I wish come up with that quote: “Feelings are not facts.” The person who came up with that quote was Dr. Abraham A. Low, the founder of what used to be called Recovery International but is now called the Abraham Low Self-Help Systems. He was an Austrian psychiatrist who moved to Chicago and started a program for what was then called “nervous patients” but what we would now call those with a mental illness or anxiety condition.
When you’re feeling suicidal, you feel:
- That you cannot be helped
- That you are a hopeless case
- That you would be better off dead
But these feelings, no matter how strong, are not facts. Our feelings and memories can fool us. If you have a mental illness like major depression or are suffering from complicated grief, your memories will go through a filter. You feel like a failure, so you remember only your mistakes and screw-ups and forget your triumphs and accomplishments. This makes you feel MORE like a failure and the cycle continues.
One such “nervous patient” was an Englishman named Stephen Fry. After a series of successes in comedy and television, he suddenly walked out of a play he was starring in and tried to commit suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning. He failed and survived. He managed to get himself to a doctor and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder or manic depression. Decades after his suicide attempt, he has directed a movie, made several successful documentaries, still acts (including voice acting) and has been declared a “national treasure” by Prince Charles.
Another example is a far less famous person. When I was homeless, I met a lot of people with mental illness. One lady was a paranoid schizophrenic. All sorts of government agencies were following her, she claimed. I have to admit, I thought she was a hopeless case. But, after a couple of years on a combination of medication and therapy, she calmed down, managed to make her own clothes, and could hold a delightful conversation.
These are not exceptions. They are normal for what happens when suicidal people go get help. They learned that feelings are not facts.