THE STIGMA OF SUICIDE

Suicide. A single word, which invokes fear, shame, misunderstanding, anger, confusion and a stigma equaling the weight of the Titanic. It will cause who you think are your closest allies to go running, so fast, it is as if they are being chased by the burning flames of a rapidly spreading bush fire. The word is associated with selfishness, with weakness and with a lack of willpower. The reactions to the word run the gamut from “that’s ridiculous, who thinks about that” and “what is so wrong in your life”, to “how self-centered you are” and finally “I can’t deal with this”.

Suicide. The action generates feelings of grief, terror and trauma. It carries the misconception of irrationality, instability and egocentrism. It will cause your relations to judge you, hate you, love you and mourn you. It will leave them with questions that will remain unanswered for perpetuity, for the only true motivation for your action perished when your life flame extinguished.

What makes this word materialize from an assemblage of letters, to a culmination of ideations, to an objective, to a precise action of  irreversible finality? STIGMA. The topic of suicide is still taboo, disapproved and in some places, forbidden. One may be strong enough to disclose their diagnosed mental illnesses, BPD, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, just to name a few, however, when one reaches the absolute darkness of self-extermination, it is as if their tongues have been cut out, eliminating the capacity to  even verbalize the word suicide. The fear in sharing the darkness of the ideas and emotions that run through the self-destructive mind is so immeasurable, that letting go of the rope that has kept you from falling seems effortless. The angst of judgment, the trepidation of rejection and the fear of hospitalization often making the ability to ask for help an insurmountable chore.

The stigmatization of the word itself has to end, in order to see any reduction in the number of  actual actions. Very few wake up one morning and spontaneously choose to end their lives. Suicide is a result of traumatic and horrific experiences that have festered in the mind and soul since occurring. It is the complete and utter loss of hope, strength and desire to exist. The thought of the action becomes the only hope of ending the unremitting pain and suffering that is tearing you apart like a lion mauling its prey. The survivors you leave behind questioning why you left them, why you did not reach out for help or speak the words “I’m feeling suicidal”, yet the answers, for you, come as easily as flicking on a light switch. Fear and stigma. No one climbs a ladder from the first step to the top without the rungs in between. The same could be said for suicide. It starts at the bottom and slowly creeps up until it not only reaches the top, it jumps off and drags you with it.

What if the thoughts of suicide could be as openly discussed and accepted as the myriad of mental illnesses? What if someone could safely and honestly express those ideas and emotions with no fear of condemnation or repercussions, while still on the ladder’s lower rungs? Would it help decline the speed of the ascent or perhaps eliminate the need to reach the peril that lies atop at all. Could becoming educated, understanding and less judgmental of one single word effectively make a difference in a single life, or even in societal views? Is it possibly as straightforward and uncomplicated as that?

As a suicide survivor, I will answer the above questions from my perspective. Yes, it is as simple as that. In most instances, the people on the top rung will jump off before you even notice they started to climb. Their ascent so rapid it leaves not even an indication of a footprint. They are silent, focused and prepared, their actions usually a success. The others climb at a slower pace, leaving behind traces of their emotions and intentions while screaming ever so quietly for help. They wish for someone to hear them and provide a sanctuary for that one deadly word. These are the people that could be helped if we reduced the outside noise in our lives and took a moment to focus on the silence. Listen carefully. Pay close attention as the cries for help are there, and truly hearing and finding them could not only  be a preventative measure but actually save a life.

So if you are at the top and at risk of immediate of danger, hospitalization or intervention is a must. If you are at the bottom and feel yourself gradually and uncontrollably making that ascent, STOP. Reach out. Scream it, shout it, write it. Express it without shame or fear of repercussions from the ignorant. Know that someone, somewhere is not only listening, but hears you. Know that as much as you feel it, you are never alone. Know that by reaching out, your voice can start a momentum so powerful it instills the same fearlessness in the masses.

Destigmatizing begins with you, right here, right now. After all, it is only a word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Child’s Perspective of Domestic Violence

I am not sure that I slept without the hallway light on until I was 14. The darkness seemed to inhibit my much needed hypersensitivity to noises. After all, if I fell fully asleep, I might not hear the shouting, screaming or cries for help. I had to remain aware at all times to try to help her, to save her, to make the beatings stop.

