Embrace Hope for a Better Future! Podcast Ep. 4:6

Welcome to Season 4, Episode 6, which accompanies Chapter 4, Section 6, “Embrace Hope.” In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • why people self-harm 
  • activities that help you feel better 
  • why people think about suicide
  • what are intrusive thoughts and how to get rid of them 

And, though this whole book is hopefully making you feel better, we will talk about something can do while you’re waiting.

4-6 embrace hope for a better future

“There is one guarantee in life, and that is: change. Things don’t stay the same. What you feel right now is not going to stay this way. Sometimes you are suffering, and you want to stop suffering, and also, you are scared that the change in suffering will feel out of control. While you are suffering, it is a “suffering that you know,” so even though it feels out of control, it also feels in control. This, as you can imagine, keeps you stuck here. You are not crazy for feeling that contradiction.” – Dr. Jodi Aman

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Transcription of the Embrace Hope:

Hey, you’re here with Dr. Jodi, and this is Season 4 of “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!” This podcast is a teen and young adult guide to ditching toxic stress and hardwiring your brain for happiness. If you’re new here, grab a copy of my book “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You! because this series goes section by section through it, going a little bit deeper, giving more examples, and telling more stories. In this season, which follows Chapter 4, we’re finally focusing on you making peace with yourself. 

Because you can’t get rid of anxiety when you’re still being your own worst critic. Most likely, you have been your own worst critic, even though you don’t deserve it. You deserve kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. In this season, I will give you the practical tools to do that for yourself. Thank you for listening, subscribing, and leaving me five stars on Apple Podcasts. Please spread the word about this book and series because mental health problems have dire consequences that inflict more pain on young people, their families, and their communities. And I would be grateful if you could help me turn the tide by sharing these tips for embracing self-love.

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Trigger Warning for Chapter 4, Section 6: “Embrace Hope”

Welcome to the episode that accompanies Chapter 4, Section 6: Embrace Hope. 

Welcome to this episode, where we will discuss self-harm and thinking about suicide. These are intense topics and can be triggering for some people. If this is a sensitive topic for you, I suggest getting a friend or family member to listen to it with you. In fact, if self-harm and or thinking about suicide is something you are familiar with, I want to encourage and plead with you to please tell someone today. Don’t wait. 

I understand what you are going through; I mean, not exactly, everyone has different contexts of their lives, but I know what it is like to feel deep pain. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but you don’t have to live feeling this horrible forever, and hopefully, you won’t feel this bad for much longer. People do get better, even after feeling this bad, and you deserve that, too. And you deserve help to get better. Maybe negative thinking is telling you you don’t deserve it, but it is lying. You deserve support, and you need it right now. So I want you to reach out. Don’t tell a peer or someone who has been unreliable in the past. They may mean well and love you but not be sure of themselves enough to know what to do.

Please tell an adult that you can trust, today

If you do not have a problem with self-harm or thinking about suicide, you may know some friends who do and do not know what to do about it. Again, this is too big to hold yourself. Let your friend know that you are worried about them and want to let someone know so that you can help them feel better. Read my blog post about how to support a friend if they are going through this.

Being a therapist has taught me a lot about these topics; for one, people often engage in them for different reasons, so it is not ideal that this episode is about both. But in another sense, thinking about suicide and using self-harm are both acts of wanting to stop feeling so bad, so they do have something in common. However, this is the thing; they don’t help you stop feeling bad. Instead, they make you feel crazy and out of control, worsening the situation exponentially. Luckily, I wrote this book section and made this podcast to get you better without hurting yourself. If it is hard to listen to, make it a point to do some hearty self-care like taking a bath, cuddling up and watching a funny movie, or taking a long walk outside with a friend. 

If you are going through hell, keep going

In this episode, 

  • I acknowledge why people start and continue self-harming behaviors so that they don’t feel as crazy anymore, 
  • Once we make their purpose explicit, adopting other behaviors that bring you much better results in controlling your emotions will be easier. 
  • Then, I list examples of those other behaviors. After that, 
  • We talk about why people think about suicide (separating the wish to die from intrusive thoughts about death and suicide so that you know the difference.) 

And, though this whole book is hopefully making you feel better, we will talk about something can do while you’re waiting for relief. 

Let’s get started.  

There is one guarantee in life, and that is change. Things don’t stay the same. What you feel right now is not going to stay this way. Sometimes you are suffering, and you want to stop suffering, and also, you are scared that the change in suffering will feel out of control. While you are suffering, it is a “suffering that you know,” so even though it feels out of control, it feels in control, like enough that we want to hold on to that sense of control. This, as you can imagine, keeps you stuck here. You are not crazy for feeling that contradiction. That is a common way to feel. But it is actually making things worse for you. I promise.

If you change for the better, it is, by definition, better than this. Not worse. This is a tactic of the negative thinking to get you to keep it, to tell you that you would feel out of control if it wasn’t there. When you stop paying attention to the negative thinking, you will feel so much more in control of your life, not less control. Never less control. 

