I’ve been working on this post since May and I’ve been holding back on publishing it as it’s been finished – mostly – for about a month now. I’ve been hesitant because this post is about suicide – a tender subject to be sure – and about bringing my own small struggle with suicidal thoughts into the light. (Mom, Dad, family, friends… breathe, I’m ok.) It’s also about things I’ve done to cope and manage those darker thoughts and times.

The intention in this post is to reach out and help in some way; that by sharing my experience, it helps someone who is struggling. I’ll roll the dice and let them fall where they may, though my own opinion is that this post borders on woefully insufficient. But then again, I’m my own worst critic.

If you are struggling: You are not alone.

If you are struggling, please visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org or call 1-800-273-8255 to speak to someone who is ready and willing to help.

~ Tom

A Constant Strain

For the last five years I’ve struggled with thoughts of ending my life. Now, I’ve not put any plans together, mind you, but I have images of the act being done. The images are scary to me because of how it feels; how vivid those images look in my mind’s eye. In the beginning it was fairly often, a few times a week. Nowadays it comes and goes, usually a thought will come every two to three weeks. It only comes more often during more darker times where symptoms of anxiety and depression try to creep in.

Sure, I’ve got a system of sorts in place; buffers, if you will. I would say I am priviledged to have such buffers. I’ll turn my thoughts and attention towards my children – four brilliant lights in my life – or close friends and my girlfriend. I’ll turn up the frequency of my creative outlets: writing, cooking and physical training. In all honesty, a healthy portion of the writing I’ve done surrounding the topic of death here on my blog have come from battling through those darker moments. I’d like to think I have a “healthy” fear of death which has aided in me not allowing those images to take root. However, the jury is still out on whether or not my musings on death are in fact, healthy.

All of those buffers help, in some way and I’ll share a little bit further down about how they help. I also turn my thoughts towards others, knowing that out “there” right now are people, human beings, who have endured far more mental, emotional and physical pain and distress than I and have still continued on. It is humbling, because some have a far heavier burden and a more constant battle.

It is enduring those darker moments, that seems to be the trick, I guess. The frustrating part to me is why the darker moments and thoughts return again and again. It is a constant strain. Like a bad argument that never gets settled between lovers; continually finding its way back to the surface. Ebbing away for a bit but then like the turning of the tide, flows right back in, right up to the high water mark, inching closer and closer, threatening to crest over the levy and destroy everything.

So, at least in a few ways, I can relate. You aren’t alone.

Hold On

Dear reader, if you are on that precipice of decision, please take a step back and recognize that you’ve made it this far and haven’t done it. You’ve pushed through to this point, so that’s saying something. That must count for something. Up until now, you keep finding the strength, somehow, someway. You’ve held on.

I humbly ask you to hold on to the hope that somehow and someway, the tide will turn for the better; the waters will recede once more.

I read something recently that said that the suicidal person doesn’t necessarily want their life to physically end, but a part of their life as they currently know it or experience it. Does that help and give clarity to why you’ve held on this far? Could it be that it isn’t the very life within you that you want to end, but, some part of your life.

Hold on to that, meditate on it perhaps. What facet of your life do you want to change? Again, I’m no professional. I’m merely writing as a hand reaching out. Hoping my small struggles can help in some way.

Hold on. You aren’t alone.

Courage

In my younger, more naive days I held the uber-judgemental view that, “Only cowards commit suicide.” I’m ashamed of that view even though those days of judgement have passed, thankfully, and compassion now holds that place instead.

As an aside, it is fascinating how our bodies override our decisions they will fight, kick and claw to stay alive. In a way, it can take a lot of strength and courage to end it willingly. Whether it is a sacrifice of life to save others or an attempt to end one’s own suffering, it goes against every fight for survival that is hardwired into our brains.

Permit me a simple quote or two…

“Staying positive doesn’t mean you have to be “happy” all the time. It means that even on hard days, you know that there are better ones coming.”