I think I first realized the severity of the situation when I was five. It was just past Christmas. I remember the tree was still up, the lights blinking in a mesmerizing fashion, my eyes drawn to them like a magnet. She sat quietly on the couch weeping. I grabbed the Kleenex box from the  washroom, handed it to her, and sat down by her side. That was when I first became the caretaker, the protector, the parent. She went into detail of the events that occurred…

“Daddy got mad at Mommy, spanked her and Mommy has a bruise on her bum”.

“But why Mommy? What did you do wrong?”

“Mommy made Daddy mad. Mommy needs you to keep her company right now.”

“Are you sad Mommy?”

“Yes honey, Mommy is sad and scared.”

“Don’t worry Mommy, I will help you.”

And so it began. My life as a child ended and my life as a protector, as a small adult started.

I don’t recall the exact number of occurrences. Every incident was so damaging, so traumatizing, they seemed to blur the days into weeks, the weeks into months  I do remember the nights she crawled into my bed, perhaps out of fear, perhaps for support. The dresser seemed so heavy when we pushed it against my bedroom door. The single bed making for a tight fit, a sense of security for us both. We bought a lock…the old style with the chain and put it on my door. The lock, I thought, would ensure our safety, would allow us a nights sleep, maybe even with the pleasure of the lights off, however the chain did not hold against the force of a kick. I tried to hold her foot as he pulled her across the carpet and out the door, but my small hands failed. Limbs were flailing and in the midst I felt the sharp sting across my face followed by my first taste of blood, as it trickled from my nose, mixed with my tears and dripped slowly into my mouth.

We moved to my Nan’s house. A week later we moved home.

These memories are burnt into my mind like grill marks on a steak. The times I sat outside their bedroom door crying, screaming that I was sick or hurt…anything to make it stop. The time he thought I wouldn’t hear if he dragged her to the basement. Wrong. The first time I called the police and hid in my closet, terrified of the consequences that I knew were coming. The night I was brave enough to ignore the shouts to go away and opened the door, walking in on the rape.

We moved again to my Nan’s house. Two weeks later we moved home.

The cycle continued, like a tornado destroying trees from their roots. The beatings, then the gifts, followed by a brief cessation of violence, like life had suddenly turned into a play with everyone acting their respective parts.

The play ended, the beatings resumed, the play began.

With every instance I lost trust, stability and hope. The memories locked into a vault in the hope of one day being forgotten. I gained strength and courage. I tried to stand tall, take care and ward off the evil in my home. I tried to get in the middle, to shout and scream, to cry and bang on the walls. I tried to mouth off, to say “I hate you”, “I wish you weren’t my father.” “Please stop hitting Mommy”. They all failed. All my attempts had been in vain. I could not save her any more than I could stop him, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t spend the next eight years trying.

I was when I came home from a friends house. My mom lying in her bed crying softly as she told me that “Dad had moved out”. The relief flowing through my body and mind like the rapids of a river. I kissed her, gently stroked her back and assured her we would be fine, just the two of us.

I turned the hallway light out and slept peacefully and without fear for the first time in my life.

 

 

 

 

Your Last 24 Hours…

The world is your oyster. You have the ability to have or do anything you want…absolutely anything. Money is no object. You have your wildest dreams and fantasies at your fingertips, you can fulfill any whim on demand. It’s a dream come true. Everything you have ever desired.

The catch?

You have 24 hours to live.

A death sentence with the luxury of no confining bars or ever watchful guards. You are not physically ill and can’t buy a cure, or purchase your way back into life. Death is not negotiable nor discriminating. It will be back for you in one full day, leaving you to figure out what to do with your remaining time.

Would you travel to a sandy beach and relax with the sounds and scents of the ocean surrounding you, or would you head to the Alps to feel the adrenaline and freedom of skiing down the mountain? Perhaps you have a bucket list, and you would try to accomplish a few, or at least the most important things. Maybe you would head to Vegas and be reckless and carefree and drink your way to oblivion, after all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Would you go on a shopping spree of luxurious cars, diamonds and lavish clothing, buying all the things you fantasized about as a child and adult. Surround yourself with the best material items that money can buy? Eat the finest foods and drink 100 year old whiskey, all just because you can. You could finally have everything you have ever desired, and things you didn’t even know you wanted.

