The post below may be triggering for some. I blatantly discuss suicide and my own brushes with it as well as the recent news of the loss of Robin Williams. If you are fragile, you’ll want to skip this post. If you need to find some happy, go watch this video. It’s all of the awesome and then some.
The sun floated above the house in a swath of the kind of blue sky I long to see when I wake in the morning. The wind played with the trees, swishing the leaves and branches to and fro as birds and butterflies danced along with the melody Mother Nature played for them.
I stood in my bedroom, staring out at the phenomenal glory just beyond my physical reach and well beyond my comprehension. I stepped closer to the open window, staring down at the retaining wall at the edge of the house, calculating the angle necessary to hit it with my head. As my fingers brushed against the roughness of the screen, I drew back suddenly, as if I had been shocked into reality. I scurried downstairs, to a room well away from the retaining wall, and texted with a friend until the thoughts faded away.
I was not interested in beauty that day. I was interested, suddenly, as I stood in my bedroom all alone, in leaving this world.
My divorce was final. I was no longer with my children. I could not find a job. Nothing seemed to be going my way. There was no sense in continuing with things. It was not the first time I felt like ending things and it turned out to not be the last. I dance with these thoughts from time to time but thankfully, so far, I have managed to fight them off. Believe me, the battle to fight them off is FAR HARDER than anyone who has never experienced them could possibly imagine. Sometimes, it is a daily battle. Some days, it is an hourly battle. Then finally, sleep, only to wake up and battle all over again. But I fight because my will to live is powerful and I am not done with my work here yet. I fight because my kids deserve a mother they can reach out and touch or talk to on the phone. I fight because I matter, I love, and I am loved.
There has been a lot of discussion this past week about suicide. The causes, the loss, how to cope, how to survive, and most of all, the matter of making the choice to go through with it.
Is suicide a choice?
It is an easy choice?
If you wade through research, the average amount of time it takes from initiation of “I’m really going to do this” to completion is 10 minutes. I wish I had the link to this research but unfortunately, I don’t. (But there is this article you can read which references it.)
10 minutes to save someone’s life.
10 minutes to convince them they matter. That they are bigger than whatever demon is swelling inside of them and convincing them they are better off on the other side.
In the grand scheme of life, 10 minutes is but a millisecond, but it is a millisecond with a number of chaotic screaming thoughts flooding your brain in an attempt to convince you to stop the life you know because it has toppled over and there is no other way to fix things.
In those 10 minutes:
It is not a matter of joy.
It is not a matter of prayer or faith.
It is not a matter of therapy.
It is not a matter of medication.
It is not a matter of love.
It is not a matter of religion, resources, and whatever the hell else you want to throw out there as a simple answer to the complexity that is suicide which is, frankly, a sandbox full of all the demons you have ever carried at any point in your life fighting each other for ownership of your soul.
In the throes of the “choice of suicide”, it is all about YOU and that huge ass demon screaming at you that yes, you are better off on the other side as it hacks away at any sense of self-respect, faith, or common sense you previously possessed. The bastard wears you down until finally, there is only one way out.
We all know the story of David and Goliath. It’s like that only sometimes, David doesn’t win.
It’s like Frodo vs. Sauron but all on his own.
It’s like Picard vs. the Borg all by himself. (And we saw how that ended – Locutus!)
I wrote an off-the-cuff status update on Facebook about the passing of Robin Williams. At last check, it had been shared over 200 times. Here’s what I said:
“I want to take a minute (or more) of your time to say something important.
Suicide is scary. It frightens us, particularly those of us who are vulnerable and know these thoughts intimately. These thoughts dance with us and sometimes have done so on a daily basis.
For people who know suicide intimately and have contemplated it, news like the passing of Robin Williams can be very triggering. It causes us to wonder how on earth we will survive if he didn’t make it. He had money. Access to care. He had just been in rehab. Dear Lord. If he couldn’t get better, what hope do “we” have?
