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 let me take you back in time to last night.
Last night I got lucky. Last night I got to whine and dine with a lovely group of really hot guys.
These lovely – and seriously hot – guys were all professional entrepreneurs…or perhaps they’re called serial entrepreneurs.
But their common link was that they were all social impact entrepreneurs.
Each of these guys is good at creating businesses that raise awareness, give back or otherwise help good causes that need some help.
So there we were, talking and being all dynamic, passionate, motivated, inspired and inspiring.
And I got the obvious question:
“Weren’t you one of the girls in that Robert Palmer video?”
Okay, okay. Maybe that wasn’t the EXACT question.
Maybe the question was “What are you working on?”
So I told them. I told them I’m working on social impact licensing – selling products with beautiful art, images and cute characters, all of which help to tell a story, raise awareness and reduce stigma.
And what’s your cause, asked the lovely, oh-so-hot men?
“Wellness,” I said.
Because nobody’s scared of wellness.
In fact, everyone’s in favor of wellness.
Then I added, “and, uh, depression.”
And then I muttered, “well, and, uh, well, suicide.”
You know, suicide is a funny thing.
No matter how low you say that awful word, ears really perk up.
And thus began the very typical river of questions.
“You’ve thought about killing yourself?”
“Have you ever tried?”
“Were you successful?”
For those who really want to know, the answers are yes, yes and no.
Not successful yet. A total suicide failure.
So anyway, we ate. We talked. We laughed. We hugged. A few of the men cried, I do believe. I may have videotaped it for YouTube.
And all of that happened while we were talking about depression.
…let’s transition to a different topic.
Let’s talk about other times. Times when I’m not doing so well.
When I’m not doing so well, it’s pretty obvious.
I used to think nobody could tell, 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 over dinner with old friends and new friends and future business partners elicits hours and hours of lively conversation, telling people you’re in the throes of depression does NOT elicit conversation.
And telling people you’re suicidal?…well, let’s not even go there.
Okay, I’m going there.
IT SCARES THE FUCK OUT OF THEM!
Yeah, I said FUCK.
Get over it.
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.
And now, I’ll tell you something about my own, very personal and particular brand of suicidal depression.
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.
Here’s an idea – the next time the person you love is nauseated, just tell them to think positive thoughts.
Then see if they don’t kill you the second they feel better.
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 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.
Go talk to someone today.