I was asked by my therapist recently who my support system is. I stared blankly at her for a good 12 seconds, not because I don’t know what a supper system is but because I don’t have one. I have no family and one parent whose depth of conversation usually involves my dogs and work. I know plenty of people but have no good friends ( I had several childhood and close friends but we are no longer in contact). I’ve heard the saying we can get used to anything but hadn’t truly grasped how real that was for me. I am alone. Not out of choice but out of circumstance. Truly alone. And I’m so used to this I barely noticed it. I could say support isn’t really necessary, look how far I’ve made it. Look how strong I am but that would be false. I am in fact so without support that I am paying someone to be there for me (insert laughter, because I find humor in everything). I pride myself on being able to outlast anyone and live through anything but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. We need support, friendships, relationships to go. To learn. When all you have is yourself you become a different kind of tough and it’s not always for the best but it’s because you have no other choice.
PSA-this post deals with suicide and depression and may not be suitable for everyone.
In light of the two recent celebrity suicides-Kate Spate and now Anthony Bourdain I thought a lot about the past few years and how many celebrities from all artistic genres have committed suicide. These people are our heroes. We look to them for inspiration and want to believe we can be just like them. And it’s this idea-that a great career, talent and passion for something are supposed to sustain everything that gets shattered when we find out one of them has committed suicide.
I myself have struggled with the idea of suicide my whole life for multiple reasons and have attempted it as well. I think once a person allows that thought into their existence as an option it becomes insidious. It affects every aspect of your being and it never really goes away. It hides in the recesses of your mind and you take it down from the shelf when you’re bored, or sad, or think you are just too tired to continue “the fight”.
I am sure I am not alone in this thought. It’s angering and confusing for so many people who have attempted suicide or just thought about it but instead stuck with trying out the whole “living life to the fullest” and trudging through to see other people, these people give up. You hate them because they’re weak, they’re weak for you leaving you (even if you didn’t know them) and they’re weak for not getting help or not trying hard enough because that’s what we always hear-“they just didn’t try hard enough.” But what if they did try hard enough? These famous top of their industry people had every opportunity, everything we are told we need to fix ourselves so what if it just didn’t work? And now you’re scared. Now doubt sets in because you’re trying and you’ve always been told you can’t give up, it’ll get better or in plain terms-you have to struggle through life like everyone else and not be a coward. So now you’re jealous of them. Now you think God, that must be nice to just be able to give up. Sure I’m here trying to spite everyone but that little (or big) piece of me just wants it all to be over and what is the point? If all these famous amazing, inspiring, larger than life artists end up killing themselves…what have you missed…where did you maybe go wrong because none of it adds up.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We have all heard this but I think it’s insulting. It’s insulting because mental illness is not a temporary problem for many of us. Mental illness is a lifelong battle and seeing people be defeated by it in whatever stage reminds us of that. I AM IN NO WAY ADVOCATING SUICIDE. And I think that needs to be said but I am also saying that to tell people to just keep going or to ignore a huge part of what they are feeling will do more damage and in the long run may actually lead them to what you’re telling them to avoid. Suicide is so simple and yet so complex. The act is simple but the theory, the why, is something we cannot understand. We can empathize because maybe we feel that way too but how could we understand these legends, these heros if even with all of the doors open to them they decided that only one was worth shutting. We need to not only talk about suicide, about mental illness but we need to listen. We need to hear what people are saying even when they are silent.
When people ask you, “hey so how was your day, did you have a good day?” what do you usually tell them? So and so did this, this and that happened and yeah I guess it was good or no it wasn’t that great. Have you ever stopped to think though, why was I unhappy or happy based on any of those things or people? Because you (and I) gave our happiness to them and said here, “make me feel better” and then we were probably disappointed. I am one of the worst at this!! (I say one of the worst but I ought to say, it’s something I am learning to do better-positive reframing y’all, lets get it done). I let people and situations sway my happiness, sway my peace of mind every day all day. And for what, what am I getting out of it. Nothing! Nothing at all and neither are you. This has become such an ingrained habit, so unconscious that I barely notice it most of the time. My mood swings left and right and up and down depending on my dogs, how easy it was to find the things I needed at the hardware store, whether my significant other is in a good mood. I’m sacrificing my calm and literally throwing it on a trash pile, setting it on fire and going “I wonder why I’m so unhappy all the time”. We as a culture do this as well. We are consumers of almost every category looking for that moment of joy or fulfilment before we allow ourselves to be thrown into the waves, treading water in our own self-made mediocrity and anguish. There is no magic cure, no program to getting out of this way of life. It’s literally 2 steps-notice and stop. Notice that you’re giving your happiness away to this person or that thing and stop it. Take it back, say “I’m not going to spend 2 or even 10 minutes upset by this”. Trust me, no one and nothing deserves your happiness, joy or contentment more than you do.
Being honest is hard. There is no way around that. It’s hard when you feel weak and tired and you are maybe even afraid. It’s hard when you know, being honest is going to bring you nothing but pain. Relationships are where I struggle the most with honesty. Not in a -keeping secrets, lying to my partner sort of way but rather I don’t want to feel the rejection or disappointment or frustration from them when I tell them how I feel…what I’m struggling with and that it’s hard. Continuing to be honest even when you know the pain is going to come, even when you know the roadblocks are going to come and you have to keep fighting through that fear is the only solution. We hide so much of what we think because we fear the outcome, we fear the response but most of all we fear the pain. You’re already in pain, you’re already suffering why not get a reward from it. Go that last half mile and finish. Get it off your chest and be honest with yourself and the other person because ultimately the truth really does set you free.