It’s been many weeks since I’ve written a blog post or sent out a newsletter. Oh, it’s not that I have nothing to talk to or that I’m not thinking about you guys or my clients or that I’m not still out there crusading against eating disorders and working to help people find self acceptance and self love, that’s all still going on. It’s not that I don’t have new to anything to tell you. It’s just that I’ve been tripped up. Stuck.
Something happened and I felt like I had to talk about it before I continued my regularly scheduled blogging. But it’s been hard to discuss and I haven’t known how to present it. You see, a friend of mine committed suicide five weeks ago. He wasn’t a super close friend. He was my husband’s friend. His wife and I were pregnant both times at the same time and our kids are the same age. We lived down the street from each other in San Francisco before we all had to up and move out of the city because baby #2 came along and our tiny one bedroom apartments would no longer hold our broods.
My friend’s suicide hit everyone who even remotely knew him extremely hard. Because it was so damn unexpected. Not that suicide is ever expected. But there are signs. Someone is depressed for a long time, their life looks hopeless, even from the outside, terrible and unthinkable things happened to them, they are heavy users of drugs and/or alcohol… suicide isn’t always a huge surprise. We know that someone had been suffering. And we just hope that they are finally free from suffering, that they’ve found peace. But this guy, I’m going to call him Jonathan- he seemed to have it all. A calm peaceful demeanor, a smile on his face, he was easy to be around, lovely really. He had a beautiful wife, and two beautiful children and a big beautiful house that he owned. He was at the top of his game at work. Just an all around enviable life. From the outside. But inside, something else was going on. Something that he didn’t talk about and something that was undetectable, even by his wife and friends. I think that’s the level of depression where you feel trapped. Hopeless. Like you are powerless to change anything around you. And no matter what, you see the world through crap colored glasses. You can be successful, wealthy, devastatingly handsome, but you are deeply wounded and everything around you feels painful. There is no why, no reason, your life and being in it feels like a jail sentence. Feels like there is no way out. Your mind cages you into a horrific bleak world of despair. A dark, dark place.
Jonathan is not the first person I’ve ever seen do this. The last one was Michael. A friend of the family. He took his own life 15 years ago. He was kind, loving, caring, so much fun to be around, so handsome, so funny. But what I remember most about Michael is that he was so comfortable to be around. He was the kind of person who just allowed you to let your guard down and relax and not worry about what you looked like or if you said something stupid. I was 19 when I first met him, and so I was very hyper sensitive to how I might be perceived, but with Michael, he just made me and everyone he met feel comfortable. Even my brother who was six at the time. He was just pleasure to be around. You could let down all your inhibitions and be you. A rare personality to have. Michael was also successful. Both financially and careerwise. He’d made brilliant career moves and could have retired at the age of 30 had he wanted to. But he ended his own life, which was devastating for everyone who knew him, anyone who had even had the honor of spending an afternoon with him. He must have been in pain. In lots of pain.
So I chose to write about this particular suicide first because it’s at the top of my mind. I’m having trouble thinking about much else a lot of the time. Add despite the fact that I’m still going to work and talking to my clients every day and thinking about them and food and eating and bingeing and under eating and everything else that I think about all the time, I need to get this all off my chest before I write anything else. I feel that as a mental health provider that it is my responsibility to acknowledge and discuss these things.
The very first thing I need to remind you of here is that you never know what is going on under the surface. Jonathan and his wife had what I would call an enviable life. He was an architect at the top of his game, he was handsome, he had two healthy children, a big gorgeous house and a smart and “super hot” wife. I’m imagining that there were lots of people who could have looked at them and felt jealous or wished that they had their lives. But we can’t compare our backends to anybody else’s front end. That is, we can’t compare what we are feeling about ourselves to what other people present to the world. Everyone has a significant battle to fight. You are not alone.
And then of course there’s the suicide. There’s something about suicide that make people so angry and ashamed. There’s this way that people think that suicide is selfish, that leaving your family and your friends is selfish. And though it can be perceived as such, remember that we all have the inherent drive to live, no matter what the circumstances around us are. So if someone is suddenly feeling the opposite, the urge to die, especially when their circumstances seem fine, well then we have to understand that their brain is sick. They actually believe that the world would be better off without them. That their children would be better off without them. Their beliefs are completely distorted, some kind of zombie brain (depression) is taking over their brain, like their reality is being seen through a funhouse mirror, but they believe that they are stuck in that funhouse forever. Like a Twilight Zone episode. When someone is feeling suicidal, they see the world through depressed colored glasses. Successes don’t feel exciting, they feel tired, they feel hopeless, they feel trapped, they feel like nothing around them is good. They feel powerless to change their circumstances. The thing is, in many cases that it’s not about the circumstances outside of them, it’s about the way they are looking at the world. I’ve seen people lose their children, their spouses, all their money, their homes and not commit suicide. Life can be extraordinarily difficult for everyone, yet suicide tends to only be an option for some people. Because we are born with the will and the drive to survive.
So if you come to a place where you don’t want to live anymore, when you are seriously choosing to take your own life, please forgive yourself for having those thoughts and remember that your brain is playing tricks on you. What you are seeing is not real, it’s just your perception of what’s real. And you can get help for that. You can get out of this without committing suicide. You aren’t trapped by your circumstances, you are trapped by your own mind. But you’re not really trapped. There is a path and a way out, one that’s different than suicide and you just need to ask for help, for someone to help lead you on this path.
If you are considering suicide, please get help. Please talk to a doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, peer counselor, friend or call the suicide hotline. You will get the help you need. Suicide is not the way out.
Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255
Now, as it goes, soon I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled topics. I just…. really had to get that out.
P.S. If you would like to donate to the family who lost their father please email me privately and I will send you the link.
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