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Mistakes Make Me Suicidal

September 9, 2020 Natasha Tracy

Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion and mistakes and suicidality.

Mistakes can make a person suicidal. I know this because, in the past, that person was me. Making mistakes has made me feel suicidal. Is this an overreaction? Yes, of course it is, but that doesn't mean it isn't a real reaction.

Making Mistakes and Suicidality

I started experiencing suicidal feelings from mistakes at a young age.

I have been suffering from mental illness symptoms since long before I had a bipolar diagnosis. I usually say bipolar started at age 19 because this is when I sought treatment, but this isn't actually accurate. Really, I had mental illness symptoms much earlier and, certainly, suicidality was one of those symptoms. 

I acutely remember feeling suicidal from the time I was 14, maybe younger. And mistakes absolutely made these feelings worse. I remember how unbearable it was to make a mistake in front of someone, or, heaven forbid, make a mistake that negatively impacted someone. I would go to my room and berate myself endlessly for being so stupid. I would plead into the air to be forgiven. I would feel like killing myself just to prove how very sorry I actually was. I thought, if only people knew how sorry I was for making a mistake, surely they would forgive me.

And at the time, this did not feel like an overreaction. At the time, I felt like I deserved it. At the time, it felt necessary. At the time, I never felt forgiven for anything.

And when it comes to the mistakes that caused these feelings? I don't even remember them now. At the time they were worth ending my life over and now they don't even take up space in my memory.

Suicidal Feelings Because of Mistakes

As I said earlier, becoming suicidal because of mistakes is obviously an overreaction. I think, though, when you're so close to suicide already, creating feelings of suicidality or increasing feelings of suicidality can happen pretty easily. And in my upbringing, mistakes were unacceptable. I was taught to be perfect. I'm not, of course, but that was the teaching, nonetheless. I'm sure when I was taught mistakes were unacceptable, no one thought I would take it to the extreme of suicide, but that's where my particular brain went. And, honestly, while a person sitting me down and forgiving me might have helped, I likely wouldn't have stopped feeling suicidal due to mistakes without major treatment of the underlying illness. I needed therapy and I needed medication to get a hold of the demons that had me in their clutches.

Now, I still feel suicidal sometimes, thanks to my bipolar disorder, and I can admit to feeling excessive guilt over mistakes, again, because of bipolar disorder; but, mistakes don't make me suicidal anymore. I am able to stand back, look at the pattern and see it for what it is: a sick brain doing sick things. It's a little girl who didn't understand the messages given to her and how they intertwined with her own psychology. It's a mental illness running rampant on an uneducated psyche.

So if this is you. If you're feeling excessive guilt for mistakes to the point of even feeling suicidal for mistakes, know this: you're not alone. I've been there. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Mental illness treatment like therapy and medication can help you get out of that hell. Because we all make mistakes. We all don't feel suicidal about them.

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see out mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2020, September 9). Mistakes Make Me Suicidal, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, March 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2020/9/mistakes-make-me-suicidal



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

MK
September, 27 2023 at 1:27 pm

Thank you. I can relate to parts of this story as a 54 year old who has felt suicidal since 10. However, in my case I can’t blame parents who expected perfection. They were normal people. My mistakes are real, significant, and frequent. For example, I just got off a work call. Our CEO is friendly and thanks literally everyone else. With me, my phrasing is awkward, incomplete, and wrong. He didn’t even know who I was and frustratingly asked me to follow up. Sure enough, the information was already available and someone else provided it. Later, one of my coworkers saw me and said “wow, that was ugly”. My boss gave me my first year review. His statements include j“you’re struggling, you don’t seem to put the dots together, I don’t have faith that you can do this job”. These are verbatims. If this only happened every couple of months it wouldn’t be bad. However, it’s daily. Some may say that I haven’t found the right fit and to try something else. But that’s the thing, I’ve tried all sorts of jobs and I keep making big mistakes. I went to military pilot training and barely made it through. Once in the flying squadron I struggled so much I was asked to leave. “Try something else”. I did; engineer, sales, marketing, hands-on work. Always the same. Also, I have no real friends. I thought I did a couple of times but I was never invited to their important events, such as 40th bday parties, kids weddings, etc. After all these years I prefer to be by myself.
Once a year or so, things will get better and suddenly my mood lifts. However, I’ll soon make another mistake and go right back to my long term severe depression. Thus, it is clear to me that I don’t have a chemical imbalance or some sort of mental disorder. Instead, my depression is completely explainable. I’m a lonely screw up despite decades of effort. These circumstances would make anyone suicidal. I made major attempts three times. At age 20 I had a major anxiety attack the day before my junior year. I went in the woods near my house with a pistol. I held it to my head but eventually chickened out. I convinced myself that things were would get better. Deep, deep
down inside I knew they wouldn’t and that was the case. Most recently I’ve found a large rock outcropping at the exit I take for the gym. I wish
I wasn’t so afraid. I feel regret every day that I didn’t go through with it at 20. So much pain.
Every other suicidal person I’ve met has flawed thinking and can get back on track. In my case, however, my thinking is clear: I am a friendless screwup. The evidence is there plain as day.