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What to know about self-harm

Okay, first, let’s talk about self-harm. Why do people engage in self-harm? Now, this isn’t universal, but it is a common reason: People mostly engage in self-harm because they feel overwhelmed by their emotions and decide that transferring that to physical pain seems to relieve the emotional pain. And while it does have that effect, it doesn’t last very long. For some people, it only lasts a moment before they feel out of control again. And, not always, but too often, the trigger for feeling out of control again is negatively judging yourself for this behavior. So people engage in self-harm and then, implicitly or explicitly, tell themselves: “Only crazy people do this,” “I have to do this,” “Why do I need this?” “What’s wrong with me?” “This is my life now,” “I can’t handle things,” “I need this.” or “I am someone who needs this.” 

After someone engages in self-harm, they feel out of control, making them feel worse. So at the moment, they feel worse, but also it makes their depression and anxiety worse overall. In addition, harming oneself has other negative consequences that I list in the book for you.

All of this energy, even if you are not aware of it because it’s in your subconscious, makes self-harm something that is very easy to get hooked on. You are not compelled to do it because something is wrong with you. By the nature of it, it is an easy thing for humans to get attached to. I am telling you that because––not knowing that–attaches you more. Thinking it is you that is the problem always makes you worse. 

You are not the problem. Self-harm is the problem.

You are a person with a problem. It is human to attach to a problem, but it causes suffering, and so we want to get you out of there. The more you are attached, the harder it is to stop. It is possible to detach and feel better. It can be challenging, but it is possible. 

From my work over the years, I have learned the secret to stopping self-harm. You have to decide to stop. Seems simple, right? Most people who engage in self-harm think that they need to continue it. They feel compelled by the attachment and assume they have no choice in the matter, thinking they simply cannot withstand the pain without being able to relieve it somehow. They literally use words like “I need to” and then believe in that like it is the truth.  

However, when people realize that is not the truth and when they realize that the risks of engaging in self-harm outweigh the fleeting benefits of it, they decide to stop. And then, they stop. 

If they ever decide they need it again, they start again. And then, if they decide to stop again, they stop. When they are not conscious of this, they think they have no control over it. They don’t see that they are deciding to do it or not do it. And I understand that it doesn’t, at all, feel like a decision. But it is a decision. 

It’s only once you realize that you have the agency to make that decision that you have the freedom to make it. The belief that you can is all you need here. Believe that you can do what you want to do. The negative thoughts want you to think they are in control, but they aren’t. 

How you think about self-harm matters

Some people want to continue to engage in self-harm, but it is usually because they feel like they need to. It falsely feels like one thing they have that is theirs to control. But you have a lot in your life that you can control, and this chapter is all about helping you see that.

Okay, now that you know it is about transferring emotional pain to physical pain, you can see that there are other options for you besides self-harm. Think of exercise or challenging physical movements. This is why people sprint, lift weights, and push themselves physically. There is such a focus on the body when your muscles are burning from the lactic acid, which helps you get out of your mind.

This is why yoga and working out are so good for people who have experienced trauma. It gets them out of their head and into their body. So walk, lift weights, do push-ups or swats, rearrange furniture, organize a closet, learn a new trick on a bike, skateboard, or something like that. Do something physical that is hard. Not only will it take you out of the emotional overwhelm, but it will also be good for your body and build your confidence in overcoming challenges. 

Treat the desire to engage in self-harm as any other intrusive thought we’ve spoken about in this series, just like any anxiety chatter, self-doubt, worry, or negative idea. “Hey, ‘feeling like I want to cut,’ I knew you’d come back, just have a seat, I am busy right now.” Then get yourself engaged in an activity. Don’t judge, get upset, or worry about it coming. You don’t want to attach to it with that kind of energy. Expect it, notice when it comes, and tell it to take a seat.

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Get an app to track your days free of self-harm

 There are apps out there that track your days free from self-harm. I recommend this because it is excellent to chart and celebrate this achievement. You will feel so good about yourself as you see the days add up.

Hope Prevents Suicide 

Okay, next, we are going to touch on suicide. In this episode, I aim to encourage you to hope things will not stay this way. There is light at the end of this tunnel if you stick around. You need to believe it is there because it makes it easier to get it. Remember, thinking that you will never get better is the biggest obstacle to getting better. 

If this is something you think about, this episode is not the only thing you need. Don’t try to do this alone, and don’t only tell a peer. In this time in the world, most teenagers are struggling, so they may not have the bandwidth or the skills to help you in the way you deserve. Please also tell a trusted adult.   People get better when they have help, and you deserve this help. 

Okay, there are a lot of reasons people might think about suicide. Mostly, they feel a loss of hope that things can get better or that there is a social situation that feels unresolvable. And, if this deep sadness makes a person isolate themselves, which it often does, it also can come with feeling like you don’t care if you ever get better. So you can feel the grief that you won’t get better, the disinterest in getting better, or a bit of both. Human emotions are highly contradictory. That’s normal. 

