How to Talk to Suicide.


Don’t worry, this isn’t an essay about suicide.

Well, it kinda is.

But mostly it’s not.

I just needed a catchy title.

This essay is actually about talking and asking questions.

Specifically, this essay is about when we talk and ask questions….and, more importantly, when we don’t.

So, I’m often asked what my art is about.

I tell people I’m focused on social impact licensing – developing products that help to tell a story and raise awareness.

And what’s your cause, is usually the next question.

Sometimes I say wellness.

Because nobody’s scared of wellness.

In fact, everyone’s in favor of wellness.

Then I add depression, if it appears my audience is receptive.

I only get specific and say suicide if the audience seems really engaged.

Because, you know, suicide is a funny thing.

No matter how gently you say that awful word, ears really perk up.

Often, when you talk about suicide, you get the wildly curious response.

“You’ve thought about killing yourself?”

“Have you ever tried?”

“Were you successful?”

For those who really want to know, my answers are yes, yes and no.

And it’s relatively easy to talk about suicide when I’m doing well. I’m a good commercial for staying alive and being productive.

But let’s talk about the other times.  Times when I’m not doing so well.

When I’m not doing so well, it’s pretty obvious but only in a very quiet way.

I used to think nobody could tell when I wasn’t doing well, but now I know they can because they say things like “Yeah, I thought you might be having a tough time” or “I wondered if something was wrong.”

People who are close to me can tell when I’m off the radar, laying low, staying home, avoiding them, and otherwise cutting myself off from the world.

I don’t expect my Facebook friends or my colleagues to know.

But I know that the people in my closest circles know.

And until recently, they had no idea what to do.

I told them to leave me alone so they did.

I told them I didn’t want to talk about it so they didn’t ask questions.

I told them I was fine – and they may or not have believed me – but they didn’t press.

While the topic of depression when you’re fine elicits passionate discussion, telling people you’re in the throes of depression does not do the same. People aren’t quite sure what to say after the basic “I’m here for you.”

And telling people you’re actively suicidal?…well, that really is awkward.

People are scared they might do something or say something that triggers or worsens the bad feelings and dangerous thoughts.

They worry about doing something or saying something that, God forbid, gives the person in pain “ideas” –

As if the person in pain didn’t already think of those ideas.

But here’s the thing –

NOT TALKING about depression and suicide keeps it a secret – and it keeps the person in pain from getting the help they need.

As for me, when I am allowed to suffer in silence, my brain tells me that everyone knows what I’m planning to do and that it’s for the best.

Yeah. My brain tells me that.

My brain tells me it’s my fate and that everybody is expecting it to happen.

My brain tells me they’re just waiting for me to do it and they’ll be relieved when I finally do.

My brain is not very helpful.

So, what’s my point?

My point is simple:  talk about pain.

Talk about the pain people are in while they’re in pain.

While a person is in pain is the EXACTLY CORRECT TIME to talk about the pain.

Believe me, you can’t make their pain worse.  It’s already worse.

I often tell people that my most dangerous and awful thoughts are like nausea.  You can’t get rid of nausea by thinking positive thoughts.  Nausea isn’t a mindset or an attitude.  Nausea is a sensation you feel.  Nausea can be caused by many different things.  SO many things can trigger nausea.

My thoughts are like nausea.  I can’t always predict what will trigger them or when they’ll pop into my head and make me feel ugly urges.  And I can’t always predict how long they’ll last.

But I can do a lot of things to minimize the opportunity for them to take over my life.

I can do things to help them go away faster.

And I can do a lot of things to reduce their impact on my daily life.

The other thing I often tell people is that suicide is like dehydration.

Have you ever gotten dehydrated?

Dehydration is really bad.

And, if you’ve ever been dehydrated, you know that drinking water doesn’t work so well once you’re dehydrated.

That’s why runners start hydrating days before a race.

Anyone who has been dehydrated knows that dehydration needs to be avoided, not dealt with once it’s too late.

So here is my ask.

If you know someone in pain, talk about their pain now.

Don’t make them wait until the pain is so unbearable they have to do something extreme to get someone to talk to them.

Don’t wait for a “cry for help” –

They ARE crying for help.

Avoiding family is a cry for help.

Staying home ALL THE TIME is a cry for help.

Cutting yourself off from the world is a cry for help.

Crying uncontrollably on the phone while saying “I’m fine” is a cry for help.

If someone you love is in pain, get involved.

Nobody should have to be in pain longer than necessary.

And nobody should have to live with unbearable pain when there are so many ways to relieve pain.

Most importantly, nobody should ever want to prove that their pain was unbearable and that nothing could be done about it.

Because maybe something could have been done about it.

xoxoxo, d

Giving power to personal stories of thriving
through wearable, shareable art.



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