Friday, January 27, 2017

Don't Put Your Suicide Message in a Bottle

“Oh please, dear Lord, take me home.” ☜ Somebody posted this on Facebook last night. I had been reading this woman’s cries for help for weeks, but never spoke up because dozens upon dozens of people jumped into each post to give her love and encouragement. I didn’t believe that I could add anything that her peers hadn’t already expressed. Last night, however, this post bothered me. If you’ve read my blog, you know how I feel about drive-by suicide notes. These types of posts are cathartic for the people who leave them, but they burden the folks who read them. They aren’t constructive and smack of wallowing. I felt compelled to leave a comment, but what would be the best approach? How could I help her believe that she could take control of her suicidal tendencies? I didn't want to scold her. She was as down as a person could be, but she didn’t have to needlessly suffer, either.

Most drive-by suicide notes posted in the comments on this blog were usually posted by anonymous people who left their cry for help, never to return again. Over and over, I tried to reach out to them via email, but these people, if they weren’t just trolls, never replied. It made me feel impotent and helpless. Eventually, they began to make me mad. Cries for help with no way to receive help weren’t really cries for help at all, but self-indulgent suicide graffiti sprayed onto the lives of people who cared, but who were denied the opportunity to truly be helpful. My readers left the most heart-felt, passionate replies, but the person was long gone. How were my readers to tell the difference between somebody trolling the comments section and a legitimate cry for help? I analyzed the pleas and found patterns to distinguish valid expressions of suicide from drive-by suicide notes, then I made the policy to delete the drive-bys.

With the above in mind, when I read this poor woman’s post, old feelings of frustration came to the surface. Didn’t she know she had to fight suicidal ideation? Didn’t having four children dependent on her give her the motivation to live? Didn’t she know that suicide lies?! What did she want people to say with a post like that‽ How was that post not simply a cry for attention instead of a cry for help? Obviously, the answer to many of these questions was that she was a person in pain, overwhelmed, and flailing in desperation. Unlike the anonymous posters who spammed my comments sections, however, I knew this person. I could reach out and help. I share my reply here for you:

████, twenty five years ago when I was at my lowest point, moving beyond suicidal ideation into suicidal planning—when I was moments away from executing my plan—I asked myself if I had any reason to live. My daughter and wife came to my mind. Who would take care of my daughter when I was gone? I was a stay-at-home dad. She needed me. I held onto that as a lifeline, and I learned to love myself. That lifeline grew into a family of four beautiful daughters. Even when my wife left me several years ago, and I struggled again with suicidal thoughts and urges, my daughters were the reason I kept going. And I wanted to keep going. The truth is that I didn’t really want to die; I just wanted the pain to end.

Where depression can seem like a heavy, smothering blanket of sadness, suicidal depression feels like a sharp ache. It warps how we think. We start to believe that people will be better off without us, but that is suicide’s lie. Things truly will improve. You can learn to control this, and push it deep below the surface. Start by finding reasons to live. Make a list and keep it handy. Train yourself to think more positively with thankfulness journals. You can offset the chemicals in your mind. You have said in the past that you love your therapist. Ask them about cognitive behavior therapy. Your family loves you and needs you. They are worth all the effort to turn your thoughts around. My prayers are with you. You aren’t alone.

To you out there struggling with suicidism, I want you to know that you aren’t alone. Your pain is real and hard to bear, but it can be healed. Don’t keep your pain buried in secret. Seek help immediately. Please keep in mind, however, that there is a world of difference between saying, “Hey, guys. I’m struggling tonight. I feel suicidal.” and “Oh please, dear Lord, take me home.” The former is a confession of pain that invites help. The latter is a self-indulgent comment that has already shut down the conversation.

I know about the warping affect suicidal depression has on the mind. Taking your own life seems so logical when you are at the nadir of life. It can even seem like a blessing for your loved ones. Aside from the trolls, this warped negativity is likely at fault for the maudlin posts that many suicidal people leave. I understand this all too well from personal experience. Yet the problem with this Facebook friend’s posts was that she was abdicating responsibility for her own mental health and laying it on the shoulders of others. This is an incredibly irresponsible way to ask for help. Facebook could bury your comment through their algorithm. It could get lost in the heavy flow of people’s timelines amidst all the kitten videos and Nazi-Trump references. I favor a proactive approach to happiness. Don’t send out a message in a bottle! Call an actual person and get some help.

If social media is your only method of reaching people, don’t spam your channel. Reach out to specific individuals. Reach out to the people who can help. I cover this a lot in my book (Chapter 22: Knowing Whom To Rely On), but I can tell you here that you need to start compiling a list of supportive people today. Not everybody that you admire or pin your hopes on can handle suicidism. Their minds may melt down at the mere mention of the concept. But supportive people do exist. It is your responsibility to find them. Sometimes you can get lucky when they reach out to your first, but it’s good to have a backup network.

Lastly, be kind to those that follow you on social media. Nothing makes us feel more helpless than reading about somebody who wants to die and isn’t interested in our input. More people care about you than you know. Learn to care for them back. Start with caring about yourself. You are worthy to be alive.

If you’re looking for tips to help a suicidal loved one, you should really read my book.