Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Exhausted mom contemplating suicide needs to get help now
Nowheresville: If you are a mother and find yourself very mentally taxed by the everyday stresses of raising young children, to the point that you sometimes think of killing yourself, should you talk to a counselor?
I haven't made any actual plans to kill myself, and if I really think about it, I realize that doing something like that would be horribly cruel to my husband and children, likely scarring them for life. The chances that I would actually kill myself are about zero.
All the same, it is not uncommon for these thoughts of suicide to cross my mind. Then I sometimes feel that I'm just being dramatic in my own head and I should just relax about stuff. The kids are healthy and on track developmentally, but raising little kids is hard. I am very tired.
Carolyn: Please get help, immediately. You can get treatment to improve your mental health as well as get some relief from your caregiving responsibilities — but only if you let people know that you need it.
If you believe you might actually hurt yourself, call 911; if you need to talk to someone immediately, 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). Otherwise, tell the people closest to you, call your regular doctor and/or your OB-gyn, and tell your children's pediatrician.
Hinting isn't enough. You need to form the words, "I'm exhausted, I'm having thoughts of hurting myself, and I need help." If you're afraid to say it to someone close to you, that's okay; contact your doctors first and use those conversations as rehearsals for forming the words with your husband, best friend, parent — people who are invested in you personally. Say exactly what you did here.
I can't urge you strongly enough to place a call to one of your primary health care providers today, and don't take no for an answer from the receptionist. If your doctor is with a patient, ask to speak to a nurse, and be specific about the thoughts you've been having. You can worry about telling your husband after you've made the initial contact with a professional. Take care of yourself, please, and know that things can and will get better. And, know that by accepting care, you're also taking good care of your kids.
Anonymous: To Nowheresville: Thoughts about suicide, abandoning or hurting your children/loved ones are thoughts you should share with your doctor. Pronto. And once you're sitting with your doctor, be scrupulously honest. (Are these feelings constant? Do they come and go?) And follow up with your doctor or with a referral. This is not something you can work through yourself, nor should you. And there is absolutely no embarrassment about your situation. Many have walked this road.
Carolyn: All true. And I'm going to underscore the part about being scrupulously honest. Just as they always say on cop shows, it's not for us to decide what is and isn't relevant and to filter what we say.
Proceed on the assumption that everything true is relevant, no matter how fleeting or small, and that your doctor (or therapist) is trained to spot the stuff that matters. It's not a perfect system, but it's the best we've got.