Thoughts of suicide mostly come after a rejection, worry about an impending rejection, fear of being different, experiences of abandonment, loss, being bullied, or failing or perception of failing something. These experiences can feel impossible to come back from. They are not impossible to come back from, but they definitely feel that way. 

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Suffering seems to be but is Never Unresolvable

Death feels like an escape and potential relief from the “unresolvable suffering. “If someone is going through intense emotional pain, of course, they would want to escape, right? It would be weirder if they didn’t. I know I just said that severely isolated people don’t care if they feel better, but that is a different situation. Typically, people don’t want to feel pain, even when the monkey is trying to tell them that they deserve it, they don’t want it.

Thinking about suicide is understandable. We don’t want people to die, but we can understand what triggers it. 

So lay down your negative self-judgments if you are or have ever thought about suicide. And take into your heart that you can get better. I know so many middle-aged people who felt suicidal or attempted suicide when they were teens, and they have vibrant and happy lives now. Thank God they did not die or would have missed out on so much goodness. Unfortunately, I also know many people who have died by suicide, and we’ll never know how their life could have turned out. Death by suicide among adolescents is rising, especially after the pandemic. You can stop this from happening with you. 

The Call of the Void

There’s another phenomenon that I want to mention here. It’s a little different than suicidal thoughts and behaviors from depression and anxiety. It is that sometimes people think about suicide in the course of their normal activities, and this freaks them out. They: 

  • See a knife and think about stabbing themselves 
  • Are standing waiting for the subway and imagining jumping on the track
  • Picture themselves crashing their car

Having these visuals feel unnatural and crazy, but it’s not. It is actually so common that there is a term for it. It’s called the “call of the void.” Life Science says the call of the void is “a brief, entirely out of character…thought of leaping from a high place or driving headfirst into an oncoming vehicle.” It is widespread and normal. 

However, if you don’t know that it is normal and especially if you are sad anyway or going through a hard time (and what teenager is not?) and then, you experience the “Call of the void,” you may assume it is connected to the saddness. And so, you become very concerned about yourself for having this thought. 

The energy that this worry brings attaches you to the thought and it gets pulled into your consciousness over and over again. Then it feels like, “Oh no, I am thinking about this so much!” “Why?” this invites curiosity and more worried meaning-making, which feeds it more energy and attention. When you don’t know what it is, it could take you down a really dark rabbit hole. It feels like you are sad and thinking about death all the time. It feels out of control, and you get more overwhelmed and think about it more, and then it gets worse and worse. 

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How to Think about the Call of the Void

Alternately, if you felt the call of the void, and you were like, “Oh interesting, that’s the call of the void. Weird and wacky stuff!” and then went on with your day, that visualization wouldn’t come back to you over and over again. It just wouldn’t garner the energy and attachment and soon fade away. You give it meaning, which means you control how to think of it and that affects how you feel about it. 

I’m letting you know because sometimes I get people in my office that have become obsessed with their call-of-the-void scenarios. Sometimes it is so painful that death seems like a relief. In fact, people often assume it is the only escape from the torture their thoughts are putting them through. I witness this enough to know that this is a common problem. If this sounds like you, please know that you can get rid of these thoughts and feel better again. I made a video on intrusive thoughts like the call of the void that is embedded in the blog post that goes with this episode. The link is in the show notes. I’m convinced that if more people knew about this, we can save lives. 

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Before we end episode “Embrace Hope”

We are coming to the close of this episode, but I want you to know If you are or have ever thought about suicide, I am so glad that you are here. I love you, and I am thinking about you. Because you are listening to this, it seems like you have decided to live, at least for today. You may be exhausted and not have any energy to do anything for yourself. That is why you need to get some help. You deserve to get some help. Tell someone today. 

In the meantime, as long as you are here, why not do some easy activities that you can do even when you are exhausted? They help! Even if you relieve a mere smidge of pain, it is worth it because that may give you the energy for the next step in the healing process.

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Thank you for reading

Thank you so much for sticking with me through this episode of “Anxiety… I’m So Done with You! “with me, Doctor Jodi.

We got through this challenging content together. Please know that happy times are coming in your future as long as we keep bridging the gap between where you are now to where you hope to be. We’ve got this. Let’s keep you moving along with these episodes until you get there. 

In this episode, we discussed the why’s and what to dos about self-harm and suicide. Hopefully, I paved a road for you to ease your way out of these dark places. We are not done. We are not leaving you here on this road alone. You are going to find some help, and I will keep talking to you in these episodes, showing you the light. The next one is compassion. It will feel like a fluffy robe that you wrap around yourself for its softness and warmth. 

I appreciate your subscribing, commenting, and leaving me five stars on Apple Podcasts. The next episode will cover Chapter 4, Section 7: Embrace Compassion. Read or listen to that, and I will see you there. In the meantime, hang out with me on YouTube and TikTok at Doctor Jodi

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