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Auntie SparkNotes: I Want to Learn How to Cope with My Destructive Thoughts

Dear Auntie SparkNotes,

I’ll keep it short but to the point. I’m an in-the-closet gay trans guy with borderline personality disorder and dysthymia. However, after 4-5 years of behavioral therapy, I’ve been coping well! I’ve been able to keep my intrusive thoughts at bay, but the emotions … they never leave. As it’s my senior year, and as more of my friends and safety nets leave, I feel alone and alienated from everything. From my communities. I’m also Latino, but the Latino and Hispanic kids in my school don’t like me because, despite my pride in my heritage. my accent in Spanish is horrible and I look white. Not only are there zero trans people in my school, but there also aren’t any gay men attracted to trans men. Or anyone attracted to trans people without making them their fetish. These feelings make me feel isolated, and with isolation my suicidal thoughts come back. Of course I would never act on them, but whenever I look up coping skills, Google is all like, “DON’T KILL YOURSELF HERE’S THE HOTLINE.” And that’s very useful and all, but I would like to COPE with my thoughts and process these emotions I have. I would never kill myself, and harming myself is way out of the question. But what can I do when I get my suicidal thoughts?

This is a rare and interesting day here at Auntie SparkNotes headquarters! Because this is that rare and interesting letter that contains the word “suicide,” but did not send Auntie into an instant tailspin of fabric-rending panic over the possibility that one of you wonderful kiddos might be in mortal danger. (Though we should all keep in mind that a white-hot fabric-rending panic is what happens the other 99.999% of the time, which is why, if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, it’s still best for all of us—and especially for you—if you reach out to one of the resources on the list below.)

Because here’s the thing about your problem, Sparkler: there is in fact a difference between thinking about suicide, in the dire sense that requires intervention, and thinking about suicide, in the abstract sort of way that you might think about anything. And if I’m reading you correctly, your suicidal thoughts aren’t accompanied by the desire or impulse to harm yourself something (you instead describe as completely out of the question)—which makes me wonder if this is a case of the latter. Are these intrusive thoughts substantively different from the others you’ve had to cope with? Do they come from a different place, emotionally? Are they accompanied by emotions at all? Or is this more of a new wrinkle on an old theme, i.e. the fact that your brain tends to go to dark places when you feel bored or lonely? When you experience these thoughts, take note of what you were doing and how you were feeling; is there a pattern there?

It’s certainly possible that these intrusive thoughts are really just thoughts, the same kind you’ve dealt with before, and which can be dispelled with cognitive therapeutic techniques, or by distracting yourself, or (in some cases, with the blessing of a physician) anti-anxiety medication. By asking yourself these questions, you can lay some groundwork for understanding just what’s happening around you and inside your head when you experience thoughts of self-harm—which is useful information you can then take to your counselor, who will help you design some coping strategies.

Of course, that’s the big caveat, here: you can do a little bit of legwork on your own, but ultimately, this is something you should be talking about with a mental health professional. There’s no reason not to! And unlike the bots who deliver your internet search results, your counselor isn’t going to seize up and throw a bunch of hotlines at you the second you say the word “suicidal.” So once you’ve taken a little time to explore your state of mind, please do take the next step of bringing your problem to a person whose job it is to help.

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide (the dire kind, not the abstract kind) the following resources are here for you:

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Safe Place: 1-888-290-7233
National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI): 1-800-950-6264
The Trevor Project: 866-4-U-TREVOR
Self-injury helpline: 1-800-DON’T-CUT, http://www.selfinjury.com
To Write Love On Her Arms: http://www.TWLOHA.com
Self Injury Foundation Crisis Line: 1-800-334-HELP
Real Help for Teens (Christian-affiliated): 1-877-332-7333
Crisis Chat: http://crisischat.org

Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at advice@sparknotes.com.
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