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Nov8
2018

I Was a Suicidal Therapist

By Elicia Lee

I laid in bed in the dark, trapped inside my own thoughts. Thoughts of loneliness, thoughts of worthlessness, thoughts of hopelessness. Thoughts of wanting to kill myself. This wasn’t my first night—it had been weeks, months even.

I was angry with myself. I was a mental health therapist. I knew every coping skill in the book, how to safety plan, how to use cognitive therapy to change my thoughts. I knew the “right” things to do to feel better. My career revolved around providing hope to others, yet I couldn’t bring hope into my own life. I sat in an office all day telling clients all of the reasons to live, all of the ways to get out of depression, all of the things that made them important and why the world needed them. And I felt like a hypocrite each day, never believing a word I said when it came to myself.

I can’t tell you why I didn’t kill myself that night. Or the dozens of nights before, where the thoughts lasted deep into the early morning hours. Maybe it’s because of my faith. Maybe it’s because of my family. Maybe it’s because I was afraid. But I can tell you that each passing night I felt like this, I felt myself getting closer and closer to losing my life. And I was getting scared.

Knowing I needed help and getting it were two different things. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt like a failure for not being able to do the thing I was trained to do. But how could I look down on myself for asking for help, for going to therapy, for taking meds, when that was the exact same thing I was asking every other person I came in contact with to do? I knew how to do it. But I was clouded by my own emotions, my own past trauma, and my own illness.

Eventually, I hired a therapist. A therapist I still see today. A therapist that understands me and helps me and cares about me. A therapist who told me that he has a therapist. A therapist that told me I was going through a lot and recommended inpatient treatment. I trusted him and I listened. I went to treatment for six weeks. And that was where I found more helpers who were seeking mental health treatment—doctors, surgeons, therapists, pastors. Turns out, sometimes the ones giving the hope need it just as much.

Suicide is scary. Self-harm is scary. Mental illness is scary, and another way for it to take more lives is for the helpers in this world to be too ashamed to ask for help themselves. If you take the doctor out of the hospital, the patients lose their help. If you take the helper out of the mental health field, the people struggling lose one of their lifelines. The burn-out rate in the mental health field is so high and it’s a time when we need as many helpers as ever. I realize what it’s like to be on the other side. I realize what it’s like to suffer through mental illness, and I know what it’s like to feel what my clients are feeling. I can empathize when they come into my office and tell me they don’t want to live. I can help from a place of knowing.

I remember those nights of being suicidal vividly. I wish I could say they never happen anymore, but they do. Except now I have a support system. I have medications. I have a counselor. I believe my purpose in life will forever be to help others who are struggling. But sometimes my purpose is to just make it through the day alive. And that’s okay. That’s a valid purpose for anyone. Because even though I am a helper, a provider of hope, my mental health and my life are just as important as everyone who walks through my door.

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Comments (31)

  1. Maddy

    I may not be a therapist, but I’ve been going to one for 3 years. I love her and she has helped me change my life. This article touches my heart because I find myself in this spot but never read an article where someone talks about suicide and healers needing healers too. I’ve always been the helper with my friends and teammates and classmates, etc. And I share my knowledge from what I’ve learned in therapy all the time with them. Especially when my friends ask for advice and come to me for help or love through tough times and good times. Many times I find myself not knowing who to go to as my healer. It’s like I am always there for others but do not know who my healer is. I know the advice to give them and encourage them to take steps or use tools I’ve learned for awareness or self reflection , but sometimes I find it hard to use the tools myself. With a history of alcohol abuse especially the previous 4 years in college (I’m now 23)—- came depression/anxiety, and the worse that got I got lost and buried in emotion and secretly began self harming. Suicidal thoughts came into play through it all and no matter the support and what I had learned I couldn’t see past my hurt, more like numb feeling, or lack there of. After 3 binge drinking nights leading to angry night break down suicide attempts that landed me in hospitals, it was clear I needed help, except not to me. Once it was clear to my closeest group of friends and my parents that I was struggling I was forced into therapy. Although it’s been now 2 years since my last hospital visit and 8 months since I last drank, I still get thoughts about self harm and suicide. No I would not do either of them because I have grown so much, but some days are extremely hard. Sorry for the novel comment. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate this article. It hits home and I don’t leave comments or talk about this stuff too much. Thank you for your inspiring words. It’s true, healers need healers too. ❤️ Thanks!

