Not waving but Drowning

Some wise person once said that the darkest hour is always before the dawn. And that is true – as long as we have the perseverance and resilience to remain in place before the Sun rise begins!

Staying afloat through the Darkest Hour

When you are there, when you are in it, that is small comfort for the depths that seem to be unending and feel all but ready to swallow you whole! But sometimes, as frustrating and disconnected to our situation it may feel, those words are not only a life-line, but are also spoken by one who has been through that same experience! Because only someone who has been through it, and come through the other end can possibly say such a thing!

The sense of being out in the depths is expressed by Stevie Smith:  “I was much farther out than you thought, and not waving but drowning”. For all the world to see, it may appear to them that we are merrily swimming our hearts out, and even doing so because it is our preferred sport! Yet we know that the depths beneath our floundering feet are dark and fathomless, and the leisurely swim we thought we were taking actually ended many moons ago, since when we have been being pulled farther out by the current, whilst frantically trying to head back to shore!

“I was much further out than you thought, and not waving but drowning” Poem by Stevie Smith

Much of our experience of life is dictated by our emotional life! How we feel about anything we do is the catalyst for the outcome of the experience, and we have all heard that we are meant to be the masters of our emotions: from well-meaning colleagues telling us to ‘pull our socks up’, to reminders about exercising our ‘mind over matter’, there are multiple well-wishers who are reminding us that we should be strong enough to change how we are performing, our emotional state, or our ability to achieve what it is we most want.

Yet again and again, we may find ourselves floundering in the deep, unable to brighten our mood, to change our way of thinking, or we may finding ourselves in the same old traps or patterns that we try endlessly to remove ourselves from. Wondering why ‘the same thing keeps happening?’

Today I heard how one of my daughters friends grandfather had taken his own life. It always saddens me greatly when I hear this type of news! No one will ever know exactly why he made such a choice – those who loved him most will not be able to understand how he came to such a decision. They may wonder why their love was not enough to keep him here, what they could have done differently, why they didn’t ‘know’ something that could have changed the outcome. They will struggle to try to understand what he was thinking, and wonder what signs they missed – maybe recognising or remembering moments in retrospect that they will now overlay with another ‘meaning’ they had missed at the time. The agony of trying to work it out can be exhausting, and seemingly never ending! Losing someone to suicide is a painful and guilt-filled experience. Getting support through such a time of loss is a way to help to come to terms with the huge event of bereavement through a suicide. Such loss holds all of the usual aspects of bereavement: fear, loss, grief, denial, anger, but with the damaging aspect of guilt attached, including self-blame and the need to understand why.

Some people will say suicide is a selfish act – and cowardly. I can guarantee that those people who say such things will never have had a truly suicidal experience ever before…and I say ‘experience’ because suicide is not just a thought process – it is inextricably linked to a ‘felt’ experience, a powerful emotional charge that is completely all encompassing. The thinking process of a person considering suicide is beyond just thinking that ‘life is hard’, and their emotional experience is beyond that of any normal experience of depression. It pushes a little further and a little deeper on both of these counts! Life itself becomes impossible – and there is no way to bring yourself back. Not only does there appear to be no way through this for, but they also recognise and truly believe on some level that everyone else – including the World and their family would be better off without them. That suicide is the ONLY answer to the question they are faced with. This person no longer ‘knows’ who they truly are, or what their purpose in life is, but this ‘not knowing’ is beyond thoughts – it is in every cell and tissue of the body. Every fibre of their being is lost, broken and unable to see a possibility for coming back into anything that resembles who they truly are, or a life without pain. The act of suicide seems the only option – and is beyond reason. It is as instinctual and primal as the parent who throws themselves in the path of a bus in order to save their child. It is a sacrifice of self in the belief that it will somehow be a benefit for those left behind, even though there is an awareness that they will suffer great pain. Somehow their self destruction is still the better option!

We will never know what drove him, or countless others, to finally make such a choice. Maybe the death of his son many years earlier was at the root of this choice. Whatever it was, it was not a choice made lightly, nor did it come from nowhere. Although there are often specific triggers that might push us to the point of taking such action – it never occurs out of nowhere. Equally, it is not always easy for others, our most near and dear, our loved ones to realise or truly ‘see’ what is happening beneath the surface for someone who may be about to take their own life. Stevie’s words again: “I was much farther out than you thought, and not waving but drowning” is a reflection of the silent place of struggle that the sufferer is experiencing on the lead up towards such action as suicide, but their silence makes it very difficult for anyone around them to realise the depths of what may be occurring.

Some people who are out in the deep waters will continue to struggle, to try to get back to shore. They may momentarily make a statement that will give a hint at their true state, but most of the time they are so busy trying to stay above water, that they remain silent in their efforts to stay afloat. They will always, however, recognise that they are struggling and becoming overwhelmed in their situation.


