Suicide

The Importance of Hope

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I try not to think about how much of my life has been focused on my brain trying to kill me.

It’s depressing to think about the waste of years.

It’s been decades of my brain urging me to do destructive things to myself and me trying to hang in there because hanging in there is what we’re supposed to do.

The problem with hanging in is that it becomes more and more exhausting as time goes on.  The strength you relied on in your early years just isn’t reliable decades later.

It gets harder to hang in and even harder to want to. (more…)

The Problem with Depression: Again. And again.

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I was on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional from DC  to Baltimore when I got the alert that Kate Spade had ended her life.  I couldn’t believe it and I desperately searched the internet for posts that proved the news a hoax.

But it wasn’t a hoax and the horrible news was confirmed immediately by credible sources.

I texted my sister-in-law.

Kate Spade killed herself.”

Knowing she would be pressed for the best way to respond, I added “I can’t un-know that.”

Kakki, the sister I had always wanted, texted back.

oh no,” she said.

(more…)

Because they want to stop the pain.

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“Did you really want to die?”
“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”
“Then why do they do it?”
“Because they want to stop the pain.”
― Tiffanie DeBartoloHow to Kill a Rock Star

 

#SuicideAwareness
Hotline 1-800-273-8255

For Deaf, non Verbal, Autistic folks and those in unsafe situations for talking:
National Crisis Text Line
Text “HELLO” to 741741

Life is good. Fuck you.

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Another day, another article surfaced on my feed about a parent trying to help others be aware of mental illness.

I’m so over it.

But that’s just how I feel today.

I’m sure tomorrow I’ll feel differently.

And I’m sure I’ll feel a million different ways over the course of the next year.

Today, though, I can afford to feel so over it because I’m feeling good.  Today my brain is cooperating and I’m ‘even’ – in terms of my ability to handle life’s combination of little and big disruptions.

Today I can focus and finish my deadlines.

Today I can think of ideas and write them down and follow through.

Today I can help other people. I have enough time and energy to do things for others.

Today I’m good.

But there will be another tomorrow in my life soon when I won’t be so good.

Unless my life is about to take a sudden turn away from its normal routine, there will soon be a day when my brain tells me that today is the day I need to end it.

Because that’s what my brain does.

My brain tells me to kill myself.

My brain tells me that killing myself is what I’m supposed to, what I’m fated to, and that everything is a sign that it’s time.

It’s what I got in this life.

Some people got diabetes. Some got heart disease. Some got cancer.

I got a bad brain.

I know, I know….you know of something I should try. I know.

Well, I’ve probably tried it.

I’ve been around the block and I’ve been dealing with this since I was a kid.

Add to that the fact that I’m a ‘fixer’ by nature.  I do something about problems. I take steps. I take action. I take initiative. 

Believe me….if it’s medical, I’ve tried it.

And I don’t just mean I’ve dabbled.

I mean I have devoted years to trying everything out there and doing everything in my power to help things work.

I have given everything I’ve tried a good and meaningful try.

If it’s western I’ve tried it. If it’s eastern, I’ve tried it.

Expensive? Tried it. Cheap? Tried it. Free? Tried it.

If it’s holistic, I’ve tried it.

If it’s spiritual, I’ve tried it.

If it’s hokey or trendy or popular or weird, I’ve tried it.

So, what’s my point today?

My point is shut the hell up if you have no personal experience with suicidal thinking.

I made the mistake of reading some comments to the devastated father who wrote so honestly, lovingly and bravely about his daughter who lost her battle with suicide.

And seriously, people need to shut the fuck up.

If you haven’t lived it, your opinion is shit.

I don’t care how enlightened you are, how educated you are or how inspired you are.

Just shut up.

And fuck you.

I know this post is negative.

I’m really sorry about that.

I’m not a negative person.

I’m positive. And hopeful. And productive. 

I’m funny and energetic and upbeat about some things.

I work full time.  And I have two syndicated properties, a cartoon and a comic strip.

I paint beautiful paintings. And I make lots of really great contributions that help others.

And, in addition to all of the great things I am, I live with a condition –  just like most people live with a condition of some sort.

Unfortunately, my condition is the opposite of “life is good” – 

But I’m dealing with it.

I’m managing it.

But it needs to be said that someday I might follow through on what my brain tells me to do.  

My brain is powerful and inflexible at times and more convincing than the people around me.

And if I do what my brain tells me to do, it won’t be for any other reason than what I was able to do to manage my condition was not enough.

So to the reader who shared a particularly unhelpful comment, fuck you.

Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.

You’re not helpful. And you’re not smart.

You wrote something hurtful to a father in pain. And what you wrote sounded like a dare to people who don’t need to be dared. 

Look, sir….I’m not asking you to change who you are.

I’m just asking you to DO NO HARM.

You can do that by keeping your mouth shut and keeping your typing to yourself. 

And to the father who wrote the essay, thank you and I am so very, very, very sorry.