Unknown Author

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’”

Mary Anne Radmacher

It takes courage to live despite the pain, dear reader, just as much as it takes courage to override our instincts to end it. It takes courage, and a little bith of faith and hope to keep our eyes on the horizon, knowing that if we endure, better days will come. We are mortal, dear reader, and one day Death will come for us and we won’t be able to stop it from happening. I ask that you embrace the courage to live and strive for life that you want without relent, and let Death meet you when They choose to.

Have courage. You are not alone.

Exit Wounds

Working in the public sphere, I’ve had encounters with parents who come to me to assist in settling some of the financial affairs of the child they’ve buried due to suicide. Some of the dead are in their late 20’s to early 30’s, some were barely 18 or younger. As a parent and as a fellow human my heart breaks for them.

Rarely are we truly ever alone. We may feel alone, I get that. I feel alone a lot even with a loved one beside me. I feel unworthy of their love or friendship and that makes me feel even more isolated. We may feel alone, insignificant, overlooked, “No one will miss me when I’m gone…”. It is a very real thought and it is hard to pull any thought out by the roots, though it can be done. But I want to talk about the exit wound for a minute. In that thinking, we think our exit then, would be small and insignificant, barely seen – like the entrance would of a bullet. How could such a small thing cause great damage?

That’s where we flip “the body” to the other side.

This is where we see the true damage. Not only is the exit wound two, three or four times larger, but counting all the damage it did as it traveled through the internal systems netted together – nerve, sinew, muscle, organ and tissue damage… the damage compounds quickly when you look at it that way.

My friend, whether you see it or not, your exit will cause so much damage that some might not recover in their own way from it: because you are cared for and loved, whether you realize it or not. It is hard to see the positive impact we have on other people’s lives when we are suffering because of that overwhelming feeling of insignificance.

Children, your own or even the little kids in your apartment complex or on your street that you’ve made smile. Friends, coworkers, parents, siblings… the fractures run out farther than you know.

I mentioned my children, if we reckon our lives as a brilliant night sky, I consider them four brilliant lights in it. However, when I look at that sky, and let my eyes adjust through being present and considering the impact, the sky begins to light up with other lights, too. And if I were to take an exit prematurely by my own hand, I know that those lights that I see would dim.

Consider, dear reader, you are truly not alone.

Permit me one last quote in this section before moving on.

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”

Ayn Rand

Being Honest with Myself

It does help me a bit to know that when these darker thoughts return that deep inside there is something about my life that needs to be changed. Maybe it is a kind of compass, guiding me to the life I am meant to live. So I try to search it out and be honest with myself about whatever that misery is that I want to snuff out. What is it that I need to change?

Because I want to live. Truly. I do. I hate to project, but I’d like to believe that you do to, you don’t want to miss out on touching and tasting the life that is yours to live.

I don’t want to miss out on whatever experiences, hopefully good ones, that I can experience. Either way I peel it back, whether if this life is truly the only one I have or whether Death isn’t the end and there is more on the other side… then why rush, right? Either outcome is headed our way without our consent one way or another so we might as well at least try to stretch it out and make the most of it.

Right?

Lately, I have found great peace of mind in writing down my thoughts in a journal. Because there, myself to myself, I can sift through all the noise and record one thought at a time. I can follow it and examine it and be completely honest with myself. I look at what I’ve written in a different light and it helps me to judge whether those things hold truth, or maybe I’ve been entertaining some sort faleshood, or perhaps just going in twisted circles of logic that make Cirque Du Soleil envious and need to knock it off.

Writing my thoughts out allows me to put an end to all the false parts of myself or my life; to be true in every way to myself. To follow the Path I meant to follow. Self examination is a hard path. It takes intention, it takes attention, strength and patience to find the falsehoods I’ve been agreeing to and telling myself. It is hard to bring to an end those fragmented pieces of my life in an attempt to have some sort of rebirth. Following this path helps me to forgive myself as I come to grips with my own mistakes, to forgive whatever damage I’ve done to myself or others or things I’ve held over my own head. It also helps me to embrace what grace is available to me and move on.