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  2. Maria

    I really appreciate you sharing this. I cope with mental illness and I am starting my journey to become a “helper”, and I’m afraid of being judged by my peers. It’s so nice to hear that I won’t be alone. Thank you.

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  3. Kylie

    This was so beautiful.

    Reply  |  
  4. Elizabeth

    I am a therapist who was recently struggling with suicidal ideations. I am lucky that I have a supportive team but I still felt too ashamed and proud to take the time I needed to care for myself. Thank you for your bravery.

    Reply  |  
  5. Mary Pat Payette

    Wow. Your genuine honesty has helped another helper; me… Thank you. I needed this. Blessings to you!

    Reply  |  
  6. Pamela Adkins

    What a beautifully written post.
    I recently lost my husband. My soulmate. The part where you wrote just making it through the day??? YES. There are days I climb into bed and just thank God,”I got through another one.”
    Thank you for writing.

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  7. Kate

    You are not alone! From one helper who has lived through it themselves to another, we are not immune, and we have to take care of ourselves! Thanks for sharing your story.

    Reply  |  
  8. Maree Dee

    Thank you for your post. I care for many people with mental health challenges, run a ministry for families with a loved one with mental illness, and just lost someone to suicide. You have encouraged me to do what I preach and reach out to a therapist for my own me tal health check up. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  9. Ricki

    How can we get more mental health care.

    Reply  |  
  10. nix

    Me everyday:

    I laid in bed in the dark, trapped inside my own thoughts. Thoughts of loneliness, thoughts of worthlessness, thoughts of hopelessness. Thoughts of wanting to kill myself. (c)

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hello Nix,

      We are heartbroken to hear about how you are feeling. Please know that you are not worthless. You are an important person who plays a very important part in this world. There are people who care about you and who want to be here for you. It may be difficult to see right now, but we truly believe this. We also believe that the world is better because you are in it.

      If there is ever a night that these thoughts feel overwhelming, we encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or text TWLOHA to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both of these services have people on staff 24/7 that are here for you and want to help you through this difficult time. We also encourage you to take a look at our Find Help tool. In this tool, you can find resources that are local to you that will allow you to receive the help that you deserve. You deserve to find peace, and you deserve happiness. You are also more than welcome to email us at info@twloha.com. We are so happy that you are here, and we are here to listen to you and support you.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  11. D

    <3 from a nurse who's right there with you.

    Reply  |  
  12. Tori

    Thank you! I appreciate you! Your story is everything to me right now. I work in the mental profession, and have been for 5+ years. However, I have been struggling with my own mental health (including selfharm and si) for 10+ years.

    I always struggled with the thoughts of “I do this for a living. I have the tools. Why can’t I use them?” and “How can I help a client when I can’t even help myself?”. After years I realized, the best mental health professionals are those who have walked their own mental health path. Those who have their own struggles are more able to not only understand, but can relate, and therefore give advice and insight of skills that truly help. Because in the end, we are all different and we all cope differently. Humans are a cookie cutter.

    Thanks for sharing. And I hope the best for you!

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  13. Rey Paez

    I want to talk to people who will understand me

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Rey,

      You are always welcome to message our team at info@twloha.com. We would be honored to hear your story and offer you some support and encouragement. You are not alone.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
    2. Becky Ebert

      Rey,

      You are always welcome to message our team at info@twloha.com. We would be honored to hear your story and offer you some support and encouragement. You are not alone.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  14. Ashley

    I read this and felt the words so deeply, almost as if I had wrote it myself. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply  |  
  15. Jodie

    Elicia,
    Thank you for your bravery! I walked down that road 3 years ago. Thank you for your vulnerability!

