A couple of big names were in the news this past week. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide days apart. People are talking about it. I began wondering about the other 850+ non-famous people who’ve committed suicide this week alone. I’d like to know their names. I’d like to remember them, too.
The CDC says that the suicide rate in the US has increased more than 25% since 1999. 1999 was my darkest year. Suicide had become a viable option for me. In February of 2000, I went to the brink and ended up in the ER, then intensive care. I know what it’s like to feel hopeless. I know what it’s like to believe that there is no way out of the despair. I know what it’s like to be consumed by shame and fear. If only I had known that the desperate thoughts and feelings would pass. If only I had known that I was resilient and whole despite how it all seemed. If only Kate, Anthony, and countless other people had known.
This is why I do the work I do. I want people to know. I want them to know that desperate thoughts and feelings pass. I want them to know that they are not those thoughts and feelings. I want them to know their own wellbeing and resilience.
You see, no matter how it may seem at this very moment, you are whole. You have innate wellbeing and resiliency. It may be that no one has ever told you. It may be that you’ve been told all your life that you are broken. It may be that you’ve come to believe it. I believed it. That belief was devastating. No matter how it looks to you at this moment, you are not broken; you only believe that you are. That belief is causing you tremendous suffering. Your essence cannot be broken. If you listen deeply, you may feel the truth of this, if only for a nanosecond. It’s no less true if you can’t.
Listen, it’s OK if you don’t believe it. I’ll believe it for you until you can. I believe it with all my heart. I believe in you. I see your light. I see your wholeness. If you can’t, it’s OK. It makes it no less true. You’ve only forgotten. You could remember at any moment. These desperate thoughts and feelings will pass. They will. That’s what thoughts and feelings do. They are not you. They are not permanent.
When we are in the throes of the devasting thoughts and emotions, they feel utterly and overwhelmingly real. They are supposed to feel real, that’s how this human system works. I get it. I understand. I’ve been there. All the way down. Sometimes it’s at the very bottom that we get a taste of who we really are, of our divinity. Over the Rhine has a line in their song, Nobody Number One, that I love: “I’m so far down, I’m beginning to breathe”. That’s what happened to me. I went all the way down and it was there that I found I could breathe. It was there that I touched my essence.
Sydney Banks, a philosopher and writer, said: “If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.” I believe it. I was so afraid of feeling down. I was so afraid of feeling shame. I was so afraid of feeling alone. I was so afraid of feeling afraid. I did not know that I could have touched it all more lightly. I did not know that I could have taken them less seriously and personally. I did not know that they were not me. I did not know that they would pass. Despite not knowing, they passed anyway but I kept them alive for much longer than necessary and I suffered greatly as a result. Now I know that thoughts, feelings, and circumstances pass. Now I know that I don’t have to take them so very personally and seriously. Now I know that I can find my way through. This is possible for you, too. It is.
If you are feeling suicidal:
- Reach out for support. I’d be happy to have a conversation with you or you could call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255
- Remind yourself, whether or not you can feel it, that you are whole. You are resilient. You are made of star-stuff. You are divinity. If you can't remind yourself, find someone who can.
- Remember that thoughts and feelings want to move through you. That’s what they do. They are not permanent. They are not you. Imagine watching them pass without attaching to them. They cannot hurt you. You could think of them as a dream that you will wake up from or a fantastically immersive movie that will end.
- Instead of adding to the desperate thoughts and feelings with more thought and analysis, you could bring your attention back into the present moment. Feel your body in your chair. Feel how that chair supports you. Notice your breath, the inhale, the exhale. You are created for this present moment, not a future or past moment. Bring your attention back to this very moment.
- You could notice that even in the midst of the despair, a puppy, an unexpected smile from a stranger, the wind caressing your skin can still make you smile at times. That could be a reminder to you that thoughts and feelings come and go. Notice it or you may miss it.
- Remind yourself that countless people have found their way through. You can, too. I could never have imagined 20 years ago how good life could be for me and how much like a distant and fading dream those desperate years feel to me now. Don’t give up. You are resilient. There is a way through this.
- Reach out for support. Yes, some things need to be said twice. Humans are relational beings. If no one around you is supportive then call the hotline or contact me. There are those who want to help.
As you wake up to who you truly are, you will find your way. Get support from someone who knows you have innate well-being and who will point you back to your essence, to your own light. That's where you will find your resilience, clarity, and peace. There is hope. There is hope.