I’m not there yet, but I’m pushing toward that mark. I haven’t reached the summit, but, dear reader, there is a path… or three, to the top.

You are not alone.

Channeling

Have you ever read Henry Rollins’s essay, “The Iron and The Soul”? I recommend reading it. It has resonated with me since I read it about a decade ago, and back then, it was already nearly two decades old. I especially resonated with the viewpoint of being a wimpy kid who’d been picked on relentlessly in school and needed places to channel my anger and frustration and heartbreak. I learned at an early age to pack those emotions down and a channel was definitely needed. Over the years, I’ve learned to channel those emotions through writing, art, martial arts and lifting weights.

During my younger years my parents enrolled me in martial arts and I drew quite often – my parents tell me that I’d been writing small stories since I was eight or so. I don’t remember much of the writing, but I know that piece of me began to take off in my teens when I moved to the Pacific Northwest. After breaching into my adult years, my attempts at the channels ebbed and flowed for about fifteen of the last twenty years. During the last five years, those channels have become fairly harmonious in a way that really helps me channel those negative emotions and transform them into something positive and creative.

It is hard to describe, but having more than one channel allows me to cut at it from multiple angles. The least of those is art (by way of drawing or sketching) but in each of them my struggles are channeled and minimized; quieted to more manageable levels, or elimated completely until the next go round. In those channels I feel more myself, than at any other time.

In any of these channels, I forget about everything else while I am in that moment. I am here, writing. I am here, in the middle of a roll with a jiu-jitsu partner. I am here, lifting 245lbs off the floor in pursuit of 315 on my Deadlift. For one, two, three glorious hours… I am. And I am here.

There are channels available for you, too. Channels that will make you feel uniquely like yourself, in glorious ways.

You are not alone.

I Was Here…

Maybe this will help. A handful of months ago, I went to the Oregon Coast for a small vacation with my girlfriend. I hadn’t seen a coastline in over two decades. It was wonderful. One day we went inland to a State Park that had this beautiful set of waterfalls. It was a beautiful sunny day, clear blue skies, white puffy clouds, clean air, the smell of earth and water and trees, the roar of the waterfalls, mist touching my face and exposed skin…

You get the idea.

Below the main waterfall about a hundred or so yards away, was a small bridge and we stood there in the sunshine looking up at the waterfall we had just walked around, behind and underneath of. I was having thoughts around my mortality, because I’m neurotic like that, and I closed my eyes and just stood there basking in the sun. As I did so, this thought came to me which brought some sort of peace regarding my mortality.

“It doesn’t matter if there is an afterlife or not. I was here, in this place, with someone who loves me. I felt the sunshine and cool mist. I breathed in the fresh air. I experienced this. I was here. I was here.”

Maybe that’s all I need to carry on. Maybe it’s all you need, too? There will be moments like this in our lives. We were there, we experienced it. That’s all that matters. Maybe it truly is just up to us to make our life matter. With moments like these, with channels that we possess, with lights in our lives. We were here. That is all that matters.

I’d rather go out in present in the things I love to do and people I enjoy being with. On my terms. Knowing that if my life mattered to me.

I was here.

You were here.

So, please, don’t give up. Find a reason. Make a reason to keep going.

You are not alone.

What do you want?

In quieter moments of clarity, I’ve observed one thing. It could be universal, it could not.

Being honest with myself, I just want to love the ever-loving-shit out of life and everyone I am blessed to love and seemingly selfishly, I want to be loved in return. I want to know, truly know, that both of those aren’t done in vain.

I want Light in my life and to be a Light to others.

I want to communicate with people. To speak and be heard and understood, as well as to let others be free to speak, be heard and understood.

I want to increase and improve myself so that I not only help myself, but that I can truly help people; to bring light into someone’s dark and cloudy life and help bring order to their chaos.

Is that a bit grand or too much?

Well, to double down, I want to drink, as in the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge, deeply from the milk of human kindness.

I want to chase the Sun across this globe – there is so much to see and so little time to see it.

What do you want?

You are not alone.