JP
October, 19 2023 at 10:40 pm

MK, I know how you feel, well I don't but I am the same age and have led a similar life. There is a reason we haven't executed a plan. I don't know what it is but there is one. I read your paragraph and just felt a connection and a compulsion to tell you that you are not alone.

AM
December, 9 2023 at 1:22 am

Hi MK,
I'm younger than you (21) however I have to tell you it is not truly normal to be suicidal even if you do make constant mistakes.
I'll have you know that the frat boys in my classes who fail every midterm, who get suspended, and then who then proceed to harass women do not feel suicidal for their mistakes. My professors who berate their students in class do not feel suicidal. The university HR team that underpaid me (10$ /hour compared to the 18$/hour male counterpart who had less certifications than me!) did not feel suicidal.
Anxious and depressed people notice their mistakes and fixate on them more often. It's best to work these feelings out with a therapist and find a way to separate your work from your identity.
Just this week I was in a meeting with a professor who told me my writing sucked for an assignment and gave me 2 extensions to fix it... and she was right. I felt suicidal for this. When I was in a point of wellness I booked a writing workshop, I restarted my assignment and I asked for 5+ people to read over what I wrote. It still will probably not look as good as other students' work. I had to accept that I'm alright with being mediocre or bad at a job :( I also got diagnosed with PMDD and my uni made me go to a therapist.
My therapist told me that I'm not just a student/worker, I'm a daughter, I like to paint, I enjoy cooking new foods, I learned a second language, I read webcomics/novels/novellas, I collect trinkets, I enjoy feminine fashion, etc... And all of these things I can be bad at or mediocre, but these things I can't really mess up yk? It's a hobby and it doesn't need to be perfect.
I hope you learn to forgive yourself for these mistakes, you deserve to give yourself kindeness.

Anonymous Enby
October, 16 2022 at 11:20 am

Thank you for writing this Natasha. I just missed a call with a friend I hadn't spoken to in a long time. They are a really sweet person and I couldn't imagine them ever reacting in a way that was excessively harsh or lacked understanding, but I immediately felt this deep sense of dread and worthlessness because I imagined it would be disappointing to them and I knew they likely had to make time to speak with me. I began to have inklings of abusive thoughts towards myself, [I won't specify what these are just in case the person reading this is in a bad place too] (very common for me). I've been to therapy, and am pretty sure I know the root causes of these thoughts, but I also accidentally made another (potentially costly) mistake just the night before, so I think my guilt-o-meter was just maxed out, even though the person and I came up with a solution to remedy the accident and they were very understanding. I was feeling really awful, so googled "why does making mistakes make me want to die" and, honestly, I didn't think anyone else felt this way or that I'd find anything. So, thank you for making me (and others) feel less alone in this Natasha. Well-wishes upon you and your loved ones!

Jess
January, 21 2022 at 3:41 am

This is me. I have been abused and expected to be perfect by my mom. I was abused further in my life and with therapy I have been able to make progress in my healing. In that I have not only been more introspective into my trauma and personal choices, but also my past mistakes. Where I was a shitty person. I am aware of my toxic behaviors and as I type I have contemplated making a date to kill myself on my calendar. However I know I don't have the guts to kill myself and self-destruction is not conductive to growth. I don't have answer, just that your article spoke out to me. I feel it's a side of suicidality the is not talked about enough.

Tasha
September, 21 2020 at 10:37 am

Oh lord that’s me...2 years after making a mistake that hurt someone’s feelings (as a result of trauma inflicted on me by someone else), I cannot forgive myself though they have forgiven me. I am suicidal almost every day in spite of therapy, medication, etc. Hopefully, this will change some day.

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