One of our participants, K, told us about her recovery following a suicide attempt. Although she still sometimes feels suicidal, she now recognises when she is heading for a crisis. With the help of others (family, friends and professionals), she is able to manage the process and slow things down.
Here's K's story:
“So then I started baking. And the process of following a recipe I found really relaxing. There'd be a start, a middle, and an outcome.
Because I couldn't watch TV, I couldn't read, I couldn't do anything. But that I could do. And it’s something that I find easy to do. I don't have to think about it too much.
It's like gardening. I'm not an expert and things can die as much as live, but it's something I can do and I don't have to think about it.
Because I can over-think. From start to finish and then start again. And get a different result when I've finished, all on the same subject matter. But gardening and baking can settle me.
I don't know if it's the endorphins or the hormones that are released but having a simple task helps. It's easy, everybody has something that comes easy to them, and that's what comes easy to me.
I might not achieve much, but I enjoy it. I could spend hours just moving pots around, because they don't look right. Or building something like a set of shelves or whatever, to put pots on in a corner.
And like I said with the baking, I enjoy that process. Because in my job we have to look in a lot of grey areas and you always have to think outside of the box. And sometimes it's just nice to be in a box and work through a process that's easy and has an outcome to it.”
What is it about gardening and baking that makes a difference? We think our themes help to explain:
K has found something she experiences as worthwhile, regardless of the outcome. Although it’s something that “comes easy”, her enjoyment of it doesn’t depend on what she achieves.
There is something peaceful and “settling” about following a process through – it’s taken on trust that the middle follows on from start and leads to an outcome. K trusts in the process and in her own ability.
Exhaustion (and rest)
K experiences this worthwhile process as restful, “really relaxing”. Finding respite can be about having something in our lives, or a way of living, that is rewarding and enjoyable regardless of the outcome.
Maybe one way is to help and encourage each other and ourselves to find ways of living, or aspects of our lives, that are experienced as worthwhile, and that we can trust in.
We're not suggesting this is always easy, but K's story suggests it is possible, and that it helps her manage her suicidal thoughts and feelings.