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.


Why didn’t you tell me how bad it was?


I read an article today on a young girl’s suicide.

A family member – I can’t remember which one – was quoted as saying “I wish she had told us how bad it was.”

I hate those words.

I hate those words.

I hate those words.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t wait for them to prove it.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t wait to see how bad it is.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t wait to see if they’re serious.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t trust them to get to a hospitalTake them yourself.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t trust them to call a hotline. Call for them and hand them the phone.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t assume someone else is in charge of helping them You be in charge for now.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t assume they have others to call. Assume you’re the only one they have to talk to for now.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t assume they’re opposed to doing something you think is extreme or unimaginable.  What seems extreme or unimaginable to you may seem to them like a relief, an escape or the only option to them for now.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t just say there are other options. Help them to find other options for now.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t say you wish you knew how to help them. Ask them how you can help. Offer ideas. Be persistent. Keep offering.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t assume it will be okay. Take steps to increase the odds it will be okay.  At least for now.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, don’t do nothing. Do anything. Get involved. Be helpful. Take action even if it’s tiny.  Often the tiniest of actions help the person in pain to get through the pain for another hour or day.

If someone you love is telling you they’re in pain, THAT is their cry for help. Don’t assume they have it in them to keep crying for help.

Just sayin’…
xoxo, d


Don’t wish they had called you.


The suicidal brain is not focused on reaching out for help.

If you know someone who has suicidal thoughts, check in with them often. Make them talk to you. Be more persistent than their brain.

Don’t guess about whether they are having suicidal thoughts.

Don’t play the odds that their suicidal thoughts will go away.

Don’t think that saying something will push them to suicide.

And don’t think that suicidal urges get easier to manage. They don’t. They get harder to manage.

RIP Dave Mirra.

And God bless your children, who will never understand how strong the suicidal urge is…unless they too have those urges.

I hope they don’t.

xoxo, d
Giving real life stories value, purpose and power.

The Problem with Suicide.

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Before you think you know what this post will be about, let me warn you, it’s only tangentially related to the subject of suicide.

Suicide is not my favorite subject.

Suicide is a complicated, painful and tricky subject.

But suicide is the subject that prompted me to write this post today, thus the title.

But don’t worry.  This post is about much more than that uncomfortable word I just said.

This post is about appreciating difference. Specifically, it is about acknowledging and really “getting” that the way the suffering or recovering person thinks is much different than the way the loving, supportive helper thinks.  In other words, what one person needs could be different than what others believe they need.

Before going forward, let me iterate and reiterate that this is only my thinking about my life experience.  These words only represent what I have experienced and what I have witnessed as I have tried to help others.  In that way, these words can only really be helpful to those who relate on some level – or understand.

So, back to suicide.

The really unfortunate and annoying news is that I have suicidal thoughts.  I have many, many, many suicidal thoughts. Its just the way my brain is wired.

I don’t like it. I don’t choose it. I don’t benefit from it.

It’s just the way my brain is wired.

I won’t go into my family history or my brain chemistry or my relentless efforts to eliminate or diminish these thoughts.  That’s personal health information and, quite frankly, I hate debating what I’ve tried and what works or doesn’t work with others who may or may not have had similar experiences.

It’s just not helpful. At least not for me.

But, I will say that I have tried almost everything available, both traditional and  untraditional.  And although many tools help me to successfully manage the impact of my thoughts on my ability to function and thrive, few tools help to actually diminish those thoughts.

And so, I live with suicidal thoughts.

I live with suicidal thoughts the way others live with whatever they live with.  Everyone has a condition, whether it is theirs or the condition of someone they love or care for.

Everyone has something.

That, to me, is comforting.  The universality of discomfort actually helps me to keep my own discomfort in perspective most of the time.  And proper perspective, for me, is life saving.

The problem with my suicidal thoughts is that they are ridiculously strong and far more persuasive than the thoughts of those who love me or are in the business of helping me.

This isn’t sad or a shame or awful.  This is, for me, just a fact of my life.  I think about my brain chatter the way I think about any medical condition. It needs to be dealt with as well as possible on a daily basis to avoid any periods of unavoidable health crisis.

Those who are against suicide, for good reason, believe that suicide is wrong or bad or not the answer.

I can’t disagree with any of that. I wouldn’t recommend suicide, generally speaking.

But my brain doesn’t have a problem with suicide.  My brain tells me that suicide is a good thing – a better alternative than any of the other alternatives.  My brain tells me that suicide is the right thing to do and that it’s inevitable.

If you’re reading this and you’re uncomfortable with those words, then welcome to my life.

Even I am uncomfortable with these words. In fact, I hate these words.  I especially hate having to discuss these words from time to time.  I hate the fact that I can’t just ‘get over’ the thoughts in my head.  But these words live in my head, trying to take over from time to time.

So here’s the question I grapple with in trying to help myself and, more importantly, help others.

How do you help someone who believes what their brain or body is saying?  How do you help them without defaulting to persuading them to listen to your helpful brain chatter instead of their unhelpful brain chatter?

