Suicide Is Not The Only Option
I got to thinking about this subject when I was watching a Ted Talks episode, by Mark Henick, about suicide. More specifically, his own attempts at suicide. In this video he discusses how his perceptions changed during his episodes of depression, until he could see absolutely no choices for himself except suicide. "It all comes down to perceptions," he says.
I can relate completely to this feeling, as if someone outside yourself has taken control over every option you have. You can see nowhere you can make any decisions other than doing what you are doing, nothing else seems possible. Every where you look, every decision you might make that will stop the crushing of your hopes and will, and dare I say your soul, seems like it would only then tear apart the people you love instead. Perceptions indeed.
Life Has No Map
Your Wish for Me Versus My Hopes and Dreams
Nowhere is this dichotomy more powerful, more obvious, or less tangible than the rift between what a parent defines as a successful life for their child, versus what that child actually dreams about for their own future self.
Everyone knows the child who's parents sole definition of success for their child was a doctorate of one sort or another. These children have no hope of a happy life if any test comes home with a grade less than 100%. Everything they do must be a scholarly success, or it is a waste of time. They never pause to wonder if their child might actually want something else in life, true happiness after all comes only with the financial success and stability that comes from obtaining a degree from a high brow university, nothing else will do.
Another example is the family for whom a sports contract or gold medal is the only real achievement in life. These children grow up with every spare moment not involved with sleeping or school is used traveling to and from practice and events.
For these children, and many other children from whom the parents definition of success and happiness differs from their own, a large part of growing up will be tinged with the growing realization that in order to be truly happy you will have to break the hopes and expectation of those who have helped and supported you all your life.
If you have grown up in a family that is not supportive, or for some other reason you feel your own opinions will never matter to your family, it might end up feeling like your choices all null and void. It is quite easy for any person who has a very deep sense of self, that you may as well be dead as to live a life that is not their own choice.
I just want to share a few other options for you to think about.
Ash Beckham discusses difficult conversations
Talk About It
The first option, and the simplist. But, as is often true with the simplest things, it is often not as easy to actually do as it sounds. But when it is done with heart, and to the correct people, it can be the most powerful decision you can ever make. The decision to live honestly, with your whole heart and soul, around the people you love and trust is a powerful one, for you and for them.
The problem comes when the people you love and trust the most have values that are in direct opposition to who you really are. There is a very real danger that, if their beliefs are narrow and restrictive enough they just might reject who you are, leaving you with the choice of going back to pretending not to be who you are, or leaving and pretending to not have family. It is rare, but it does happen. And it is only human to focus on the very worst that can happen when trying to decide what actions to take and how to deal with any situation. So then what do you do?
Well often people will start the conversation with someone they trust, who they feel will be at least slightly open to their point of view, but who also isn't quite as personally invested in you and your decisions. So a friend, or a member of clergy if you trust them, or a teacher or counsellor. A test discussion with someone can give you practice on how to deal with reactions to what you need to say. Then when that one is accomplished, try it with someone else. Get practiced in sharing your news until it feels normal to share. And don't be surprised when some of the people you share with know exactly how you feel.
Take a Time-Out
Life is not easy. There probably isn't anyone that will tell you different. It is downright irritating to me how many people will say life is tough, but then the moment you try to do something for yourself, take a break, treat yourself kindly, they will start complaining about how you are being selfish or weak. That is just ridiculous! There is absolutely no reason for you to treat yourself like you are in an endurance race for the finish line of life. In fact there are plenty of studies to support the idea of living life to the full, and treating yourself to a break now and then along the way.
Something happened at work or at home, and you just feel like you are at the end of your rope and need a break. Take one! Tell your spouse or loved ones that you need a time out. Take a bubble bath, or get a few good movies or a good book and spend a day in bed watching or reading. Get together a group of close friends and take a day at the spa, or a sports event, or whatever is a true break for you, and give yourself permission to take time away from your problems for a day. Then throw your reinvigorated self back into the fray tomorrow!
Someone one day in the past invented something called a 'vacation' to give us permission to take our families and take time away from our day to day lives to give us a breath away from our normal stress. And often replace it with different stress. But it is still new stress, and usually temporary, and gives us a break from worrying about the same stuff day in and day out. But somewhere along the way since this 'vacation' thing was reevaluated and declared to be a lazy waste of time rather than a much needed break away from our normal lives. Take your break time back. Even if it is just one day a month. Or one hour a week. Turn the phone off, stay away from the news. Tell your family you will be out of reach, just for a bit. The world will still be there, and just as messy as always. You'll just have more energy to deal with it.
