My Facebook feed has recently been adorned with enthusiastic, bold t-shirts for suicide awareness.
The t-shirts shout out loudly that nobody fights suicide alone.
SO THERE, DAMN IT!
And I’m glad.
Obviously, I’m glad. I encourage any bit of awareness-raising, particularly around the topics of suicide, depression, and pain. I am pro-awareness generally and, for personal reasons, I am personally pro-awareness.
(There’s always a but in these darn essays.)
But what do we do with the raised awareness? Where does the raised awareness go?
If the raised awareness results in donations of money to the cause, then that’s great. The cause needs funds. Funds can help those who need help. Funds can push forward the critical research that can hopefully someday alleviate or mitigate the problem at the root.
But what else?
What else does raised awareness do? What do the newly aware do with their new awareness, caring, concern and commitment?
I can suggest an answer.
The aware – whether newly aware or renewed in their awareness – can study the enemy closely. Study the enemy in preparation for the next time the enemy rises. Prepare to seriously fight the enemy in an efficient, effective and meaningful way.
Study the enemy.
Study the enemy while things are good.
I know, I know. It’s tempting to just feel good when things are good. It’s like thinking about rain on a sunny day. Nobody wants to do that.
When I’m in a good space, I definitely don’t want to spend my time revisiting depression and suicidal thoughts. I want to spend time with my family and friends, enjoying the absence of the bad things for a change.
But it’s smart to regroup on a sunny day. Make sure your umbrella and rubber sole shoes get back to wherever it is that you’ll need them on your next rainy day.
There’s no question that I have to keep my eye on the enemy at all times. Because my personal medical history shows that depression and suicidal thoughts come back on a fairly regular schedule.
I have to be ready for the return of depression and suicidal thinking and I have to be in top notch condition to fight them when they appear.
More importantly, I need for those in my support system to be ready to fight.
Why is it more important that they be ready to fight? Because one of the first things I lose during recurrence is my own will to fight. Two hallmarks of depression are losing hope that fighting will help and losing the energy it takes to fight.
So I need my support system to be ready to act in my stead, ready to jump in to fight the enemy on my behalf when I become unhelpful.
And there will be a point where I become unhelpful. Because that’s what my enemy does to me. My enemy does not fight fair. My enemy makes me turn on myself and want to destroy myself. It’s hard to imagine and hard to believe, but any family or friends who have witnessed major depression or suicidal thinking will recognize the precarious nature of the condition. The condition feeds on itself, helping destruction to thrive if not fought against mightily.
So be aware, yes, be aware. But don’t wait to take action. Take action now.
Hunker down and identify both the enemy and target. Find out now what to do when things get rough.
Learn the enemy. Know the signs.
Plan your strategy and understand how your attack will work.
Practice if possible and keep your toolkit with you.
We prepare for all sorts of events that are statistically less likely to happen. We prepare for active shooters, fire alarms, tornadoes and floods. We know that taking steps to prepare could make the difference between life and death if conditions get worse. And generally, we don’t want to play the odds.
So when it comes to depression and suicide, let’s not play the odds. Let’s not play around with the chances of things getting worse. Let’s not play around with statistics.
If someone is hurting, let’s fight the enemy when the enemy rises and then, when the enemy backs down, let’s regroup, re-energize and let’s be prepared to fight even harder next time.
Because it really is true that nobody should have to fight alone. And we can prevent that from happening a statistically significant portion of the time.
P.S. It’s sunny where I am today. I’ve got one umbrella by the door and one in the car. Just in case. 🙂
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