The bad news is that I don’t have the answer.  At least not today.

To date, no good argument about God, love, life, family or anything else I value most highly has been effective enough in the mental battle of thoughts.

It’s not that I don’t understand the arguments. I do.

It’s just that my brain thinks differently. And my brain thinks it’s smarter about this particular subject than the brain of anyone not living my life.

My 2016 is, in great part, dedicated to helping understand how to bridge the gap between helpful intentions and actions that are actually, effectively and even substantially helpful.

Toward that end, a few observations:

Everyone is suffering or recovering from or managing something.  But everyone is different.  What helps one person may irritate or agitate the next person.  Just be aware and sensitive and open to considering a million different ways to be helpful.

Ask the person you hope to help what is helpful for them.  And then honor what they say, assuming they’re a decent communicator.

And never underestimate the value of the tiny gesture.

Dropping off popsicles or magazines or hot chocolate might be the gesture that relieves the person’s pain long enough that they can manage the moment and move forward.  Just be sure to thoughtfully match the drop off to the special limitations of the condition.  Someone having trouble eating or drinking will welcome different treats.  Someone having trouble reading or focusing will welcome different media. It’s better to ask what a good treat would be than to surprise the person with the wrong treat.  It’s not that the wrong treat isn’t appreciated…it’s just not helpful.  Surprises are for celebrations, not comforting.

Helping the person obtain resources that make life more comfortable are often invaluable.  Does the person need groceries delivered?  A space heater?  A fan?  A really great straw?  Maybe they need a lift to an appointment or someone to go through their mail.

So many ways to help.  So so many.

And, of course, helping the person to alleviate even the smallest stressors can help immensely.  Ask them what they are most worried about and help them find a way to relieve the burden of that worry.  Remember that a person who is struggling is often incapable of making even simple decisions.  Your ability to help accomplish simple tasks might provide the person the break they need from life’s basic – but debilitating – stressors.

Just do something.

And never believe that anything short of face-to-face is unacceptable.

Send the email or text – even if it’s just an xo or a heart or a smiley emoticon.  We complain about emoticons when we’re feeling oh-so-smart and bigger than life.  But most of us welcome the same ridiculously simple emoticons when we’re feeling small and alone.

And, as I recently discussed with a friend dealing with his own family situation, don’t be scared of the person in pain.  Engage the person in pain.  The person who is engaged in any way with others is relieved, to some extent, while they are engaged.

And never stop asking or suggesting things that might help.  The person you want to help might say no today but say yes tomorrow.  The person you want to help might benefit from the 179th suggestion you make even though they poo poo’ed the first 178 suggestions.

And finally, at least for the purpose of this post, remember that the person’s condition is only a part or a piece of the person’s life.  Remind the person, through conversation and engagement, that their life is far more than the present moment.  Focus on their profession, their interests, their talents.  Focus on their stupid collection of whatever stupid things they collect.  Stupid collections of stupid things provide great comfort during difficult times.

Everyone is dealing with something.  Whether you’re on the up side of life today or the down side of life, you can ask for help, be open to help or, hopefully, give help.

So do something.

Thank you to everyone who helped 2015 be better.  Let’s all help 2016 to be better still.

xoxo, d








“[H]ow can she be depressed, she is doing well in school?”

No matter how many times the therapist explained high functioning depression, [my parents] never believed it. I mean, I can’t really blame them. I have trouble believing it myself sometimes. And I’m living it.

I really appreciated Busted Laser’s very honest explanation of high functioning depression.

As Ellen says every day at the end of her show, “Be nice to one another.”

Read her blog at Busted Laser: A TRUE lifestyle blog.

On another note, I spent yet another day watching Ally McBeal on Netflix.

Can I just say “THANK GOD FOR MARATHON TELEVISION” – ????? Can I just say that?

I spend a lot of time at home drawing (and drawing) (and drawing). During the week, while drawing, I listen to music, audio books and podcasts. But on the weekend, I like to get all wild and crazy and watch something fun.  Something I can keep on in the background that makes me laugh without requiring much concentration.

My go-to shows for weekend marathoning are 90210, Melrose Place and Ally McBeal.  I’m so glad that neither 90210 and Melrose Place went the way of anorexia that Ally McBeal did.  It is definitely annoying and difficult to watch the starved women of Ally McBeal seasons 2, 3 and 4. But it is what it is and hopefully some girl somewhere learned something when the women of Ally McBeal eventually shared their stories of body dysmorphia and starvation. And hopefully they realized that the non-anorexic characters of Elaine (played by Jane Krakowski) and Renee (played by Lisa Nicole Carson) were the most beautiful women on the show.


Luckily for me, my broken brain allows me to watch the same episodes over and over again without remembering most of the show.  It’s a gift, really.

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And finally, a recommendation –

LOVE close up with the hollywood reporter on Sundance TV!


You must, must, must watch if you love observing the minds of creative people.

xoxo, d