It’s time to have an uncomfortable conversation.
There is one painfully undeniable fact, which is there are no easy ways to have a difficult conversation. The truth is whether we want to talk about the struggles we face or not; the struggles are still real. There is no denying the problems we face. More importantly, there is no reason to deny them.
There is no denying the issues and there is no denying that sometimes, life moves too fast. Gravity can be too heavy. There is no reason to deny the fact that deep down, there is something that drowns us in what I can only describe as emotional quicksand. Know what I mean?
And you try to get out of this. You try but the harder you try, the deeper you sink. You want to get away so you try and you hide but no matter where you go, there you are . . . waiting.
There is something so real and so weighty about the need to just get out. You want to get away from yourself. There is this strange sense of isolation that builds up like an invisible wall, but yet, you wonder how it is that no one else can see this. Or do they see it? Does anyone understand? Can anybody hear me?
There are times when our behavior screams so loudly but yet, our screams seem to fall on deaf ears.
And you wonder . . .
You wonder who you are. You wonder about your worth and your value. You’re tired. You feel too much and think too often. There is too much weight on your chest to breathe easily. There are too many ideas that creep up, which is why the whispers we imagine are louder than any scream we could possibly hear.
The truth is you feel trapped. The truth is you begin to think as though there is no other possible way. There is no way out. And that’s just it. You want to find your way out of the atrocities. You want to get away from the thoughts that won’t quit because your thoughts lead you to an unfixable change to your emotional system.
This is more than just feeling sad. This is more than being stuck. There is a loss here. There is a feeling of misplacement. Maybe there is a sad case or desperateness. Maybe there is a terrible feeling of being trapped in the empty state of always being the same. Maybe there is an absence in which no words can describe. Meanwhile, there is this huge world out there. And here we are, you and me, on the outside looking in.
So let me ask you. Ever feel lonely in a crowd? I mean, sure you might smile. You might play along. And maybe you lie when someone asks, “Hey, are you okay?” But you only lie because, I mean, let’s face it . . . who the hell wants to listen to this stuff? Or worse, who wants to explain feelings that no one else can understand? Who wants to subject themselves to the feelings of absolute foolishness.
Suicide: the intentional taking of one’s own life; the personal destruction of one’s own interests and prospects; also, a permanent solution to an otherwise temporary problem.
It’s more than dying because the truth is, it’s not like you want to die so much. It’s more like you want everything to stop. You want the wheels to stop moving. You need a break but nothing quits (except for you). You try to make deals with yourself but even those seem to fall through..
It’s not that you want to die. You just want everything to stop but nothing does.
Nothing makes sense.
There was a summer afternoon that I found myself on the cold hard tiles of a bathroom floor. I was living in a facility up near the town of Ellenville, New York. To put this in the simplest possible way; I painted myself into a corner. My behaviors responded to my emotions and as a result, I found myself believing there was no other way out. I woke up on the floor after falling from a noose that was tied around my neck and a sprinkler pipe in the ceiling. The knot around the sprinkler pipe was held strong. Unfortunately, there was no rope and time was moving too quickly. I knew that if I thought too much or if I spoke to someone that I would avoid the moment of truth.
At the time, I was in a drug treatment facility. I had willingly forfeited the one thing that redeemed me from my past. I could never understand what it was or why I felt the way I did. I thought there was something about me that could never be explained. I thought there was something about me that was always destined to be wrong. There was something about me that did not fit. Or wait, no. There was something about me that could not be fixed. This was it. This was the end. I could not get the bottomless pit to stop dropping inside of me. I could not get away from myself nor could I be anyone else.
Therefore, I submitted to the idea that I was no different from a disease. Inaccurately, I saw myself as someone with some kind of mental or emotional retardation. No matter how hard I tried, there was something about me that was just off. There was something that kept me from connecting. There was something that degraded me, all the time. I had no real identity. I did not know who I was. I certainly wasn’t the person I was pretending to be. This had nothing to do with anyone else. No one could convince me of otherwise and when they tried to, this only made matters worse.
If someone were to tell me something kind or say something supportive, I would assume they were lying. I would assume they looked at me with pity. I assumed I was like the special needs kid on the little bus and people that looked to support me were only doing so because they felt badly.
To me, I was a fake. I was a fraud. I was an imposter and it would only be a matter of time that somehow, there would be this moment of exposure. And this was only part of it. I was misplaced in my own sad identity. Who was I? Who was I supposed to be? Who did people see me as and yet, was any of this even real? When someone told me that I did a good job, was this the same thing as telling a special needs person they did a good thing because they used their words instead of shit their pants? There is this constant state of rejection or rejective thinking. The only way I can express myself or explain my ideas is by the use of analogies.
