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When Suicidal Ideations Take Over

Small gun

I have been thinking about this question ever since I read it on a discussion thread in Group Beyond Blue. Meg writes:

So, my husband has shown interest in getting a handgun permit. It’s the South, and lots of people have them. I don’t have an issue with the concept of it. He wants to take the class and is really responsible about it. He doesn’t hunt and isn’t a “war games” kind of guy or a gun fanatic.

Then I told him that a stipulation would be that when we had children, the way the gun was stored would need to be open to discussion. We would need to agree on a safe way to handle it based on the relative risks involved. He’s fine with that. I next suggested that he look up some gun stores or ranges to call about lessons.

I think it was the phrase “look up a gun store” that triggered my memory of one of Therese’s posts, where she said that during her deepest depression she had actually pulled out the yellow pages to look up a gun store.

Now, when deeply depressed I had some suicidal ideation. I wanted the pain to end, but (thanks to some therapy and some very good writing from some folks here) I was always able to make a distinction between wanting the pain to end and wanting to die. I never made actual plans to harm myself.

But the gun thing got me thinking. What if I’m in that place again? So I told my husband that he also had to promise that if I ever got depressed again, he would lock the gun up or remove it from the house.

He freaked out. I guess he had no idea how deeply depressed I’d been. I could tell he was hurt. After a few minutes I asked him what he was thinking. He said, “I was thinking that I don’t think I could ever forgive you if you did that.” I told him that was one of the reasons I never got that far – I couldn’t do that to him or to my family. That was what drove me to get better and seek help. But, I also told him that I felt it needed to be said.

So, what are your thoughts on this? I don’t need pro/anti gun rhetoric; I need some insight from people who have been in the same place as I. It’s just as easy to overdose on meds or go many other routes, so am I wrong to be worried about the gun? I’ve shot plenty of times myself, so I’m not actually scared of the gun itself.

Any thoughts?

I will say this. When I was telling my husband what it was like inside my head while I was depressed, I felt like I was talking about another person entirely. It was both helpful to see how far I’d come but also scary to verbalize to someone besides my therapist how low I’d been.

I totally understand where both she and her husband are coming from. I understand why a spouse could never forgive her mate for checking out. I understand why he would drop his jaw at all the death talk. And I also know that looking up a gun store in Bowie, Maryland seemed like a rational plan back when I was so desperate for the pain to go away three years ago. How do I explain this? When you experience excruciating pain for months and months on end, your body automatically makes a plan–and seldom gets permission from your mind–to go to another place.

I remember the day in March of 2006, when Eric made me tell him all of my suicidal plans. So first I divulged that I had been keeping old prescriptions of all my drugs–compiling a nice stash of them in the garage to make sure I had enough to stop my pulse. Then I told him that I was hanging on to the neighbor’s keys because, since our garage had all of his woodworking equipment in it, I was planning on using our neighbor’s garage to run the car while my neighbor was at work. And finally, yes, I’ve been researching local gun shops.

Writing that paragraph just now plants a sizable knot in my stomach. Did I really say those things? Why on earth would I have been thinking that way? That’s absurd! But when I consider how much pain I was in back then, those thoughts seemed indeed rational. In fact, I remember writing in my journal at that time: “Made it another day. Did not pursue any of my suicidal plans.” And I checked off the day with a star. Because staying alive was by far the biggest challenge of every day.

That’s what is so ludicrous and scary about suicidal ideations: your logic completely abandons the gray matter of your brain, so that you’re left to judge situations and make decisions with only the mushy stuff in your cerebral cortex that sounds like a stoned hippie staying, “Yeah, man, go for it. Why not?”

I have recovering alcoholic friends that won’t let their husbands stock any liquor at home. For me that’s not a problem any more. Although I know that I’ll never be cured from my addiction, I have had enough common sense for 20 years to not go near the stuff. So Eric can keep the rum he occasionally brings out after a bad day with the kids.

But a gun? I don’t think I’d ever want one in the house. Because, judging on how irrational I became last time I fell into the Black Hole, I need to do as much as possible to safeguard my climb out of there, and to resist all natural urges, no matter how irrational they sound today.

When Suicidal Ideations Take Over

Therese J. Borchard

Therese J. Borchard is a mental health writer and advocate. She is the founder of the online depression communities Project Hope & Beyond and Group Beyond Blue, and is the author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes and The Pocket Therapist. You can reach her at or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

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APA Reference
Borchard, T. (2018). When Suicidal Ideations Take Over. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 27 Jul 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.