“The good, the bad and the ugly: The truths about suicide from the man inside.”
For this piece I am stepping out from behind the clown mask. I am hoping to do more here than share a laugh or deliver an opinion piece. I am putting humor aside to talk about something very important; about something that is affecting many people in this world of ours and has been for many ticks of the clock. The young and old, the rich and poor, the black and white, none of it matters because this monster doesn’t discriminate, anyone can be a victim.
I want to talk about suicide. I want to share my personal battle with it and how at one time I thought it was the only way out. I thought it was the only way to silence the demons that were relentlessly attacking and poisoning my soul with never-ending self-doubt and vicious lies about my reality, every day trying to destroy the foundation that was my life.
I hope to show others in a similar situation that when they feel they are at their lowest and at their breaking point, they are not alone and that there is help available. There are ways to relieve the weight that burdens your shoulders, but it’s not in a drug or drink, nor is it with you lying on your back six feet under with a face full of dirt.
Suicide stalks its prey like a highly skilled assassin, ever so silently and with deadly precision, and if you're not cautious, you or a loved one could be its next target.
“Just because someone is smiling on the outside, doesn’t mean they aren't hurting on the inside.”
Part 1: Understanding Better and Avoiding Misconceptions
“Completing the puzzle”
There are many “urban legends”, many stigmas and many untruths about suicide and mental health in general. Here are a few, yet inaccurate, outlooks that most people have when this topic comes up.
People think you are crazy, deranged and even dangerous. People who are suicidal are not crazy! You will not find them talking to themselves, eating their checkers or in a padded room wearing a straitjacket, it is actually quite the opposite. They are smart, funny and dedicated. They are creative, successful and honest. I know this is sounding like a personal ad, but it’s the truth. They are just like everyone else, only difference is that they are fighting a war inside themselves and they are desperate for a truce.
This war can be started many ways, there is no “one size fits all” here. Don’t perform an autopsy on someone’s life to figure out what caused the friction; just understand that something is array and making a mess of their life. Also, when the culprit of the chaos is reveled, whether it is in confidence or stumbled upon, don’t belittle, judge and/or pile on, regardless of your thoughts on the issue. What may not seem like a big deal to you could crush someone else, even pushing them further down death row.
You are just looking for attention. You’re throwing a pity party and you’re the guest of honor. You know that you’re not to be negative, your glass is always supposed to be "half full" because that’s the politically correct way to think. You’re not to fall down and stay down, you’re to pick yourself up and have a feel-good “Rocky” moment where you kick ass and take names. Anything else makes you inferior to the masses, or at least that’s how you’re told to see it. Sometimes a motivational poster (hang in there kitty), a clever metaphor or even powerful speech just aren’t enough to help one make it through the dark forest they are trying to escape, the big bad wolf is just too powerful of an adversary.
Glutton for Punishment…
You’re doing it to yourself, the problem isn’t all that serious and you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. We all know the expression, "don't judge a book by its cover". The reason we shouldn’t is that until we read the pages of that said book we don't really know what it’s about. Those pages may comprise unspeakable horrors, soul crushing pain and severe hardships. The cover may be all rainbows and unicorns and the pages dark and depressing, and you'll never know unless you move past what's on the surface. Don’t discount someone due to superficial reasons; if you do, it could lead to dire consequences.
That’s just Life…
We all face anxiety/depression regularly, you need to toughen up and learn to deal with it. There are some who don’t believe depression is real, that it’s something made up like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny and they have no problem voicing their misinformed opinion regardless of who is in earshot. Trust me it’s real and very dangerous, and not something to be taken lightly. Think before you speak because the words that come out of your mouth may be why someone can’t/won’t open up to you and potentially the reason they feel they have no hope. Sticks and stones will break bones, but no matter what they say, words can, and will hurt you too. Poorly chosen words can fall like salt into an exposed wound to someone who is hurting internally, and you will do yourself a great service to remember that.
“Don’t assume that others know how you feel about them, make it known.”
The adage, "time heals all wounds" may be true for some, but it is not true for everyone. We’re not all the same and you’d be wise to remember that. To quote the Diff'rent Strokes theme song, "Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum, what might be right for you, may not be right for some". More accurate words have never been spoken, and if someone tells you otherwise, let them have a, "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis”?
No one may tell you how long you should, or shouldn't grieve, regardless of the circumstances. Some personalities stew over their plights; it’s just how they were made. They let them slowly cook like a meal in a crock-pot and by doing this; their internal temperature rises and things eventually boil over leaving nothing more than a hot mess. Without help and/or a healthy way to release this pressure these individuals could find themselves in dire straits. The aforementioned “time” that is supposed to heal all wounds becomes a catalyst for disaster and ends up doing more harm than good. Moral of the story, don’t assume that the way you handle stress is the only and proper way of doing so, because those assumptions could be very costly to you in the end.