Now back to work for me….because although I live with suicidal thinking, that is just part of my day. And it’s not the part that pays the bills. 

xoxo, d

 

 

 

How to be Helpful Part II

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A friend got in touch today to talk about a local and relatively close suicide.

That happens.

People ask me about suicide and tell me about suicides and send me articles about suicide.

Once you out yourself as suicidal, you get a lot of “how’s the suicidal stuff going” questions.

It’s probably not much different than coming out as gay, vegan, left-handed or Republican.  People are curious and, well, they’re curious.

And some people are more than curious.

Some people want to reach out, understand, be helpful, or otherwise be present for your life experience.  And that’s very nice.  It’s a nice sentiment and always a nice gesture when people try to be helpful.

So today my friend got in touch and asked a REALLY GREAT QUESTION.

He asked me “How can I be helpful to my friend who is directly affected by this suicide?”

My friend was worried about his friend.

Specifically, he was worried that a close-to-home suicide might trigger something bad.

I told my friend a few things, some of which he found particularly helpful, so I’ll share my thoughts here:

(1) Offer to be there.

Say you’ll come over. Say you’ll stop by. Say you’ll pick the other person up in a half hour. Say you’ll be at the coffee shop at 3 and ask your friend what you should order for them.  Say you’ll take your friend to the grocery store or out for some sort of comfort food.

(2) Don’t just ask ‘what can I do?

I realize this sounds counter to a lot of what we hear, but reaching out to someone in  mental or emotional pain is a bit different than reaching out to those suffering other types of agony.  If I want to help a friend who has suffered a loss or had surgery or is going through something difficult, I absolutely ask them what I can do.  It’s important to say to a person ‘I want to be helpful …so tell me what would be helpful to you.’ 

Anyone who has ever helped a friend through chemo knows that their ability to eat and their tastes will change frequently.  You would never just bring surprise foods to someone having chemo.

But to be there for the person who is in mental or emotional anguish, you have to be a little more assertive and you may have to substitute your judgment for theirs.  Mental and emotional stress keep the brain from functioning normally. Decision making is usually the first skill to be compromised.

So don’t ask what you can do.  Just start offering things. Offer to do this or do that or come over or whatever.

And prepare for lots of rejection.

Your friend may not want to go for a walk, for coffee, or to see Cherry Blossoms, Your friend may not say yes to any of the other 73 activities you offer.

But your friend might be ready to say yes to your 74th suggestion.

(3) Keep offering.

Don’t expect your friend to reach out to you.  Reaching out is more difficult as an individual sinks lower.  You need to do the reaching out and never take the rejection personally. Just keep offering. You friend may not take you up on your offer on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but he might be waiting for your call on Thursday. And even if he never takes you up on any of your offers, the simple act of calling and offering might be one of the actions that helps him get through a tough time.

(4) Don’t ask open-ended questions.

It’s hard for someone in mental or emotional distress to articulate how they feel.  Sometimes they just feel overwhelmingly awful.  If they’re depressed, they probably feel awful AND hopeless.

So don’t just ask ‘how are you doing?’  Ask specific questions the person will be able to answer without remembering how hopeless they feel.

“Did you eat?”

“Have you been outside?”

“Did you sleep?”

Help the person focus on very specific aspects of their day. Specific aspects of one day are far less overwhelming than the feeling that the horrible hell of today might last forever.

(5) Don’t ask if they’re okay.

Of course they’re not okay.

And if you just ask if they’re okay, they might think you’re just being polite.

Or they might lie to keep from being a burden.

Or they might lie to make you go away.

Focus on specific questions that elicit specific answers.

(6) Don’t just tell them to call you.

Remember that someone who’s down probably isn’t going to initiate contact.

Tell them you’ll call later or tomorrow..and then call.

Check in.

Make sure the person knows you’ll be checking in.

Maybe they’ll look forward to your check ins. Maybe knowing you’ll check in will help them feel safe.

Maybe they’ll eventually want to walk to the mailbox or walk around the block so they can report to you that they took a few baby steps and make you proud.

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So I was talking to my friend on the phone while I was in the woods with the Dog-in-Chief. And I was a bit out of breath.

Perhaps that’s why he asked me if the conversation was hard for me.

I told him it wasn’t difficult and that, to be honest, I was a bit clinical when it comes to the suicide stuff.  Talking about suicide, for me, is like talking about any other aspect of regular life.  It’s way too familiar to be a significant trigger.

But I told him some of my triggers.

And I explained how I avoid certain triggers.

And he said that was helpful information.

Then, not to be nice and not to be polite, but because it was true, I told him that he is, thus far in my life, NOT a trigger.

I think I heard him blush.

As Ellen would say, “Be kind to each other.”

I’ll just add this…”Be kind to each other…and keep trying even if the person says no a billion times.”

Sometimes it’s the billion and one-th time that makes the critical difference.

xoxoxo, d

www.livingbroken.org
Giving real life stories value, purpose and power.

How to Talk to Suicide.

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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

♥ www.livingbroken.org 
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