Another one of those weeks where I wrote about something, and then just as I was about to hit “publish” felt I needed to talk about something else…
The news of Kate Spade’s death from suicide this week has everyone talking about suicide. This is a good thing. Although everyone on social media has an opinion and many of those opinions add to the stigma surrounding mental illness.
If you haven’t been there, you don’t really know.
I often hear people describe suicide as a selfish act. It’s not. That’s victim blaming. It’s not selfishness in the least. It’s mental illness. It’s the effect of chemical imbalances and trauma and the inability to cope with stress. It’s when stress and anxiety become unbearable. In my late husband’s mind, taking his own life was putting his family out of the misery he felt his disease was causing.
As I’ve made peace with his suicide, I realize it was actually one of the most courageous things he ever did in his life. For him, it was the only way to make things right for himself and us. He was in a very dark place. In his mind that was literal. On a particularly sunny day, he told me he could not feel the sun. Unless we have experienced real depression, we simply can’t understand what that place is like. Staying positive, smiling, thinking happy thoughts aren’t prescriptions that work for someone with real depression. Thinking that they are adds to the stigma. More victim blaming.
I participated in my town’s Relay for Life benefitting the American Cancer Society last week. I was celebrated as a survivor. I was called a “Hero of Hope.” I’m a little uncomfortable with the “hero” title, but I am glad my cancer experience can be inspiring to others in the fight to eradicate cancer. “Victims” of cancer are celebrated, not blamed for their disease or the pain their disease (or death) may inflict on family members. Experiencing any life-threatening illness simply sucks – for the person diagnosed and their family and friends as well. We need to evolve to include mental illness among the life-threatening illnesses we find acceptable to talk about – and yes, to celebrate the survival of it’s victims.
Had my late husband not felt that mental illness made him weak or “less of a man” he may have been able to use his courage to get professional help. We need to end the stigma and let people know it’s okay not to be okay. So yes, please talk about suicide. Be curious. Ask questions. Do your research. Understand that no one is to blame. Only then can we begin to find healing.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.
I think I sold myself short last week when I said that I had only mastered “surviving” the holidays. Thanksgiving was wonderful. Thanksgiving weekend was full of quality time spent with my daughter as well as friends. The house has been enthusiastically decorated for Christmas inside and out, and I find myself embracing all that the holiday season has to offer. That’s when it occurred to me that I was beyond surviving. I had found my inner Mary Sunshine. Read more →
This post is meant as a complement to what I wrote in August about ways to survive and thrive after the loss of a spouse. Holidays obviously can be difficult for anyone dealing with loss. Admittedly, even this year, my fourth holiday season since my husband died, I’ve really only mastered “surviving.”
Last Thanksgiving I hosted “Friendsgiving” (read about it here). That alienated my daughter. Not knowing all of the invited guest very well, she opted to spend the holiday with her friend’s family. So that didn’t feel right either. This year I asked her what she wanted to do. She asked that we cook a meal together (anything but Turkey) and put up the Christmas decorations.
What have I learned about at least surviving the holidays? Read more →
This is another week in which I wrote something that will be saved for publishing another day. When I work with clients, sometimes it becomes apparent that there is an emotional issue we need to work through before we can focus on anything else. The term we use for that is clearing. Sometimes the client needs time to be in that moment…to be angry, sad, concerned or even celebratory…before they can focus on next steps toward their goals. So as this week unfolded, I realized I couldn’t just publish what I wrote last weekend. And honestly, it has taken me all week to process my emotions.
Americans are absolutely right to be outraged at the toll of guns. Just since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than all the Americans who died in wars going back to the American Revolution (about 1.45 million vs. 1.4 million). That gun toll includes suicides, murders and accidents, and these days it amounts to 92 bodies a day.
We spend billions of dollars tackling terrorism, which killed 229 Americans worldwide from 2005 through 2014, according to the State Department. In the same 10 years, including suicides, some 310,000 Americans died from guns.
This is National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). We all know what suicide is. We hear about it. It’s something that happens to other people. I remember being touched by a documentary called The Bridge many years ago. I thought about it a lot when I had the incredible opportunity to run over the Golden Gate years later. I could never have imagined then how I would be touched by suicide.
WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE
Talking about wanting to die
Looking for a way to kill oneself
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
Sleeping too little or too much
Withdrawing or feeling isolated
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Displaying extreme mood swings
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.