A sensitivity warning and a disclaimer that I am not an expert, the things I say may be in contrast to what an expert says on the subject, and these are things I could change my mind on in the future. This is a diary to the world on my feelings right now. Also: I’m fine. The world is on fire, same fire that’s been burning forever, but I look forward to every tomorrow. This isn’t about me.
Earlier this week, Kate Spade passed away after committing suicide. I did not know who Kate Spade was, and many people looked at me funny when I said I did not know who she was.
Today, it has come out that Anthony Bourdain also committed suicide. Bourdain is a favourite of mine and means to me the same way the people who looked at me funny when I said I didn’t know who Spade was. This isn’t a competition. It’s more a reflection of the different ways celebrity and icon can mean to different people.
You don’t know what’s inside their head
What does seem to be a competition is that the moment someone famous takes their own life, people rush out to throw out suicide hotlines and offer their help. And I get why. We’re conditioned to do it. Suicide is a crime in society. You can be arrested for attempted suicide. You can be put in jail for assisting in suicide. But people who are suicidal know where to go about their thoughts. They may be already seeing a professional. It isn’t because of a lack of knowing where to go, but the fact that nothing is changing their path.
And sometimes, they are tired of professionals. They are tired of life. They are tired of pain. And they want to talk to you. Not because you’re an expert. Not because you’re going to be their saviour. You might not change a fucking thing. But they want to talk to you. They want you to hear them. They want their pain expressed. They want some sort of decompression before they make a decision to keep living or end it. And they want to share it with you.
It’s a difficult burden. We can’t listen to everyone in our lives at all times when they are going through pain. We don’t have enough time. We’re not all emotionally equipped. It can wipe us out. It can push us into the same area they are in. We also might give bad advice. We might say things that will make them feel worthless. Make them feel hopeless. Make them feel like even their closest friends are against them so why fucking bother? But when the Bell Talks campaigns are over and Spade and Bourdain are gone from the news cycles, where will you be when your friend reaches out to talk?
You don’t know what’s inside my head
As a teenager I had suicidal thoughts. It didn’t come from something someone did to me but because I didn’t understand my own brain. I still don’t, but back then, I definitely did not. I couldn’t understand why I was thinking multiple things so much all the time, why I didn’t want to sleep, why I couldn’t sleep, why I was daydreaming and thinking at the same time, why I couldn’t focus. Why my emotions in my head were so sporadic. I had undiagnosed A.D.H.D. and because family and friends smoked weed and I smelled like it, people just thought I was unmotivated or high. Or thought I was addicted to the internet, instead of the internet being the only thing to keep me from thinking such a thing.
Today I have medication for my A.D.H.D. but I still get seasonal affective disorder, and it doesn’t lead to suicide, but it does lead to a hole. A hole of hopelessness, of having no self worth, feeling like a failure, feeling like I haven’t lived, I’ve wasted my time, and there’s no sense doing anything now because last call was an hour ago. I don’t climb out of the hole. One day I’m just… not in the hole anymore. Nobody said something to make me better. But being around friends and family? It helped while I was in the hole.
I think about the people who have dealt with extreme pain consistently. Every day is pain. They get up, they do very little, they goto sleep. Every motivational graphic you post on Facebook is telling you not to be them. To try to live life to the fullest and dance in a foreign country. That’s great if you can afford it, and you can feel it. They have to ignore immense physical and emotional pain every single day, and then also have to drown out people telling them they aren’t really living. They aren’t really living, but don’t end your life. That’s the message every day. You never know how you are hurting others until you know.
You don’t know what’s inside your head
It’s 2018 and we’re still at a very primitive stage in understanding the human brain. It is only in the past 25 years that we’re learning about concussions. There are no definitive biomarkers on concussions. A concussion is a brain injury. People might have concussions and never know it, and it hurt the right part of the brain to slowly kill their thought process and functions. They will not know it until they get to the point. Why do I bring up concussions?
Because I have one. I have had it for a decade now, and I know it has done something to me. I just don’t know how bad, or how much. And one day I might become a story, a small story, about someone who just one day up and killed themselves. And people will ask the same questions, and put up the same phone number, and in reality, there was nothing anyone could do. It is because my brain finally cracked and I was no longer in control. Science hasn’t caught up to knowing.
I don’t know what you’re going through. You might not know. And it feels so wrong to have so much technology and not understand what a family member or friend is going through. We can give advice, we can give hotlines, we can do so much, but never know what it’s going to be to put someone over the edge. Or pull them from the edge. Far be it from me to say what you should or shouldn’t do in the decision of your life. I don’t know your pain. I don’t know what’s inside your head.
Solitary Island and the Cliffs
When you play Final Fantasy VI, you lose to the main villain Kefka. He destroys the world. When you regain control of playing as Celes, you try to keep the character Cid alive by catching fish; but you might fail. And he dies. And you find a note from Cid on a dead bird saying that when people were feeling down from the world being ruined, and feeling hopless, they jumped off a cliff. That’s why you two were the only ones left. And now Cid is dead. And Celes, feeling abandoned, feeling hopeless, she jumps off the cliff. Everything in the background goes black as Celes falls. The screen fades. The music fades. You hear water. The screen returns and Celes is face down on the shore. A bird flies up to her with a bandanna on. Celes wakes up, confused from the bird. She notices the bandanna and it reminds her of one that a close friend wore. The bird doesn’t tell her who it’s from. It’s a fucking bird. It flies away. That chance encounter gives her the hope she needed to continue on. You find a raft, you leave the island, and you search for your friends.
It was one of my most early memories of suicide, probably the first time I encountered it (I was 10). And it was in a videogame. And in re-playing it, you recognize if she waited another day, she would have saw that bird naturally. And that if it wasn’t a videogame, she never would have survived the fall. She never would have woke up to see the bird that gave her hope. But before she saw it, she had every reason to think there was no room for hope. I don’t blame the person who decided to jump. And maybe we don’t get that bird with a bandanna who gives us the reason to continue. And we don’t have a raft to leave the island that we’re alone on. What do you do then?
I don’t know
I don’t know what could have kept Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain here. Same goes for a guy I knew in high school who committed suicide a decade ago. Maybe nothing. It’s hard to lose someone, and have no answer on how you could have kept them. That might make you mad, and that could make you blame them, but you don’t know what’s inside their head. You don’t know because you don’t even know what’s going inside your head. This isn’t about having answers. This is about understanding people. Until we understand ourselves, until we understand what’s inside our heads? We won’t ever have an answer.
It’s hard to figure a way to close this. Everything is pushing for me to give this a neat little bow of advice or how I feel. But I can’t. Because I don’t know. Better to accept that than say something else.