Suicidal Thoughts: I was there, too
The highly publicized deaths by suicide of the legends Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week brought this leading cause of death into the forefront.
It also made me decide to share a bit of my own story.
The National Institute for Mental Health reports that, in 2016, there were 1 million adults in the United States who made plans for death and attempted suicide.
1 million people believed that their death was more valuable than life.
Think about that for a second.
1 million people attempted and/or succeeded in taking their own life.
In one country.
In one year.
And these are only the people we know about; the people who acted upon it.
While Kate and Anthony were the household names, on those same days last week, there were others—lesser known Anthonys and Kates, whose lives ended in the same manner.
Maybe we even knew one of them.
Maybe we lost.
Most of us have known someone who attempted or committed suicide.
Those people were not a statistic in a CDC report; they were neighbors, friends, lovers, family.
Not a statistic.
Rather, a human being who is hurting.
A fellow human being with a heart that beats, but doesn’t see how valuable, oh, how very valuable they are to this broken world.
Several years ago, I was called in the middle of the night because a friend had attempted suicide.
He attempted it again.
In college, several of my classmates died by suicide.
I am sure you, too, have a story to tell.
Suicide is the second cause of death among Millennials.
Research shows that suicide happens when people feel worthless, emotionally isolated, and hopeless about the future. It’s not an impulsive decision either.
Maybe you also have a story of suicidal thoughts of your own?
It was June of 2010.
I was sitting on the floor of my small apartment in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
A bottle of Jack Daniel’s in my hand.
A mirror in front of me.
The inner-dialogue went something like this:
“I hate you.”
“No really. Let’s not pretend. I am a sick loser. Just look at me! I am ugly. I am fat. I am weird. I am a shameful embarrassment. How could anyone love this?”
” Obviously, I am not worth it.”
“Why continue? What’s the point?”
“Death seems better; at least they’ll know what they lost.”
“Then again, no one really cares.”
“It’ll be easier.”
“No more pain for me. Or anyone else.”
“I am, obviously, a failure.”
“Oh, that ‘great Adi' with all his successes… they’re not real. They’re nothing. I am nothing.”
My four-year relationship had ended. Work was stressful. I was fat, lethargic, broke, and miserable.
I felt tired.
I felt I had no one to call.
I felt ashamed to ask for help.
Externally, no one would have guessed what was going on inside of me.
I felt alone in the entire world.
The one person i felt had loved me had died long before.
Why not join her? How would I do it?
Do I care that my parents would be sad?
Are they sad that I am hurting?
The narrative continued. Many of us have had similar narratives. Most of us will pretend these thoughts weren’t real.
Maybe we shouldn’t pretend. Maybe we should tell the story and celebrate that, somehow, we recognized how incredibly valuable we are and decided to keep on going; to keep swimming.
We decided to rise again. To survive.
“Why would I be any less worthy than any other human being?” was the question that gave me the strength to go on.
I love the same way, I laugh, I experience joy and sadness, and I cry. I have dreams and hopes and disappointments and failures just like the next person.
What if, instead of ending it all, I just had to change the way I lived?
Truth be told, I also felt that the darkness couldn’t last. And I was curious to see what happens with my life.
Depression is like a cloud. It arrives. It stays, sometimes longer and other times shorter. But it’s there. Sometimes it releases a pour, and other times, it entirely envelops our experience of life in a thick fog.
But, then it passes.
What stays is our fundamental goodness.
And an opportunity to go forward, into another day.
After the darkest night, the dawn is exceptionally beautiful.
It really is.
We just have to wait it out.
The likes of J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, and countless others did so when they contemplated or attempted to end their life.
But then, they rose again—brighter and stronger than ever.
We each have it within ourselves to wait it out, reach for help, recognize our worth, learn to love ourselves, improve our lives, and live well.
After a storm; the sun is brighter. And after tears, we sing more beautifully.
So, in light of these recent suicides, statistics, and the fact that there are many people out there hurting in this very moment, what can each of us do to help soothe the pain, and empower others to believe that their life is, indeed, worthy?
Here are seven suggestions:
(1) Talk about it. Suicide isn’t a solution. There are many other ways to resolve challenges in life, brain fog, and emotional stuck-ness. But the only way a person can know this is if we get raw and vulnerable, tell our own stories, including those of struggle, and help show the way forward to those who don’t see it.
(2) Worth. Recognize your own worth and that of others. Tell them how worthy, important, and valuable they are in your life. Reaffirm it through action, not only words, and encourage others to seek solutions and help from various professionals.
(3) Pay attention. A lot of people are too proud to tell you how they really feel. That’s the thing with depression; talking soothes it, but we don’t feel worthy of talking. So we keep quiet as the gloominess and pain grow. Pay attention; when you ask how someone feels, listen to a response (or don’t ask at all), and encourage people to share.
(4) Do not condemn. What type of a person would condemn another person because their pain, sense of isolation, and feelings of unworthiness pushed them to make that ultimate move. Shouldn’t we condemn ourselves and our society for not being there for those hurting, and do something about it?
(5) Not impulsive. Suicide isn’t something people do as an impulse. What this means is that we have a lot of opportunities to brighten people’s days. A friend of mine just posted a quote about someone whose hope in humanity—and a desire to live another day—returned during a train ride, when a fellow passenger offered a box of tissues. It wasn’t about the tissues; it was about the fact that someone had paid attention and showed that they cared. People with suicidal thoughts need to know someone out there cares.
(6) Help. Suicide and suicidal thoughts and attempts aren’t caused by a single thing; it’s a myriad of experiences and feelings. 40% of Americans are stressed out with their jobs; 35% with their finances, making it about 75% of people unsatisfied with their lives! What can you do to help improve the lives of people around you?
(7) Be honest. Don’t offer to help if you can’t, because the source of hopelessness to a suicidal person stems from disappointments and betrayals. However, if you can be supportive, go all the way. And this isn’t only about people with suicidal thoughts; it’s about all of us. Honest, genuine relationships help us live healthy and happy lives. This is true of you, too.
It’s sad to lose a loved one, whether they be famous or not. It’s also sad when we learn that they had been suffering for so long, but never told us and never had the adequate support. Individually, we must forgive ourselves when we don’t see the signs; we are not perfect. However, what we must do is encourage a discourse on this topic, open and sincere, raw sharing of vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities make us human; our courage to share liberates others.
Do a good deed today and try to offer a glimmer of hope, of light, of liberation to someone. Doesn’t mean you will succeed, but it means you will have tried and not be ignorant to this epidemic of unhappiness that’s consuming our society.
It was a very difficult thing to share my own experience with suicidal thoughts—I am a coach and motivator, I should be perfect, right?
I am also human, just like you.
Love and light,