The Human Experience

Note from the author: I almost didn’t share this, out of concern for those who would feel triggered, and also because I was protecting myself. Sharing my own suicidal thoughts, worries and emotions comes with the burden of worrying everyone around me, but a very wise friend reminded me that way of thinking is exactly why we aren’t already having these conversations.

To those who feel concern for me after reading this, please know that I share this as a form of therapeutic relief, a tangible action in the midst of soulful chaos, and in hopes of helping others see life through a slightly different lens.

When I learn that someone has taken their own life, I always have a version of the same, chaotic reaction: First, there’s shock, varying levels based upon how closely or intimately I may have known or felt I knew this person. Then, There’s sorrow, sadness, uncertainty, which I feel is my most “acceptable” reaction.

Finally, underneath, there’s something else I feel. It’s difficult to name, but it feels like awe. Some voice in the back of my head says “Wow, they did it.” It’s not admiration, but on some level it is an acknowledgement of how difficult this battle is, how hard I understand it to be, and how many times I have wished to simply be done fighting the fight myself. It’s a level of humanity, connection and empathy that comes with battling depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I feel endlessly sad for the loss of this beautiful life, but I’m also acutely aware of the relief…the end of their human suffering.

I have never had a plan. That’s something your therapist will ask you if they think you’re suicidal. “Do you have a plan?” I always was able to honestly answer, “No.”

I’ve never had a plan, because the first thing I consider is who will find me? What will it look like? How will it feel for them? The closest I’ve come to a plan, is the acknowledgement that I would probably be a jumper. Talk about a mess, right?  But, it’s a public mess. My mother wouldn’t have to sell her house. My husband wouldn’t have to call someone to remove the blood. But also, I imagine that falling would be freeing, when you’re not worried about nailing the landing.

Earlier this week, beloved designer Kate Spade hung herself in her Manhattan apartment. The report said she was found with a red scarf wrapped around her neck, still attached to the bedroom doorknob. When I read that, I shuttered.

Kate Spade hung herself with a red scarf. It’s almost…poetic.

Practically our entire wedding registry was her signature polka dot patterns and brightly colored accents. To think how happy her designs have made me, how full they have made our home. It kills me to know she was in pain. But of course she was in pain, because being alive is hard and it can hurt.

This morning, we awoke to the news that world-renowned traveler and chef, Anthony Bourdain died of apparent suicide a the age of 61. He was just a few years older than Kate.

“We’re soulful beings, enduring and learning from a human experience.” That’s something I’ve heard many wonderful teachers say in varying ways, and I’ve learned to lean on it in times of hardship. If the purpose of our soulful work is far greater than the days we spend in this body, then maybe I can take a step back and see this existence for what it has to offer, instead of everything it lacks.

In 1971, Don McLean wrote a song for my dear Vincent Van Gogh, another whimsical, artistic soul who could not endure the human experience. “Vincent” has been sung by many artists in the last 47 years, most recently, Ellie Goulding. The lyrics are spot on:

And when no hope was left in sight on that starry
Starry night.
You took your life
As lovers often do;
But I could have told you
Vincent
This world was never
Meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Suicide is not a beautiful thing, and yet those souls who choose to take their own lives are often some of the softest, most beautiful and gracious people we’ve known. Those souls, more self-aware than most, suffer, I believe, in part because of their awareness.

I can see my size, at times, how small I am in this grand scheme. Sometimes I think “If I’m so small, why must I go on? If I matter so little in this grand plan, maybe no one would miss me.”

And yet Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Avicii, Robin Williams, Vincent Van Gogh, Marilyn Monroe, and countless other celebrities…had the big life before they ended it all. When we see celebrities, we tend to think: They are leaning into their passions, right? They know their purpose, don’t they? They’re alive and living large, right? They’re happy, right?

At some point, I realized how happy you are is not measured by the size of your life. In fact, I’m happier when my life feels smaller, more intimate, more closely held.

If you or someone you know is struggling, there are many resources to help and I’m just one. I would love to talk to you, to hear your story and listen. If today feels especially hard, know you are not alone. Breathe, and learn.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Suicide Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433.

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