Who has it Worst…
“There’s always someone who has it worse” is a statement I have heard thrown around many times as an attempt to “help” someone realize that their burden isn’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things. Now this may well be the case and to some this may even be helpful advice, but to those with depression this knowledge does little to ease the anguish that haunts their spirit, it diminishes their pain and adds more fuel to the already raging fires. Be mindful with what you say and to whom you say it to because your attempt to help may cause your outstretched hand becoming a clinched fist.
For those of you who think suicide is a sign of weakness, something that only a coward would do and/or something that only affects the most desolate of people, you've got a lot to learn. I am thankful that you've never had to endure the deadly sting that is depression and hopefully you never will. Don’t be foolish, because trust me this can happen to anyone, no matter who you are and/or where you are at in your life.
Some also say suicide is selfish, which may well be the case to those who’ve lost, but when someone feels lonely and abandoned who exactly are they being selfish to; at least that’s how they see it. Consider this, in their mind your loss is their gain, makes sense? This is not about selfishness, it’s about desperation.
The list goes on. There are many of these beliefs floating around in our society, whether by fear or just pure ignorance, it doesn’t matter because if we allow these fallacies to remain unchecked and unchallenged we will find ourselves at more funerals than we are at celebrations.
“For those who are depressed a smile is a scar, an unfortunate blemish on their body for the world to see but something they are ashamed of, it makes for pretty wrapping on the present hoping to hide the contents.”
Part 2: Suicidal
“When the wrong feels right”
"God, should I come home now?” is a question I have asked myself many times before, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
We’ve all had times where we felt as if the world was against us. As if everyone was screaming our name, and not like an adoring fan would scream the name of their favorite rockstar, but rather like the way a bloodthirsty mob would scream for your head as you were about to be hung. All you want to do is run and hide, but no matter where you go the voices just won’t stop. A silence so loud that it is deafening, speaks to you in a whispers and keeps you questioning your own existence.
On the outside it is bright and sunny. No one could tell from looking at you that something was wrong. However, on the inside it is dark and gloomy, your mental state is not well and your life is on the edge of devastation. You don’t know what to do. You’re like that whimsical cookie jar that sits on the counter, on the surface you seem all together, complete and even at times upbeat. Although the truth of it is that on the inside you are emotionally disheveled, scattered and spiritually broken into little pieces.
You’re like a plane flying into a storm but reporting back to the tower that all is well, nothing but blue skies and clear sailing, when the truth of it is, that the whole flight has been nothing but turbulence. You want so badly to shout out to the world how tortured you are, but at the same time you don’t want to be perceived as weak and/or any less of a person by doing so, and as a result you hold it all in. Because of this decision the pain stews inside of you, making a mess of things both emotionally and mentally, leaving you a total wreck, spiritually shattered and intoxicated by misery and despair.
“Walking a fine line…the razor’s edge”
You're not Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, or Meryl Streep but "death becomes you". Your reason for being is only to find a way to end it all; sadly your life is all about death. You dream of dying like most people dream of living. You want to be alone but you don't want to be lonely. While most people are anticipating opening night, you're planning your curtain call. The monster you once feared as a child who hid in the darkness, now resides in your head and doesn’t disappear when the lights are turned on. While most are aggressively waiving their battle flag, you’re flying the white flag. Sadness surrounds you like a cocoon, and unfortunately doesn’t open to reveal a beautiful butterfly but rather a beaten, withered and tattered soul.
How can you stop the sadness? How can you find peace? Is there a way out or are you destined to go through life depressed and constantly fighting for the happiness and comfort that seems to come so easily to those around you? You contemplate suicide. You start thinking that with your dying breath the pain will cease and you will be comfortably at rest and in your own skin.
Your absence wouldn’t matter to anyone because they didn’t care when you were alive so why in death would things be any different? What would be the right time? How would you do it? Should you leave a note? These are just some things that cross your mind as you think about moving forward with your ill-fated plan, as you consider the best way to execute your personal mission for mental stability and closure on the agony that is your being.
You can’t believe your loved ones don’t notice that something isn’t right with you. They aren’t aware that your life is in shambles and that you do not understand how to fix it. This makes you feel damaged, lonely and desperate for a way out.