Getting Help

If you think that someone you love may be experiencing these problems

  • Support: Let them know that you care – that you are there for them whatever they need!
  • Contact: Simple human contact – hugs, listening, spending time together – can be a huge help for someone who is suffering.
  • Emotions: Knowing that these feelings will pass is also helpful – especially if they are new to such experiences. Feeling and emotions are temporary – and can change from moment to moment, day to day. However, their feelings are not trivial, even with the possibility that they may alter. Never trivialise or underestimate the deep emotional impact that the suffer is going through.
  • Look for professional help. Sometimes the fear and stigma around depression, suicide and mental health issues will stop some people from reaching out for help.
  • Let them know that it is ok. There are plenty of places to go for help and support – for both the sufferer and for the loved ones for whom this may also be a difficult period.

5 Questions that Grass Roots – Prevent Suicide suggest

If you are considering Suicide:

  1. Wait. Decide not to do anything right now to hurt yourself. You do not have to act on your thoughts of suicide. Suicidal behaviour is an attempt to solve what feels like an overwhelming set of problems. When we are struggling to cope, our mind closes down on creativity and our problem solving skills become much more limited. Your thoughts and feelings CAN change.
  2. Talk to someone; it could be a friend or family member, or a support service of some kind. There are people who want to listen and who can help you
  3. If talking is difficult, there is online support here. Someone who wants to help you is just a click away.
  4. Try to keep yourself safe for now
  5. Spend some time thinking about what your reasons for living might be


If you are worried about someone you care about:

  1. Be alert – Not everyone who thinks about suicide will tell someone, but there may be warning signs.
  2. Be honest – Tell the person why you’re worried about them, and ask about suicide. Tell them you want to know how they really are, and that it’s OK to talk about suicide.
  3. Listen – Just listening is one of the most helpful things you can do. Try not to judge or give advice.
  4. Get them some help – It’s OK if you don’t know how; the ideas on this web page can get you started.
  5. Take care of yourself – You may find it helpful to discuss your feelings with another friend, or a confidential service.

Suicide Prevention Support & Resources

Samaritans UK – the go-to support for all types of emergency situations, including if you are thinking about suicide or are concerned someone you love is considering suicide.

Grass Roots – Suicide Prevention – you will find a long list of support groups at the bottom of the page on this link, some of which are for specific groups of people.

Papyrus (Prevention of Youth Suicide) – go to this website to get telephone number for HOPElineUK for confidential help and support.

SoBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide)

NSPA (National Suicide Prevention Alliance)


The therapists Corner

Understanding Meta Health: An energy-psychology Approach

If you would like to know more about training in Meta Health, please contact me directly for further information. There are introductory courses and training that is held accross the country and even online.

For LifeStyle Prescriptions (as part of the Meta Health approach), you will find more details here: LifestylePrescriptionsTV


A Meta Health Perspective for counsellors & therapists

ln Meta Health there is something known as a ‘constellation’, which generally means that two or more different biological programs are running simultaneously (relating to two or more different types of trauma or conflict). The combination of both active programs means that the whole system comes into action in order to look for a solution to the two problems and a psychological ‘answer’ to the two different conflicts is a resulting outcome. Therefore we see a change in the psychological state, the ‘way of thinking’ of a person running such a constellation. Emotional changes also occur: Depression and/or manic depression and/or phases of mania will also accompany such psychological changes.

Often these different ‘conflicts’ running together are doing so on an unconscious level, although the triggers will be highly emotional for the sufferer, and the specific events they relate to may be well known to that person; the actual ‘triggers’ and events are then overlaid with the increasingly obsessive thoughts that are part of the ‘psychological solution’ – in this case, the thoughts of suicide. These thoughts become the persistent answer to the two or more ‘programs’, or conflicts that the person is trying to overcome.

In a sense, we can look at it as if the whole ‘body’ has become overwhelmed by the weight of the two combined unresolved traumas (or biological programs), and it is looking at how it may resolve these, as the underlying intelligence of the body knows that it cannot survive both of these programs running simultaneously! Therefore, if we can access one or both of the original two triggers and start to work on changing or resolving the emotions and thoughts around either or both of these, then the constellation itself can be dissolved.

Being aware that suicide can be triggered by a combination of different traumas is a useful tool for any therapist in being able to help a sufferer identify what it is that is making them think a particular way. EFT and other energy-psychology techniques can be used to help to address the emotional stresses that are connected to those original traumas which are holding the constellation in place. As the emotional charge and connections are rebalanced on ANY ONE of these traumas, the constellation may be released. This might still leave multiple other traumatic or emotional issues needing to be addressed, but can be a key to reducing the complete overwhelm that results in suicide or suicidal thoughts.



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