these heavy discussions.
What’s helped me is turning off all social media notifications. At times, I’ve even deleted apps I feel tempted to check when I’m in a vulnerable mindset. Temptation is very valid. It’s especially difficult to navigate when we aren’t feeling emotionally and mentally strong.
But in everyday life, difficult topics can come up unexpectedly — at work, school, home, in public, etc. We can’t always effectively avoid triggers like we do with social media, where we can simply “mute” or “delete.”
If you find yourself in a social situation that becomes too triggering or a conversation that becomes overwhelming, excuse yourself. Or change the topic if you’re in a situation you can’t pick up and leave.
2. Ask a loved one to hold you accountable
If you’re unable to stay off social media even when discussions regarding suicide are upsetting you, ask a friend to check in with you. Lean on a reliable and understanding person in your life.
3. Reach out for support
It can be easier said than done, but reaching out to someone you trust — whether a friend, family member, teacher, coach, or professional — can help calm distress and initiate healing.
Please know your feelings are valid. Oftentimes, our triggers are based upon a very real element, such as genetic makeup, emotion regulation, past experiences, ability to cope, or access to coping skills in the moment.
Not everyone recognizes these factual pieces of mental health, but know there are people who do.
Focus on the people who get it. Triggers, especially in terms of trauma responses, are valid.
4. Self-care isn’t selfish
Sometimes, even when we can effectively remove ourselves from a triggering conversation, our emotion intensity can still be very high. This makes sense. To bring down the intensity of distress, practice some self-care.
For example, to alleviate high levels of distress, I often use skills that work to change my body’s chemistry in that moment. If I feel panicky, for instance, maybe my heart is racing. To slow down my heart rate, I’ll practice paced breathing, drink cold water, and grab an ice pack to place on my chest or arms.
If I feel sad, I might let myself cry and feel everything for a set amount of time (maybe 5 to 10 minutes) and then take a hot, mindful shower. When showering, I may notice the nice smells of shampoo and soap and appreciate how good it feels to massage my head or feel the hot water on my skin.
5. Treat yourself as you would a friend
Think if a close friend were struggling with triggers. What would you tell them? How would you talk to them?
If my best friend were tempted to join in on a conversation they knew could trigger them, I’d tell them it’s OK to take a break. I’d also tell them this topic isn’t that urgent. The discussion will be there tomorrow, or when they’re able to effectively navigate the conversation without spiraling. I’d also be gentle and kind to my friend if they were struggling especially. They deserve to feel better.
If your best friend deserves to feel better, maybe turning some of that kindness on yourself is OK, too.
You’re allowed to treat yourself with the same understanding and support you’d share with your best friend.
Remember this month and every month: You’re not weak to struggle. Ultimately, you’re stronger to recognize, validate, and soothe yourself when you feel triggered.
I still struggle with triggers. Triggers can always arise. So we must always remember we have the strength within to ride the wave of emotions and take good care of ourselves.
- If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- • Stay with the person until help arrives.
- • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
- If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Lexie Manion is a mental health advocate, self-love and body positive influencer, and pro-recovery blogger. She utilizes Instagram and her website to document her depression and eating disorder recoveries. Lexie shares her life with the world to both process and heal through her own struggles. She hopes to help and inspire others along the way.