Have I got your attention now?
In several countries September is Suicide prevention month. Yes, an entire month dedicated to preventing deaths from something that is entirely preventable. Here in Canada, there’s Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16 2017) with World Suicide Prevention Day landing on Sept 10, 2017.
It’s an ugly word. Polarizing. Shocking. Wrapped in shame and stigma and guilt. Below is an excerpt from my journal dated April 17, 2016.
I still battle with my own dark thoughts. Sometimes it’s hours at a time, for days on end. Sometimes, somehow, I can escape from that place and not have those thoughts for days, sometimes even a few weeks at a time before the darkness crashes in again.
And trust me. It’s a dark place indeed when you love your wife, your family, your friends so much that all you desire is to stop the burden you place on them. In addition to all of life’s stresses, somehow….everything gets magnified. Enlarged. Worries, stresses, burdens are bigger. Heavier. Darker. Overwhelmingly so. And so in that stress, you lash out at others and then retreat in a stunned, shameful silence. Outbursts of frustration and stress followed by a retreat. Any backlash just adds to the pile – real or imagined – and the cycle continues. Over and over and over… until something in your core just snaps. You begin to believe the lie that death is the only way out. That your friends and family are hurt by your words and actions, and if you were dead you’d no longer be hurting them. That in addition to all the crap you face, at least you wouldn’t have to hurt them anymore. So you’re showing them love the best way you know how, in a last desperate act. The final, ultimate retreat….
And I don’t know the answers. Sometimes I want to run away, from everyone I’ve ever known, including myself. Sometimes I’m so desperate for contact, for company, for someone to call or text with a simple, “Hey man, how’s it going?” Sometimes I’m so afraid to “impose” on someone so I don’t call. I don’t text. I just retreat and maintain my silence.
On one day the thing that calms me down and brings comfort will be the thing that irritates me to no end the next day. One day I feel like I can tear the world apart in a blind rage if someone so much as breathes around me, and the next I feel like I can handle anything that comes my way — calmly and rationally. One day I can focus my thoughts and remember to breathe deep, and handle life pretty damn well. The next day I’d probably forget to get dressed if I hadn’t forced myself to practice a morning routine.
If it seems I’m distant, I am. Sometimes I’m unable to deal with life at all after work. Sometimes I need to get out and talk – but I’m too afraid to ask for your time. I understand you have a life, a job, a family, commitments. And I feel that those are more important. I feel like I talk about this garbage over and over and over and it gets boring to you. That it’s exhausting for you to see and hear me walk this path over and over and over. I feel like it’s a burden to you – and I’m enough of a burden to enough people as it is. So I isolate. I hide. I wear a mask.
The mask. The bane of my existence and my savior. The air in my lungs and yet the poison in my veins. Somehow I can exist behind my mask. I can face the world behind a pasted smile. Yet I know it’s slowly dragging me down and killing me the more I hide behind it. Removing it is painful. It’s embarrassing. It’s terrifying in a way that I can’t describe – yet liberating. It’s a glimmer of light in very dark room – a hope of escape. But then I retreat again. Surely I’m not worthy of saving, that it’s not worth the effort to push clear of the cobwebs and inky blackness and quicksand…. That it’s easier to die here slowly than it is to fight clear of this mess.
And believe me it’s a fight that is exhausting on many levels. Mentally, for sure – and if your mind is tired, it will eventually affect your body. Imagine your calf muscles burning with fire, your fingertips and toes numb, goosebumps that actually hurt your skin. A hand wrapped around your skull, trying to squash it into something the size of a pea. Vomiting. Nausea. Diarrhea. Overactive bladder. Always feeling like you’re one step from total collapse…mentally, physically, sometimes both at the same time.
Is it any wonder why suicide seems like such a welcome escape? If you lived this way for weeks, or even months – would you survive? Would you do anything to make it stop? I think anyone would want to make it stop somehow. What about after a year? Years? A decade? 2 decades?
Please don’t take this as a “poor me” or seeking attention. I’d trying to purge my thoughts. To write honestly. To get someone to understand what it’s life to face life when there’s a disease that wants to kill you – or more accurately, a disease that wants you to kill yourself. And believe me, it looks and feels different for everyone who has it. There are common factors, sure. But experiencing it daily is a different path for everyone. The dark, misty, gloomy forest of Depression holds many paths, each twisting, turning, maybe even criss-crossing…but none are the same, and each one shows you something different.
This is what it looks like from the inside looking out. Desperate to end the pain, to end the suffering, both for myself and the ones I love…. I can’t imagine the pain and sorrow that survivors of suicide experience. I can’t fathom the depth of anguish they face, for the rest of their lives… I won’t say it’s any deeper than those who face depression/suicidal thoughts, but just as I lack the vocabulary to describe my world to those outside of it, I’m sure they feel just as powerless to describe theirs.
Suicide. It’s an ugly word. It’s a scary thought – both to those that face it, those that have survived it, and to those who have to pick up the pieces in the aftermath
I’ve been to that edge, more times than I care to speak of – had my toes over the edge and stared down into the abyss of emptiness. Not seeking death in itself – just a way to make the craziness inside my head and in my life just stop. I think – and desperately hope – I’ve got that part of things managed better than in years past, but I will not hide the fact that I was far closer to making that final leap than most people knew.
The worst part is, suicide is preventable. So what’s standing in the way? Misconceptions. Stigma. Shame. Guilt. Pride. Fear. Hopelessness. Access to proper mental health care. Access to crisis centers. And more.
In Canada, it’s estimated that 11 people take their life, and 210 contemplate it every single day. For every one of those who attempt or complete suicide, figure 7-10 people (friends and/or family) will be profoundly impacted for the rest of their lives. Worldwide the numbers get even more staggering. Estimates put annual suicide rates at around 800,000 – roughly one every 40 seconds. 800,000 deaths that could have been prevented all due to society’s attitude towards mental illness. That must change.
And it starts with you. It could literally save a life.
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