Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Suicide: The Taboo Conversation

I've often shared too much information in this forum. I've put myself out there in ways some suggest is too much. I do it because in this high paced, social media world where everything is marketed and branded, we've stopped telling the truth. We tell what looks good.  We talk about the topics that are #trending. We don't talk about how alone so many of us feel.  I share so maybe one other person who might be feeling the same way might feel less alone.

One of the things we don't talk about is suicide. Last week I had a conversation with a stranger. It began as small talk, but then the subject veered towards suicide. Not a subject for small talk with a stranger, mind you, but it came up.  "Have you ever thought about it?" he asked. Talk about being put on the spot.  Before I could censor myself, I nodded.  "Yes, it's cross my mind from time to time," I told him. "Me too," he said.

I stood there listening as he told me how his room mate has a gun and he used to go to where the gun was kept and he would hold it. He would wonder if he had the guts to do it. I didn't stop him to say any of the things a friend or family member might say like, "its a permanent solution to a temporary problem" or "it gets better." I just listened. For some reason, he needed to tell me, or someone, this story. And I needed to hear it.

Before our encounter was over, I told him to hang in there. "You too," he said.

Suicide is one of those things that scare us. I think it's probably a rare person who hasn't had those fleeting thoughts at some point in their lives, although they might not admit it. It's one of those things we can't really discuss with friends or family because they have a stake in our staying alive, staying the course, hanging in there, waiting for it to get better.

About six months ago a friend committed suicide. She made the decision she could no longer "stay the course."  For those of us who survived, we were left with the questions people always have. Why?  What was the last straw? Could I have done something?

The real question I have is "If she couldn't make it through this life, how the fuck am I supposed to?"

We are surrounded by hopelessness. From a government in gridlock to random shootings of children.  The economy sucks. The elderly have to choose between medication and food.  A friend can't afford his HIV meds and wonders why he should even try.

Yesterday I let some of that hopelessness and the hopelessness of another situation take me to that dark place we don't talk about.  I wondered how I really could keep going on. Was there a way out?  But then after a few minutes, I snapped back and put my happy mask back on and forged forth.  "Fake it until you make it," they say.

This is not a suicide note. No intervention is necessary. I just want people to be able to say, "Yes, sometimes life feels kinda hopeless and I'm scared, mad, sad <insert any emotion>." Then we can lift each other up and find the hope that still exists out there and within each of us. It's the loneliness and hopelessness that makes us feel alone.

Don't tell me it gets better. Show me.  Hold my hand and let's find out.


  1. Not all of us know how to show others that things get better, but we may be able to point people to someone who can.

  2. Exactly, Hector. I saw your post after I published this. I'm sorry about your friend.