A Simple Coin Toss
Make a Small, but Drastic Change
Sometimes things just cannot be resolved by a bubble bath or a trip to a sports game. Many things can be, more than we often think a day away from our problems can clear our minds and allow for new solutions to enter our thoughts, but this will not be the case in every situation. There are many situations that cannot be solved simply by changing our minds about them, instead we have to work around them or work them out of our lives. So that brings us to this option.
There are certain things about a person that can be said to define them, to be just part of who they are. Eye color, hair color, sense of humor, all of these things can be said to be part of the composite of who a person is and who they are seen to be by other people. Many of these things are mutable, they can be changed in some ways, altered a bit or drastically, depending on what it is and what options you may have at hand. However, the argument can be made that no matter what you change about you are still you, and the opposite argument can also be made that changing some things about yourself, or too many things about yourself, can leave a person not really knowing who they are, and so a person who is unhappy with the way another person, or people or group, views that person can have a profound effect on a person's sense of self.
This all leads us with the knowledge that some things about ourselves non-negotiable, they are the things about ourselves that we feel defines us and without them we would not be who we are. On the other hand, there are many things about ourselves we have more flexibility with, things that we can choose to share, or have remain something for ourselves alone, or for ourselves and only very close personal friends. And many small things that we may just choose to alter our opinions on just so that we can remain on friendly terms with family members, and that is completely within our choice to make that decision if we wish. Such a thing like political leanings may be very close to the core of your personality, but you can choose not to share your political views with your very opinionated grandfather, just so that you can get through Thanksgiving without upsetting your mother. Or you can look into what your grandfather is talking about so that you may actually have some understanding of where he is coming from in his opinions. How you choose to deal with the situation is completely up to you, the important part is to realize that you have options. Staying home from Thanksgiving is one of them, but it may not be the best one once you have researched some alternative ideas.
Alternatively there is always the option to completely remove people from your lives. Not visiting them, not going to places they will be to avoid restarting old arguments. It is a bit more drastic of an option, but if it is the one that allows you to take your life back into your control it may be the one you need to take. This often leads to needing to explain to other friends and family members what the issue is, however, ultimately it is up to you. Who you rely on, talk to, or hang around is a decision you should feel free to make. Being around people who only ever bring out the worst in you is not a decision to take lightly.
Make a Catastrophic Change
When all else fails, when the people you love cannot or will not understand and support you, or you cannot stand to be around supporting them any longer and it is simply time for them to learn to stand on their own feet, it may just be time to make a drastic change. If you are at the point where taking your life seems the only solution, changing your life from top to bottom is basically the same thing, only with less muss and mess for your loved ones, and a bit more paperwork for you.
It used to be in days gone by you could completely up and change your life, essentially become a new person, by moving a few towns away and telling people to address you by a different name. Those days are essentially gone, it is not quite so easy to become a different person now, with both good and bad things associated with that. There are ways to become a different person legally, but it takes a good bit of paperwork, a lot of effort, and you still have all ties remaining from your old life. That being said, if what you really need is just a new start with fresh opportunities and no one from the past actually hanging over your head you can still do that.
All it takes is the decision that everyone will be happier with you not around to be the different one in the family, pooling together as many resources as you can get your hands on, picking a place off a map and going. Having a destination in mind certainly helps, as well as planning some resources when you arrive. If the necessity of you leaving forces you to not be as stable or secure as you'd like when you leave do not hesitate to reach out for help when you arrive. Though rare, there are times when the decision to leave a place is the only safe decision available, preparation time is not an option. Now of course I'm not trying to encourage a ton of people just to go out into the world to become homeless, but for people who just need a bit of room to find out who they are just that bit of freedom may be all you need to get started. It certainly is an alternative to being willing to give your life to be free. There is more than one definition of freedom in this world.
In the End
This hub actually took a long time to write. I thought quite a bit about it before I even started, and it has taken about a week for me to write each section. It is a quite heavy subject matter, and I did not approach it simplistically, even though there will probably be people who will judge it as such without even reading it. But there was something about Mark Henick's Ted Talk Video that just would not let me forget the subject. I think it was just the finality of his emotions when he discussed how out of choices he felt when considering to take his life. I just wanted to tell him I knew how he felt, how trapped feels, but there are other ways to escape that do not necessarily involve death. So this is what came from that.
I know not everyone who is considering suicide will find this of any use. Some of you reading this while in that state of mind will find the ideas here ludicrous and unhelpful. For some of you the idea of death being the way out will be so forefront in your mind that it will leave no room for any other ideas. Please at least try to reach out to someone.
For everyone else, those who aren't quite in that state of mind, I hope you find some idea here that you can use.