Yet you put on an Oscar worthy performance to make sure people don’t find out what’s going on. Doing all you can to put your best foot forward to keep your deadly secret hidden within the confines of your soul. You are torn, you feel as if all the clues are there to help them solve the unfortunate case that is your life, but in all reality you have orchestrated a crime so masterfully that even CSI couldn’t solve it. This is absolutely a no-win situation and cannot end well for anyone involved.
Being suicidal isn't about wanting to die, it's about being afraid to live.
“Admitting that you need help isn’t a sign of weakness, actually it shows tremendous strength, especially when holding it in could mean death.”
Part 3: Proceed with Caution: See the Forest through the Trees
“Living with untreated depression is like taking permanent residence on death row”
Life is hard and unforgiving and if you let your guard down for too long it will swallow you up and drag you down to the depths of hell. I know it’s not all doom and gloom, but the truth of the matter is this, life is not all that kind and will tear you apart if you don’t prepare accordingly.
Your mind is extremely powerful, and at the same time very dangerous, especially if you have not trained it correctly. Reinforce the barriers that protect your weak spots, train your mind to follow your lead, instead of it being the other way around. We must be strong and steadfast in the face of depression, so when these situations arise we can conquer them and do so in a healthy and productive manner. If you’re not careful, your mind will bully you and beat you down, leaving you for dead…literally. You could be your own best friend or your own worst enemy, completely depending on your overall mental health.
When battling depression you become a hostage to your own psyche, which if not treated properly acts as the judge, the jury and the executioner of your being. It is a menacing adversary who will do any and everything within its power to have you succumb to its will. This is not a war you want to fight alone because you won’t stand a chance, call in for backup!
From the birth certificate to the obituaries, life can be a cruel mistress. Whether it is that tasty treat you can’t have until you finish your icky dinner, or something more adult oriented like the loss of a job and/or bills piling up faster than you can knock them down. I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before; life is not fair and doesn’t play nice. The game is difficult, but totally worth playing, so put your game face on and play to win!
“Remember, sometimes a crowd is the loneliest place of all.”
You may not be the one who is battling with depression and/or with the thoughts of suicide, but someone you know may just be, so keep a watchful eye out for the warning signs and don’t be afraid to act if necessary. As I said prior, due to an unfortunate stigma in this country when it comes to mental health most people are ashamed to speak up out of fear of ridicule and/or being considered weak. Bottom line, they will not come to you, you have to go to them.
Sometimes your perception of things is askew, things aren't always how they appear. With that said, do your loved ones a favor and pay attention, take nothing for granted because by the time you realize there’s a problem it could already be too late.
We classify many conditions and addictions as diseases in this country, which I can only assume is to make people feel better about overindulging, physically, mentally and of course financially. However, for depression we dare not speak of it in public out of fear of being labeled crazy, insane or mentally challenged in one way or another, hence the reason we have such a problem with suicide in our country. This fact completely amazes and leaves me scratching my head in utter confusion. This has to change if we truly ever hope to rectify the issue at hand.
We ask each other, “How are you” but we don’t want to know, we only do so to be perceived as caring individuals, of course not all but most for sure. God forbid they actually tell us their troubles because then they are considered complainers and in our busy lives and hectic schedules we don’t have time for that.
We are programmed to act concerned and compassionate to our fellow humans because it’s the right thing to do, but the truth of it is that we don’t want to be bothered. With the social stigma that already comes attached to depression, this way of being only makes it more complicated and risky for someone to feel comfortable enough to open up and honestly share what hinders them with us. We need to be there for each other and stop trying to hide from each other!
“Depression is the fire and playing with it will get you burnt.”
Part 4: Coping
“The living dead”
This section is not about mindless zombies who crave brains like some of us crave chocolate, but instead the individual left behind after the person he/she cares about commits suicide. Their life becomes an out of control emotional rollercoaster filled with many “what ifs” and “whys”. Nothing makes sense anymore and they are as lost as a kid on the back of the milk carton.
There are cases where people realize there is something wrong, the warning signs have been heeded and the necessary actions taken. They try to help but their efforts are all in vain, their reached out hand is met with a stiff barrier reluctant to move. Their words fall on deaf ears; to the damaged psyche you come off sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher. This is not because these people don’t want help, but rather because they don’t feel they are worthy of it, in their minds they are already at the end of their rope. No matter what how hard you tried, nothing got through to them and ultimately still extinguished their flame.
Then sometimes even with the subtle clues and whispered cries for help a person can be blind to the issues at hand and not pay them much mind, they write it off as a bad day or trouble getting over a pothole in the rearview on the road of life. Does this mean they don’t care, of course not, they can’t see the pain and suffering through the overly happy façade of their loved one. Now although this is not done intentionally and/or with hate in their hearts, this is a costly mistake that could come back to haunt them when all is said and done.