Here’s the thing. Choose life. Choose to reach out. Choose light. Choose to fight. Every time you reach out for help, you are choosing to survive. It’s about creating opportunities for hope instead of succumbing to the darkness.
Unfortunately, we don’t know why he chose to leave us, but he did. And we’re left wondering what went wrong.
So if you want to honor his life, honor his time here, take from his death what you can and make it okay to discuss suicidal feelings. Because until mental health is a normal part of every day discussions, we will continue to be shocked when something like this happens, claiming we “had no idea.”
There is hope. There is help. And if you are struggling, there are hotlines you can call. Things you can do. Start by reaching out to a friend, then a professional, and stay the course, even when the light fades. It will return.”
I have never had anything shared that much on Facebook before. The comments on the shares are tremendous – people are talking about mental health. But most of all, they are scared.
Because if Robin Williams, a man who had access to it all, committed suicide, then what hope do *we* have in surviving when we don’t have the access to care he did?
I questioned whether or not I should write about this here. I am not writing for page views. I am not writing to take advantage of a horrible situation. I am writing because until we make mental health check ins with each other part of normal, everyday conversation, things like this will ALWAYS shock us. Until we make mental health as normal as physical health, it will always be stigmatized, it will always be taboo, and it will always scare the shit out of us.
My heart has been heavy this week, along with millions of others. Not for the loss of Robin, but for HOW we lost him. I know that pain. I know what those moments of absolute desperation feel like as they strike terror into your very soul. Watching your body and hands go through the motions as your brain screams NO and questions your sanity but you are helpless to stop yourself. I’ve blogged about it before – here, here, and here. The second and third posts references the situation I used to open this post. There have been other times too, times in the car where I wondered what would happen if I just let go of the wheel and let myself drift into oncoming traffic – or into a tree. It’s been awhile since I have fought with these thoughts but the shadows of them are always there, lurking, waiting to spring forth and attack when the darkness threatens to swallow me.
That weight, the weight of sheer terror, isolation, and helplessness, is what spurs me to do what I do – to reach out to mothers struggling with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. No mother, hell, no human, should ever surf the tides of mental health alone.
So how do we change things? How do we make suicide less of a threat to ourselves and to those we love?
I wish I had the answer to that question. I have some answers, but not THE answer. No one does. All we have are suggestions.
We talk about our struggles, we don’t cover it up in polite speech or hide it in dark rooms and beneath whispers or under judgmental tones. We stop sensationalizing the horrors and instead write mindfully about the issue at hand. Let’s start there.
Suicide is not something we should dismiss. It is not something we cover up, and it is not solved by choosing joy, reaching out, or praying harder. It goes far deeper than any of that for it is insidious, tenuous, and a gut-sucking leech upon the soul of many of us who have walked this earth. Our lives, all of them, sooner or later, will be touched by suicide – someone we know, a friend’s friend, or our own. Is that acceptable? Hell no. Can we change it? Hell yes.
Start here, with how to talk to a friend or a loved one about suicide. Carry resources and hotline numbers in your wallet or program them into your phone. Know the signs. Run toward the chaos and the danger instead of huddling away from it. Bring suicide into the light. Make it okay to not be okay. Not cool, but okay. Let them know you hear their pain, you acknowledge their hurt, and do what you can to encourage them to seek help. Don’t judge them. Don’t act shocked. Be compassionate. Be patient. Be understanding. Don’t justify their desire to end it but instead, talk to them about their reasons to live. Be their speck of light, as my good friend and amazing blogger John states in his own post about depression and cancer. Be the warm blanket they need to survive. Be the hope for them until they can be their own hope.
Will we still lose people?
But those we save through our own daring to speak up may just be the ones to ultimately change the world. And in the process, we are already changing the world because we’re breaking the stigma of silence around suicide.
And that, my friends, makes the hell worth fighting through.