Not Falling Over: Post 3: Wanting to Die or Not Knowing How to Live

A series following a professional woman’s experience of reoccurring suicidal thoughts and what she does about them.

Miss Emma Gibbs
4 min readMar 12, 2023

TW: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation

I’ve been thinking for a while about what to post next and on my laptop I have a bunch of headings of stuff I want to talk about in no particular order. However, one thing I think I should get out the way early on is that whilst I have no fear of death, I don’t actually want to die.

When we talk about suicide or suicidal ideation it’s not uncommon to hear someone say that a person wanted to kill themselves or we might hear someone on a TV drama or documentary say they want to end their life but is that really true? We’ve moved away from using the word commit in conjunction with suicide because it presents the idea that suicide is a crime but I think we should also avoid the word want. I can’t speak for any other suicidal person out there but I do wonder whether if a person feeling that way was given all the things they needed to feel well, supported, loved or stable (financially, emotionally, medically or otherwise) then maybe that would help stop them feeling that way.

In that moment of crisis do we really want to exit forever or is it just that we feel like we’re completely on our own with no other option?

When I experience a period of ideation it can feel completely overwhelming. I once tried to describe this to my counsellor but then corrected myself and added “Although it can’t be that overwhelming because I’m still here.” My counsellor then questioned whether I wanted to die or whether it was that I didn’t know how to live, and that I think sums it up pretty well. For me, it’s not a response to me being done with the world but it’s an overwhelming tiredness and a feeling that I haven’t got the strength to continue ploughing on, on my own, for potentially years ahead.

My default action in life is to push onwards until I break and this tends to go in cycles. I often put my head down and work insanely hard at both my job and home life for months on end and then have a series of weekends where I crash and do barely anything. I’ve never taken a day off work to manage my mental health and this deserves no medals because it’s a frankly stupid approach towards my own wellbeing. I know I could and should take days off sick sometimes but I still feel a sense of shame about it all getting too much and me needing to take time to recover. I don’t know if that’s a fear of letting my mental health get on top of me or a deep rooted and very old fashioned attitude to mental health imbedded in me. My counsellor once described me as a modern woman with a 1930s core. Keep Calm and Carry On and STFU, right? (No! Wrong!)

Perhaps if I redirected some of my deep commitment to my employer and job back on myself then maybe I’d be able to work out how to change the things in my world that I don’t love. I know what I don’t like about my life and where I’d like to end up but I find it very difficult to enable those changes to develop or happen. I’d also do well to plan better for uncertainties rather than thinking that if I ever get to a point where it’s all too much to handle I can always check out for good. Uncertainties and change don’t sit well with me but I’m autistic and that comes with the territory. I’ll write more about how autism feeds into this in the future.

It’s a tiny word ‘want’ but lately I’ve reflected on it a lot because I recognise that as part of my strategy to stay alive it’s really important that I remember that my ideation is never something I want but actually a very panicky and anxious response by my brain to whatever’s triggered it. When I’m suicidal I don’t want to die, I actually want a cuddle and to feel safe. And I know that if I did die that way I’d never want my family and friends to think it was what I wanted.

Helpful resources:

Samaritans (UK) 116 123

988 Lifeline (USA) 988

International Suicide Hotlines



Miss Emma Gibbs

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