Would that make you happy? To have lived like a King or Queen for your last 24 hours. Would those be the things you were thinking about when you draw your last breaths? Will you feel  you have accomplished something by acquiring all that you have, and being able to leave a material legacy to pass down.

24 hours.

Do you think any of that matters? Do you think money or purchased items will be on your mind as you lay on your deathbed? Do you think you will be happy you finally owned that Audi or 80 inch TV? Will being in Chanel clothing make your passing any better or be a last statement of pride and class? If so, perhaps it says a great deal about not only you, but how you lived your life…Striving to keep up with the materialistic pressures society forces on us.

Possessions don’t matter. You can’t take them with you. They become items to be fought and picked over by bickering family members, eventually landing in a box, garage or attic, or alternatively, disposed of once its purpose has been served.

24 hours.

What is it that really matters? What do you hold nearest and dearest to your heart and soul? Family and friends? Experiences and pleasures past lived? A long lost love or the comfort of your favorite blanket? The hugs, kisses, touches, words, tears, memories, sights, scents and sounds that have made your life the unique experience it is…those are the only true things that matter. The lives you have touched and the ones that have touched you, leaving a legacy that far surpasses anything money could buy.

24 hours.

So spend time with your loved ones. Tell your friends and family how you feel. Hug them, kiss them, talk to them and not just listen, but hear them. Do for others the things you were unable to do and always wished you could. Reach out and touch a life. Make someone else’s dreams come true…make a bunch of peoples dreams come to life. A simple smile, or acknowledgement can make a persons day. In the end it’s the smallest things in life that matter, not the big things we waste our life being consumed by.

So spend the rest of your days as if it were your last 24 hours, and make them count. Make the little things be the big things because the day could be your last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve Got This!

You think you can’t. You can’t possibly take any more. It feels painful and exhausting to take your next breath. You are encompassed in a darkness so black not even a star could shine through. You feel like your last finger is losing its grip on the rope that you’ve held on to for so long. Hope a thought so obscure it seems as unattainable as your chances of touching a rainbow. You feel defeated. You feel you have fought so many battles but in the end you have lost the war. You feel alone, misunderstood, judged and empty. You feel your present moment is a reflection of the only moments to come. You are afraid, and this fear is as real as if you had been robbed of your valuables while you slept. You were robbed. Perhaps someone stole your trust, your sense of value and self, your innocence or your ability to believe in others and yourself. It is a violation that has been inflicted on you by a person or situation out of your control, which in turn, makes you angry, yet you don’t have a proper outlet, so you internalize. You negate the kind things others say; you negate anything kind you try to think about yourself. You feel like there is a demolition man in your head leaving a path of destruction while he plows through your thoughts.

Well stop! You are not your thoughts. Your mind is lying to you. You are so much stronger than you could possibly imagine. Just when you think you don’t have an ounce left to fight with, you dig into a reserve you did not know existed in you as it has not been necessary until this moment. You are not your negative thoughts. They do not define you or control you. You are an undiscovered gem worth sifting through the bullshit to get to the brilliance.

You are needed. Your story, your voice are both worthy of being heard. You deserve to be able to be speak how you feel without apprehension of ignorance and judgement. You are valued simply because you exist. You are your own thoughts, not the ones that have been fed to you and encouraged by others.

You are not alone. As much as you feel that way, know there are others at this very moment feeling the very same as you. There are places for you to feel safe, and to allow yourself to trust and be trusted. From Sicknotweak.com to #Imnotashamed the community of support for you has grown immensely in a short period of time. People who will listen and not judge. People with an illness. People who care. People who understand.

So giving up is not an option. It simply isn’t, so put it out of your mind. You will feel better. You will succeed, you will love yourself and others. Your depression, or anxiety or whatever else is not you. You have a disease and you are worth taking the same time to care about yourself as you would if you had cancer. You are worth giving yourself the same love, affection and respect as you do to everyone around you.

You are the change you want to be in yourself.

You’ve got this!