Hi. Last night I watched a video of the comedian Louis CK. He talked about suicide and said, “You should be able to talk about it. The whole world is made up of people who didn’t kill themselves today. That’s who’s here, is all of us who said, “Okay, f*@&, I’ll keep doing it.”
It made me think about how sometimes suicide is a normal thought. When life gets really overwhelming and emotionally and physically painful, it’s common to think thoughts about ending it all. It’s a highly personal thought that rarely gets shared, so it seems like no one else is having those thoughts. But they do. I think we get scared to mention suicidal thoughts because of how others will see us. But to be able to be vulnerable and admit to feeling that way can bring a sense of freedom and relief.
When I was dying of a lung disease over four years ago, I thought about suicide most everyday. It was extremely hard to breathe, it was a majorly difficult effort to walk a few feet, and I was totally exhausted, and it got worse everyday. It was more than I could handle. So I used to imagine all kind of ways I could end my life. One was I figured there must have been some way to light my oxygen tanks on fire so I could end it all in a big and amazing fireball. That seemed like a good idea at the time.
I didn’t actually attempt suicide during that time. Those thoughts were balanced out with a feeling of wanting to find a way to be alive and be healthy again. Those two forces traded places during my those days. I shared those feelings with my wife. I thought she would get angry with me, but she was kind and said she understood. It felt good for me to be that vulnerable.
It seems like there’s a pressure to appear to have it all together, to not let people see our vulnerability. It seems like we could be hurt by being open to others. That they would injure us in some survival of the fittest way. Our culture honors those who show strength and control in moments of adversity.
But it seems to me that it’s more honorable to admit to being overwhelmed, to say, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t have the answers.” It shows an honest strength to say, “I hurt, and I don’t know how to make it better.” It’s powerful to say, “I feel so stuck and I want to give up.”
That’s because it’s honest. It’s admitting that you’re experiencing being part of the human condition. Life is painful at times. Sometimes you lose the things that you like about your life. Stability gives way to chaos and change. There’s pain and there’s no solution in sight. These are common experiences. They happen to all of us.
If you’ve felt these feelings at times, I congratulate you on your sensitivity. I’m in awe of your heart that has a tremendous capacity to experience such powerful feelings. I feel in solidarity with you. You are not alone and neither am I.
If you are having these feelings now, consider calling the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They can be very helpful and compassionate.