Time flies between suicides.
Or at least that’s how it feels these days.
But it was May.
Chris Cornell has been gone since May.
And then in June, Chester Bennington dedicated Linkin Park’s ‘One More Light’ to Chris Cornell during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.
And now it’s July and Chester Bennington has joined Chris Cornell in what I imagine is a great band of pain-free rockers in heaven.
I can tell I’m feeling well because I’m not obsessing over the details of Bennington’s death. I’m not researching story after story, only to reread the same few quotes from close friends or a family spokesperson.
I can tell I’m feeling well because I don’t wish it had been me instead of Chester Bennington. And I don’t think there’s a message in his death that’s meant for me. I don’t think I’ve been dared to do something similar or to do something that will add impact and meaning to another artist’s death.
But this is the year that I decided to start sharing more about my own journey living with suicidal thinking. I decided to start sharing in order to start giving back.
For years, I’ve relied on the experiences of others, finding inspiration and hope in their stories and their words. Maybe now, if I give some of that back, someone else can benefit from my experiences.
So let me tell you about what it’s like when I’m not doing well.
Like when Robin Williams ended his life in August of 2014.
I wasn’t doing well that summer. I was struggling with a particularly rough period of suicidal thinking and major depression at that time and Robin Williams’ death really struck a chord.
If you know me in real life, you might be thinking back to that summer and wondering what was going on then to make me miserable.
The answer is nothing.
The answer is always nothing.
I live my life as a high functioning professional and my brain lives it’s life as a chemically and stress-challenged nut.
That would have been a ‘regular’ summer – nothing out of the ordinary except a worse-than-usual brain.
And Robin Williams’ death hurt deeply.
I related to Robin Williams as an artist. I related to the many dark characters he had played. I related to his contrast of humor and high emotion. And I felt like I could understand what it was like to have a life that appeared to be in full swing and yet be suffering with a condition that others could not see or appreciate.
I remember reading so many tweets and Facebook posts that asked how someone with so much to live for could end his life.
#ihatethat #ihatethat #ihatethat
I hate that.
I hate when people connect the quality of one’s life or success with their propensity for suicide. I get particularly upset at the lack of understanding about suicide when I’m feeling suicidal.
At that time, I went to the few people I trusted on the topic and ranted about suicide having very little, if anything, to do with what a person has.
“It’s the inability to continue living with constant pain,” I explained to the few people who had witnessed me living with constant pain.
I yelled at television’s morning personalities who went on and on about all that Robin Williams had and questioned why nobody was able to stop him.
And I got frustrated.
Because it’s really hard to help people who don’t live with suicidal thinking to understand suicidal thinking.
When Robin Williams ended his life, I thought it was a message to me. I thought it was a sign that the time had come for me to do it too. I thought, as I tend to think, that maybe if I left a really good note, people would understand the pain behind suicide better.
That’s something that happens to me that doesn’t happen to normal people.
Normal people don’t feel dared to die.
Sometimes, I get an overwhelming feeling that it should have been me and not the person who died.
In the summer of 2008, we lost a number of household names whose time was not meant to be – and I then spent the summer trying to figure out how I could take the place of someone who didn’t want to die. First Tim Russert, then George Carlin and then Tony Snow. It was a hard summer for my brain. I was certain I was supposed to be a part of the puzzle unfolding before me.
It’s that type of thinking I’m used to because my brain engages in it so freely.
It’s kind of like my brain has a life of its own – a life that has little to do with the normal functioning life people see me living.
I can feel my brain engaging in all of this nonsense and sometimes it is more intrusive than other times. Like in that summer of 2008 when I could not get a break from the noise in my head.
But now, in times like these, when I’m doing well, I just watch the show going on in my brain and I do a million little things to make sure that my brain doesn’t get too loud or too inappropriate.
When I first began writing about the suicide stuff, it made some people nervous. I think it made them wonder if writing about suicide was actually *the sign* that things were bad.
Talking about suicide is a positive way of helping to manage the condition.
Writing about suicide is a positive way of helping to manage the condition.
And no, talking and writing about suicide aren’t triggers.
But silence is a trigger. And hiding is a trigger. And keeping secrets is a trigger.
So if you know someone who lives with pain – any pain – get to know their pain. Get to know what they look like, talk like, act like when they’re in pain.
And make their pain part of your routine.
Yes, I said ‘make their pain part of your routine.’
Make it part of your routine to ask them how they are doing so you can tell when they’re not doing well.
Make it part of your routine to ask them the questions that lead to information about their condition.
What music are they listening to? What shows are they watching? What foods are they eating?
Are they sleeping at night? Waking up when they should?
Getting out? Exercising? Seeing friends?
My inner circle folks know what my dangerous behavior looks like. So they know to always ask specifics regarding what I’m up to.
Because one day I can look like I’m doing great, but that can quickly turn.
And one last thing.
If you know someone who lives with pain, don’t pretend they’re not in pain when they are pain. Ignoring the pain won’t make it go away, but acknowledging the pain can often help.
Well, this essay doesn’t flow all that well, but neither do my thoughts about how to talk to others about suicidal thinking.
Maybe the flow will get better as I get more comfortable uttering some of these hard-to-say thoughts out loud.
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