In either scenario is this torment deserving and/or warranted, especially in the shadow of a recent loss? It is not, but regrettably it comes with the territory and is an unrelenting burden that the survivor(s) must bear until they learn to cope with the tragedy in a healthy manner.
If you find yourself in this situation, the one left behind, try not to get angry at the individual who died by suicide because they only did what they thought was right, at least in their eyes it was. Try to understand that it wasn’t you they were trying to get away from; unfortunately in this situation you were just the innocent bystander. They loved you, but the pain was just too much for them to bear. You have now become the victim, the torch has been passed, and if you need help to cope during these trying times, then make sure you get it. This is one situation where a “BOGO” would not be a good thing, not at all.
Do your best to honor their memory, and if possible, to become a champion for their cause. Show the world that their death wasn’t meaningless, trivial or selfish, but rather a travesty and a great loss.
“They have taken their life and left you feeling dead inside.”
Part 5: Hope
“The light at the end of the dark road”
Unfortunately there are people who follow thru and succeed in ending their lives, and then there are others, who by the grace of God make it through these dark times and move forward in a positive direction. Gratefully I am the latter.
I was close to calling an end to my time here on this planet a few times, each time believing it was the only way to correct things and to truly put my mind at ease. I felt like it was the only way to get past the torment and heartache. Thankfully though, I had a great support system and could open up to people to let them know how I felt, which wasn’t easy by any means but necessary for healing.
This may be hard to believe, and even somewhat cliché to say, but there is a way to overcome the barrage of devastating punches life has bestowed upon you without having to throw in the towel. Keep your chin up and do your best to not give up on yourself or your loved ones. We can’t just assume that people know how we feel, especially when we go out of our way to disguise our true feelings (as stated above). We must be able to trust our loved ones with our innermost workings and allow them to help when they can. We can’t be afraid to ask and/or seek help when needed, professional help if applicable.
Believe it or not, it’s perfectly acceptable to admit defeat and to ask for help when you need it. Doing so doesn’t make you any less of a person and/or weak, if anything it takes more courage and strength, so that is something you should take pride in.
I hope and pray the best for everyone, and if you ever need to talk, let me know. I may not be able to solve every problem, but at least I could be an ear willing to listen and/or a shoulder to lean on if need be.
I’m speaking from experience my friends, I know it’s difficult, but you’re worth fighting for and doing whatever is necessary to live a happy and healthy life. When it comes to suicide the quote, “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger” has never been more fitting. Don’t be a statistic, be a survivor!
Truly words to “live” by!
“No matter what side of the coin you're on, there are no winners when it comes to suicide.”
The End (but hopefully not for you)
During this piece I may have said the same thing many times, only in different ways. This was not to be annoying like a steady drip from the faucet falling on metal pans, but more so to drive the point home how import of an issue this is. We are doing a disservice to ourselves as a whole when we disregard it, write it off as nothing all that important and pretend it’s not reality.
Consider this, most stories of people who died by suicide start with shock and disbelief that their loved one could/would do such a thing. There’s not normally a clear cut sign of someone losing control like an airplane going in for a crash landing. There may have been hints along the way, but nothing that would lead you to believe they were considering putting the final nail in their coffin. You won't have many people shouting "I want to die"; most will say they want to live. Don’t be afraid to love now, be afraid to cry later. Remember me now, because once you have to remember me "when", it will be too late then.
When it comes to mental health, screw society and its standards! We must be able to talk about it freely and without the fear of condemnation to be able to help those in need. We are in a very difficult situation when it comes to mental health, and we need to work together to change it for the better or we’ll all be attending more unnecessary funerals. Spread the word! #ChangeYourMindChangeTheirLife
Remember, don't be afraid to peek behind the curtain that is your loved one, look how well it worked out for Dorothy and her merry band of misfits. Read the writing on the wall before you are reading it in a suicide note!
“Bring flowers to someone to show them how special they are to you, not to decorate their grave after they've passed on.”
This piece is dedicated to the memory of all those who have lost the fight with depression. To those who were overcome by the dreaded beast. To those who felt the only way out was to end it all. May your souls now rest in peace and your hearts hurt no longer.
This piece is also dedicated to those who have loved and lost. To those who have found out that something was wrong way too late. To those who are missing pieces of themselves like an incomplete puzzle. I pray that with time the cross you bear becomes easier to manage, and that the crack in your wall not end with your foundation shattering.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number: 1-800-273-8255
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - Official Site
Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone who is Suicidal
“Battlefieldof the Mind”…a great book with lots of helpful practices and techniques to strengthen your mind, spiritual or not, this is a good read.