My Brain is Trying to Kill Me: Post 2: Telling My Counsellor

TW: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation

In my last piece I talked about how I was going spend 2023 trying to get to grips with the increasing suicidal ideation I’ve been feeling. Over the past three years the amount of days I’ve felt like this has been steadily increasing and the intensity seems more fierce so I’ve got to the point where managing it in secret has become too exhausting.

Last week I had a regular session with a counsellor who I’ve been seeing on and off since 2017. I’ve sometimes had blocks of sessions with her (usually once a week for six weeks) but for a while I’ve been checking in with her once a month to talk about past trauma, how things are, and more recently learning how to navigate the world as an officially autistic woman (I was diagnosed two years ago). I pay for my counsellor and realise I’m lucky to be able to do that but I still need to budget for it and can’t always afford additional sessions when I feel I need them.

Sometimes I’ve nearly cried during my appointments with her but more often than not I try to keep it together (which in itself is probably worth me exploring one day) and whilst I’ve mentioned the suicidal thoughts before, I always downplay them a bit partly out of embarrassment. This week I decided that I was going to spend the whole session talking frankly about it and I wasn’t going to cast a veil over how bad things were getting in my head at times. Prior to the session which was scheduled for early evening I wrote a set of short notes listing all the points I wanted to mention and I spent the day really wishing I could talk about something else but knowing I needed to do this.

My counsellor knows me very well and we have a very good working relationship and I started seeing her when I was coming out of what was an abusive relationship. My (non abusive) marriage had broken down and during a very vulnerable time in my life I was instantly targeted by a predatory man who showered me with love and appreciation but who ended up being physically and mentally abusive towards me. When I tried to report some of his behaviours I was victim blamed which resulted in me having a whole bunch of other traumatic stuff to process and it was my counsellor who (over several years) helped me talk about some of the nastier things which had happened to me and helped me accept that it absolutely wasn’t my fault.

Being autistic I deal with a lot of things more practically rather than emotionally and I struggle to understand things which don’t feel fair or right. Here’s a bit of background… When my husband left me in mid 2016 for someone else I managed the sale of our family home and the moving or disposal of 19 years of our accumulated stuff all by myself — which included me boxing up all his precious keepsakes one afternoon so he wouldn’t lose them. My daughter was in her last year of primary school so I was also applying for high school places for her at a time when my home address would be changing which also affected the school catchment area we would be in. My job which normally was a place of routine and comfort for me was also in jeopardy as we were being restructured which required my whole team to reapply for our own jobs. All these things happened in the same year.

At the same time as selling and buying a house and applying to stay in my job I was also managing the process of getting divorced (without the aid of any solicitors) because I didn’t feel comfortable with being Mrs…. when Mr…. was now with someone else. Looking back at that time there was a lot of me organising official stuff and very little time where I was supported emotionally or able to process what was happening. I tried to keep things amicable for my daughter and let her help decide which new house I bought. I moved into my own place two months before my 40th birthday and the divorce came in the post a week or so later. I cried a lot for what felt like months but I mostly cried on my own sat on the floor of the hallway rather than with anyone around me. Two months into 2017 I was in hospital for a week long stay with pneumonia and pleurisy and my recovery took weeks. The doctors tried to work out the cause of my illness and when I outlined my past year to them one said “That’ll do it.”

Since then I’ve marched on with a new home, my old job (I didn’t get made redundant fortunately) and learning to navigate life as a single mum which has included forays into dating, managing on one income with very little financial help from my daughter’s dad and not having people around me day to day to help me relax (I’m really prone to hyperfocus). And then of course the pandemic came along. It brought working from home which for me is very helpful in many ways but it’s also left me more isolated. And the resulting financial crisis has meant I’m up for redundancy once again and I currently have no idea what my employment prospects will be in two months time which for anyone isn’t great but as an Aspie I really like to plan ahead and know what I’m doing.

So there’s that. And when I apologetically told my counsellor how bad my suicidal feelings were getting she sat and calmly listened as I went through my points knowing everything that had gone before. She informed me that I could present myself at A&E at any point if I needed to and suggested that I could pass the receptionist a note if I couldn’t say the words out loud. I darkly thought that perhaps waiting for 10 hours in an overstretched A&E department could be a good way of convincing you that your life isn’t that bad and is much better than fire fighting in the chronically underfunded NHS but I still found her suggestion helpful. I’d genuinely never considered I could go to A&E and tell someone if I didn’t feel safe.

And as we talked more she said one of the most unexpected but helpful things anyone’s ever said to me.

She told me that with what I’ve gone through over the past few years it’s not at all surprising that I feel like that.

It didn’t feel like she was giving me an excuse for the suicidal feelings or a get out clause and it didn’t feel like she was telling me my life had gone to shit. It felt like an acknowledgement that there has been a lot of change and upheaval to get through (some of it good, some of it pretty horrendous at times) and that she could understand how that would make me (a person who likes certainty and will just try to soldier regardless on no matter how bad things get) feel like ending their life is the only way out of it.

We talked for the rest of the hour including about how hormonal changes and being peri-menopausal might be a factor (more on that another time maybe) and I arranged to see her again next week as I think I need a few more regular check-in’s right now. But in the week following the session it’s her comment about it not being surprised that I’ve continually found helpful. It feels like that statement has taken the burden of guilt around my suicidal feelings away from me. I still have to deal with them and they’re still horrible to manage when they’re there but I don’t feel so weak, inadequate or ashamed for having them.

I can recognise that I went through a lot of difficult stuff but I didn’t really talk about how much it was hurting me at the time and I also haven’t really expressed any anger even though I feel it; and that’s given me a place to start with diffusing what’s built up. I think identifying the triggers for my low moods and how they input into the relationship to myself could help me to become more self-compassionate and maybe that could lead to me being able to celebrate where I am now rather than feeling like I’m living a chapter of life I didn’t chose.

Helpful resources:

Samaritans (UK) 116 123

988 Lifeline (USA) 988

International Suicide Hotlines



Media Archivist and Researcher | Freelance Photographer | Tech Lover | #ActuallyAutistic | Writing mainly about autism and mental health.

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Miss Emma Gibbs

Media Archivist and Researcher | Freelance Photographer | Tech Lover | #ActuallyAutistic | Writing mainly about autism and mental health.