There was an exercise in a class once. I was a kid. I was a slow reader. Or better yet, I was a poor reader. I never liked reading or taking tests. The class was given a worksheet about reading instructions. The first instruction was to read all steps before answering any questions of performing any tasks on the worksheet.
The steps were silly. The steps were questions and tasks which were based on our abilities to take direction and follow instructions. About midway through, one of the steps was to say out loud, “I am the best at taking direction. I am the king of following instructions.
Now, at this point, other students were ahead of me. I was behind. Most of the students were nearly finished. I heard the others read the statement about being the king of following instructions. By the time I recited “I am the best at taking direction and following instructions,” someone in the class looked at me, almost pitifully, and said, “Really? Are you really the king of following instructions?”
There were 20 steps to this exercise. Step 20 was “Do not answer or do any of the tasks from numbers 2 – 19.”
The first instruction was read every task before doing any of the steps. Like the others, I did not follow this instruction properly. Unlike the others, it took me longer to get to the punchline. And by that time it was too late. When I was laughed at or when I realized that everyone else knew and I was late to the get the joke, it seemed like everyone else was in on the joke and somehow I had become the punchline.
(By the way, this is one of the reasons why I absolutely hate bullies or bullying in the classroom.)
There was this feeling of being the odd man out. There was this idea that something about me was so terribly unfit and mismatched. There was pain. There was depression. And to me, there was no way out of this. I was tired of believing that there was something wrong with me. I was tired of my bouts with doubt and shame. I was tired of regret. I was tired of believing there was something so goddamn painfully different about me.
I took a pair of my jeans and tied one leg around the sprinkler and then I wove the other pant-leg around my neck, I didn’t have time to plan. I had to move quick, otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the balls to go through with it.
Had fate gone differently, I would have been nothing else but another statistic. And I guess maybe I still am a statistic. I’m just in another column now. I am the statistic of survivors that defied the odds. I am alive because there was something that inspired me to live. I had to find meaning to live. I had to find my passion and my purpose.
I don’t know why I survived.
I just know I did.
The truth is no one wants to hear about this. This is too raw. It’s too real. Or, at least it is intended to be. No one wants to feel uncomfortable so what do they say? They’ll tell you not to feel that way or don’t think like that. Meanwhile, they never understand how insulting it is to hear this. People say things like calm down, which only proves to make matters worse.
Suicide is about feeling free after being trapped. You’re either trapped in a life or a lie or you’re trapped in a dead-end feeling with a dead-end mindset.
And this is for you.
I talk about my life’s experiences in my book Operation Depression. I talk about the sad desperation and the feelings of being lost or lonely in a crowd.
By the way, I get it.
This is uncomfortable. I understand no one wants to read about this and no one wants to talk about this but that does not mean that depression will ever go away and that suicide will stop.
For the record (and I am not the only one that uses this saying), I would rather listen to what’s going on than attend your funeral because it was too uncomfortable to talk about our problems.
For the record, I need you to stop for a minute. I need you to put all of this down for a second. I need you to stop! I need you to reach out and together, I need us to come to a constructive conclusion.
I get it. Shame sucks. I get that regret sucks.
I get that it’s uncomfortable to be uncomfortable. And I get what it feels like to want to quit; to want to escape the absoluteness of it all and just feel free (even if it means to feel nothing at all, I get it).
I want us to avoid the sting of the blade or the feel of the pill bottle opening in our hands. I want to avoid the push of the plunger on top of a downward needle. I want to stop the steel from the barrel of a gun from touching the side of your head and I want us to step away from the ledge because there is no reason good enough to go through with this.
One of the steps in mental health first aid class is to talk about suicide. One of the tough questions is to ask someone, “Do you want to kill yourself?”
It is interesting to see the mood in the classroom when this happens.
Just because we don’t like the subject and just because the topic is uncomfortable, doesn’t mean this isn’t real.
22 Veterans commit suicide on a daily basis. One person commits suicide every 40 seconds around the world. I’m not saying you and I can change this all.
What I’m saying is if you or someone you know is going through a hard time, reach out. You are not alone. There is help. We can recover. And more importantly, we can overcome especially if we learn to work together.
So what do you think?
I’m up for the challenge.
(Written for R.S.)