You Are Not Your Thoughts

By Ashley HolstromMay 12, 2020

This piece is part of our Mental Health Month blog series, where we highlight and explore eight different mental health struggles. Here’s Ashley’s experience with and perspective on suicidal thoughts and ideation.

It can be oh, so easy to fall into the darkness during these uncertain times. When the news gets worse every day. When the questions lead to more questions, rather than answers. When the realization hits that there’s no going back to normal after this—it’ll be a new normal. When the future looks blurrier than usual.

High-functioning people often say that if you don’t learn a new skill or get a new side hustle or write a masterpiece or build a new kitchen with all this extra time, that it’s not lack of time that’s the problem. You are the problem. You don’t have the drive.

That’s not true. We are not living in a time with excess time. We are living in a time of uncertainty and fear and anxiety.

For me, the uncertainty is the worst part. I’ve found myself tumbling into the bad thoughts. The “we’re all gonna die anyway, so why bother [fill in the blank]?” thoughts. Writing this very piece took weeks of thought and staring at a blank screen.

I’m no stranger to suicidal ideation. I hate calling it that, because it sounds so much more intense than what I feel, which is a passive wish to no longer exist. But that’s what it is. And the feeling is even stronger and more frequent now, when I don’t know what the world is going to look like on the other side of this pandemic.

Reminder: We are not living in a normal time. It is okay to not be okay. But do try to stamp out the darkness and “why bother” thoughts. The more room you allow those thoughts to hold, the bigger, louder, more true they feel.

Replace them with new, light thoughts, and then those new thoughts can get bigger, louder, and more true.

Living through a pandemic is unsettling and even terrifying—there’s no doubt about that. But there is beauty. There is light.

When I take my daily stroll around the neighborhood, nearly every person I pass says hello and makes small talk from a safe distance. Brief eye contact and a polite smile used to be the extent of these interactions.

People have been making and giving away face masks to keep others safe. Some have been grocery shopping for their elderly or at-risk neighbors.

And beyond that, just think of the things we’ll love with fresh eyes when the pandemic has cleared and we are allowed to safely live our lives again.

Eating delicious food at restaurants with people we love. Dancing with strangers at concerts. Browsing our favorite bookstores. Lounging around with our friends, all on the same couch. Enjoying a stroll through a grocery store, daydreaming about recipes. Reading with a clear mind. Hugging your loved ones again.

Look for the light. It’s the only constant in this uncertain time. Acknowledge the dark thoughts as they arise, and then offer reasons for why you should keep going.

Leave a Reply

Comments (23)

  1. Nicole

    Hi. This really helped. I’ve been struggling with handling too many thoughts with too little distractions. It’s a helpful reminder to see the light.

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  2. Renee Hopper

    I too have lived with Suicide Ideation for 40+ plus years. Although back when I first experienced it, they didn’t have a name for it. My mother was just told to watch me very carefully or have me institutionalized. I had to fake many episodes of suicide in fear of being hospitalized. I only want to add that this Pandemic does not scare me at all. I have lived through my death many times so this has no effect on my day to day life. I recognize the fear it instills on others and empathize for them. I hope everyone gets through this safe and soon we will have a vaccine in place.
    But on the deeper levels of those of us who live with Suicide ideation? It’s a mere distraction from my everyday life.

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  3. Phebe

    I have been struggling with this for some time, but since we are so isolated during this Pandemic it is very easy to feel alone and get wrapped up in my thoughts. Your post gave me a new perspective. Thank you.

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  4. Natalie

    Stay strong 🖤

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  5. Emily


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  6. Kim Trachtenberg

    Thank you for writing this. It was wonderfully written and painstakingly profound.

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  7. Gissel

    Is awesome.

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  8. Amber

    I was just thinking the other day how people with depression, anxiety and PTSD just like me are probably getting worse due to this pandemic. I also just had a baby and am suffering from PPD as well. I’ve been having a hard time keeping it together. Suicidal thoughts have increased. I won’t leave my baby and I know I’m strong. But I know for some people the thoughts take over. And with the pandemic its 5x harder to escape them. Suicide rates have to have gone up. I just want all my friends to know I’m here for them if they ever need. And to take a look at this article and hopefully see that they are not alone.

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  9. Nicholas Langarica

    Keep on providing peace to all!

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  10. Millissa


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  11. Amy Garrison


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  12. Chris


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  13. Ashlyn Jackson

    I think mental health is so important to talk about!

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  14. Patricia Blackwood


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  15. Josiah Summers

    This is an epic poggers moment

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  16. Victoria Trotter

    I have alot of dark thoughts and one thing I struggle with is looking for the positive in things. This message will help alot and to remember there are people who care for me that will keep me going.

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  17. Abe

    Keep up the strong work and positive impact. This is an amazing movement.

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  18. Lauren Ruiz

    This made me emotional. My favorite part was: “just think of the things we’ll love with fresh eyes.” I think we’re getting there. Still plenty of uncertainty, but spring is here. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.

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  19. Sammi G


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  20. Jackie


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  21. lenah

    i can relate a lot

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  22. Margie Smith

    A good read.

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