When I was a teenager, I thought long and hard about taking my own life. I even went “all the way” once which, obviously, didn’t pan out but is a story of it’s own. This might be a surprising revelation to you if you happen to know me now.
I thought I was not loved. Certainly I knew my family loved me but I thought that was as much as I would ever know. Enough of course, the love of your family but somehow at the same time not enough. These were the thoughts of a shy, awkward teenager. I was the fat kid. I was the geek. I was the kid alone at the dance. I thought “this is as good as it gets”.
Tonight I’m sitting I am sitting in a bar around the corner from my loft. The bartender who is usually chipper and excitable looks like someone hit her with a truck. I ask her what is behind the lost look in her eyes. Silence. Contemplation. Finally; “My sister committed suicide this weekend”. She looks me dead in the eye and says “I love her, but that was the most selfish thing she ever did.” I agree of course because I’ve come to believe the same, that suicide is a selfish way to go.
Earlier this year I lost two people to suicide within a week of each other. One I didn’t know well, the other however, is someone I counseled and thought I knew pretty well. He had his demons as we all do but I thought he had them under control.
What I am about to say might piss you off. So be it. Suicide is the chicken shit selfish ass way out. Chances are if you are reading this, you aren’t living on the streets of a third world country. Think you have it bad? Think again. And before you go off ranting about “you’ve never been there, you have no idea” please remember, I have indeed been there. Not been there for attention but been there in my room with a gun to my head counting up the reasons why I should and should not pull the trigger. Yes, I get that depression can play a part. Yes, I understand all too well that teenage angst, hormones and naievty causes our children to think “This is as good as it gets”. Whatever the reason, I stand by my rant. It’s the chicken shit way out.
I spent a good amount of time as a teen mentor in my mid to late twenties. Along the way, I lost two. The last finally pushing me, as it has pushed many, out of the mostly volunteer field of young adult mentorship. I felt responsible. I felt like I didn’t do enough and for years it lived with me as “my fault”. It wasn’t of course. Nothing anyone could have said would have fixed that little girl. She had to want to fix herself. She refused. She decided “this was as good as it gets” and at 15 hung herself in her bedroom where her parents found her. Selfish? Absolutely. Her parents will forever live with the image of their baby girl hanging limp in the bedroom she grew up in. Her friends will never forget the day she left them. Her brother, previous an honor roll student dropped out of school the next semester and last I heard had been put in rehab for a heroin addiction.
The kids are the hardest but on some level more understandable than a grown adult taking their own life. Young adults don’t have a worldly view, they have a narrow view and so it’s easier to understand why they might think “this is as good as it gets”. You want to scream at them “Just wait, it gets better!” as they are stepping off the roof. But adults? I don’t get it. Yes I know it gets bad. I was married to a bi-polar woman for many years. An amazing woman but one who was off medication for the better part of our marriage. She really hated the meds and when I was young I supported her, I thought “She’s strong”. And she is, but as I’ve gained knowledge and understanding, I’ve also changed my opinion on medication that assists chemical imbalances and completely changed my view that “you can overcome by just trying”. Shortly after we split, she found the right doctor and the right cocktail and she is a completely different person. It works, but you have to want to help yourself.
In 2005 I dealt with my own first experience with complete depression. I had gone through something extremely painful. I went to work, like a robot. I cam home and slept. I was sick to my stomach constantly. While suicide never entered my mind, I started to understand how it could for others going through the same thing. I didn’t seek counseling but I did read a lot. Slowly I recovered and one day I just felt like it was all going to be alright. That doesn’t work for everyone but it worked for me. What it taught me is that depression is for real. It isn’t for the “weak minded” as I once thought. I remember being a teenager and telling my sister that depression was for the weak. I was wrong. I was oh so wrong.
As I sit here writing, I am thinking back to all the people I’ve personally lost to suicide. A girl I worked with in high school who also happened to be on the same volleyball team with a girl I dated. A young adult who I worked with and with whom my ex-wife was also connected to through his wife who shot himself not long after having their first child. A girl I dated in a small town in Texas just after I moved out of my mom’s house. The list goes on and on. The fact that I can remember each one of them proves to me the selfishness of suicide. If I can remember them so vividly, imagine how those close to them were affected.
I’ve rambled quite a bit in this post. For that I apologize. I implore you. If you are reading this. If you think it’s the way out. It isn’t. I know it’s dark. I know you feel like no one will understand. They will. You have to open up and I know that is the hardest part. Take it from someone who has been there, who has been there for other and who has lost still others; your life is worth the effort.