    Reply  |  
  16. Brooke

    Thank you so much for this post. I too work in mental health, for the past 4 or 5 months I’ve been struggling bad with anxiety and depression. I have felt like a hypocrite, I’ve felt like there’s no way I could possibly go to counseling when I already know all the coping strategies myself. Even to this day I wonder if I am in the right profession because I am giving people encouragement, I am helping them see their worth and showing them that there is a purpose for them yet I can’t do that for myself….reading this has made me feel so good to know I am not alone. Thank you!

    Reply  |  
  17. Suzie

    I cannot express in words how much I needed to hear this right now.

    Reply  |  
  18. Alison

    Thank you so much for your honesty. I’m glad you’re here. ❤️

    Reply  |  
  19. Michele

    This is a remarkable story as it sheds light for everyone struggling, it helps to to show no one is alone, and it helps to show life is not even close to perfect, and with good supports you can keep working day day with hope that someone else understands, and can help you along. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply  |  
  20. Steph

    My heart. My father, a PhD marriage and family counselor of over 40 years took his own life last summer and I know he battled with all these same thoughts. The night before he did it he had pulled out his many presentations he used to give to veterans on ptsd and suicide, perhaps to look for a glimmer of hope for himself. It’s so tragic. Bravo to you for hanging on.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hello Steph,

      We are heartbroken to hear about the loss of your father. We would like you to know that we mourn with you. We know how difficult and overwhelming a loss like this can be. Please know that you are not alone, and you deserve to have support during this time. If you would like, you are more than welcome to reach out to us at info@twloha.com. We are here with open hearts and ears ready to listen.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  21. Kara

    Thank you for writing this. This particular situation is one that I have been worried about as I am currently working on getting my degree in counseling, but being able to hear from the experience of others is extremely helpful.

    Reply  |  
  22. Mary

    this is beautiful. i don’t know you but i am proud of you

    Reply  |  
  23. Amy

    Thank you for writing this. I am struggling and trying not to burn out in a very related field. I am carrying a double caseload due to staff shortages, trying to train new staff, and have now been assigned to additional QA duties. I feel guilty as hell for taking the day after Christmas off. I am made to feel guilty for not taking work home or working on the weekends. I am exhausted and need to take care of my household chores and do my food prep for the week because I have to eat at my desk or while driving in order to eat lunch or a snack and still want to eat healthy.

    Reply  |  
  24. Ali

    Thank you for this.
    I work in the field of substance abuse treatment, a recovering addict myself.
    I’ve been needing to hear ALL of this.
    I get so caught up in helping others that I sometimes forget that I matter too.
    I’m happy you found your light and were able to give this message.
    I appreciate you.

    Reply  |  
  25. Salma Rashid

    I am very touched by your article, I am a psychotherapist and I also feel suicidal and struggle with my issues, it is not a weakness but a strength to be able to allow your emotions to be processed even though we are therapists, we are human and have feelings too. We would be no good to anyone if we couldn’t accept our own pain and thoughts of distress, no one should suffer and feel that they can’t or shouldn’t. Thank you

    Reply  |  
  26. Salma Rashid

    Being a therapist doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own issues, we do the job because we understand the pain that people endure, mental illness suicidal thoughts and self harm are all the most frightening experiences, there is no shame in asking for help. No one is exempt from past pain and experiences, it can make you understand how other people are feeling. But it is equally important that therapists can also ask for the help without guilt or shame, we should be able to benefit from therapists as well just as our patients do. It is a valuable and important necessity for us

    Reply  |  
  27. Kana

    I have to say, I’ve been struggling with thoughts like this for as long as I remember. I have actually tried a couple of times to no success and I honestly can’t tell if that’s a good or a bad thing at this moment but I’m so happy you didn’t do it. I don’t even know you but reading that you seem to be coping with it better was kind of the highlight of my day today so thank you for not doing it.

    Reply  |  
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