September 10th was World Suicide Awareness Day. People acknowledged and promoted it by posting and sharing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.8255 on their social media platforms.
The Internet was flooded with pictures of Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Junior Seau, and a handful of celebrities who ended their lives too soon. These of the popular faces of suicide.
On one hand, I get it. Relating suicide to famous people who struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and idiopathic sadness is a good reminder to all non-celebrities that those ailments don’t discriminate. A person can be worth millions of dollars, have fame and freedom, and still not want to complete the lives they are so fortunate to have.
Most people have been touched by suicide, peripherally. Many who will read this have friends, associates, and family members who have taken their own lives. That’s a heavy thought. What’s a heavier thought though, is that many people reading this will have friends, associates, and family members who will someday take their own lives, but who haven’t yet, and show no signs that they will. With that in mind, I believe the faces of suicide awareness shouldn’t be celebrities — they should be everyone we make eye contact with in a day’s time.
More people live with suicidal thoughts than most others realize. Some people experience suicidal thoughts on rare occasions while others may experience them more frequently. Some, myself included, live with them daily.
The great majority of people who experience suicidal thoughts, whether it’s occasionally or more frequently, hold them in for fear of being judged, cast out, or worse. Some, myself included as also, fear that being transparent about suicidal feelings might influence our ability to earn a living. Someone reading this and who also does business with me may choose not to going forward. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, today anyway.
I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts for most of my life. They are intertwined with the depression, anxiety, and especially the sadness that I’ve also negotiated for much of my life. These feelings first surfaced with me first when I was in lower elementary school. Think about that — I began entertaining and subsequently working through the symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts as a 9-year old. To see me on the surface though, people have no idea this takes place behind my façade of normalcy.
I know I’m not alone.
I’m now in my late 50s. I can look back at my life, in part, as a series of successful and negotiations with myself on the importance and of staying put. If not for myself, I stay out for anyone who finds value in my life, especially on the days when I can’t. I’m proud of that — proud of my success in a 50-year struggle with the idea of living, or not.
A part of that success is coming to understand that suicidal feelings always pass — they always pass. That in those critical moments when I think I might be better off dead, I recognize that I want to be dead for that moment, and not for forever. As odd as that sounds, framing it that way has helped me deal with it in ways medication never could.
I’m sharing these feelings today for two reasons:
1) So that anyone reading this who might experience similar feelings will know they’re not alone — that roughly 4% of the adult population in this country has experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year. That’s 12-million people.
2) That those who don’t or haven’t experienced such feelings, might be more aware of the 12-million people like me who have. Again, keep in mind most people struggling with suicidal thoughts look like anyone else on the surface.
As for World Suicide Awareness Day, perhaps in the future we might rebrand it, making it less about celebrities and more about the people next-door or the people down the hall. We could call it…
The World Day Of Staying Put
In addition to promoting suicide awareness, it could also be observed as a day of worldwide confession — a day to share one’s feelings safely, without fear of judgment or any consequences. It could be a day to celebrate those, like myself, who have successfully stood up to the dark and often overwhelming thoughts, and batted them far away, on behalf of those who care for and depend on us.
As any of us look around today in a room full of people, whether it’s a restaurant, an ice rink, or our living rooms, let the faces of suicide awareness not be those of celebrities. Let the faces of suicide awareness be everyone we make eye contact with. Let’s strive to remember that behind every pair of eyes is a heart, a soul, and a life’s worth of experiences we know little about. Behind some of the happiest and most outgoing faces we see, there is often turmoil, depression, sadness, and anxiety.
If you experience suicidal thoughts and don’t have anyone to speak with, please contact 800.273.8255. There are people there willing to listen, and without judgment.
This is what I think about when I ride. It’s also what I think about when I don’t ride… Jhciacb
This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes ridden: 6
15.3 mph avg
13 hours 04 minutes seat time
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Dinosaur Jr. Enjoy…!