December 18, 2022

When Famous People End their Lives, I am Reminded of these Truths.

Reach out. Be kind. Mean it.
It doesn’t matter how Happy or Strong someone is when they’re dealing with a Sadness others Can’t See.
tWitch’s shocking suicide reminds me of the Richard Cory poem.
Suicide doesn’t Discriminate: 6 Warning Signs that could Save someone you Love.

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A quiet stillness spread swiftly over my body when the news appeared on my screen: Stephen “tWitch” Boss is dead from suicide.

It was the same feeling I had experienced when learning of other lives who had left the planet by their own choice. As I sat quietly, memories flashed in my mind of exactly where I was and what I was doing when I learned that Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Naomi Judd, Chris Cornell, Margot Kidder, and Anthony Bourdain had taken their own life.

Perhaps Jim Carrey had it right when he said, “I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it is not the answer.”

Society teaches us the wrong things about happiness and how to attain it. If a thriving career, public adoration, financial freedom, wealth, abundance, a big house, and physical beauty were remedies for unhappiness, we would have no famous people choosing to leave the planet of their own volition and by their actions.

External measures of success are not indicators of internal success or happiness. More money will rarely make life more difficult, as it solves certain problems and grants opportunities not available to those living in poverty. However, it only solves some of the difficulties one can face as a human on planet earth.

How can people who seemingly “have it all” not want to live anymore?

In the Western world, we are taught to chase success, wealth, youth, and beauty, but what if we are chasing the wrong things? Happiness does not come with a bigger paycheck, a more beautiful body, or an increased recognition of value from our social circle.

When we alter our appearance, put too much value on money, and pursue external validation, we do not attain happiness—the chase simply continues. We don’t recognize that we are running on a hamster wheel that doesn’t stop, and we will never catch the elusive white rabbit. Collectively, we as a society are exhausted, overwhelmed, and oftentimes incredibly isolated people.

There is a reason why people living in the Western world are often so unhappy—we are taught to always want more. However, people living in second and third-world countries often outperform Western societies in happiness measures and report feeling more meaning, purpose, and connection in their lives. It’s not that they aren’t struggling; it’s that they aren’t struggling alone.

Happiness is not a destination we arrive at; it is something we create. It truly is an inside job, but one that can also be found in gratitude, acceptance, living in the present moment, and in experiencing real connections with other humans.

We are mammals and mammals are pod animals—essentially, people need other people. We have evolved from living in tribes, and when we are isolated from our tribe, we are not going to do well.

In my life, I have known too many who fantasized about dying or left us by suicide. I have lost unwell clients, friends who could no longer cope or did not know how to ask for help, and loved ones who struggled to stay alive on the planet.

As a mental health therapist, I know that suicidal ideations can be overt or silently passive. Sometimes they appear as vague ideations that present with a feeling of not caring if one is alive or dead, living recklessly, or feeling that life is an endless cycle of “eat, work, sleep, repeat”…and that death would not be a bad thing. They can also look like a “what’s the point of living?”attitude. Other times, they can be more action-oriented, like fantasizing about death and ways that death could be achieved through suicide.

Suicidal thoughts are a temperature gauge for pain. The greater the pain, the hotter the thoughts. It is similar to reading a thermostat that monitors the weather on a hot summer day. Forty-degree celsius weather is hot, and when things get hot internally for someone, sometimes thoughts of suicide creep in as a way to end the scorching, burning pain experienced inside. When these thoughts are acted on impulsively, the outcome can be catastrophic.

Suicide is not about not wanting to live.

Suicide is a drastic measure taken to stop the pain and take control of the heartache that feels overwhelming and insurmountable.

Suicide is taking power over a situation one feels powerless to overcome.

Suicide is like walking straight through fire exit door in a burning building rather than asking for help to put out the fire, exiting through a window, or even using the fire extinguisher.

There are always other ways, but when overcome with pain, humans often do not think clearly and need help to find that clarity. We will all need help at different points in life, and sometimes we need help just to realize that life is worth living.

Suicide does not solve any problems but instead transfers the heat of the fire to those left behind.

For those who silently carry thoughts of not wanting to live, know that you are loved and you matter. Your departure will negatively impact the world and those who love you. You do not have to suffer in silence, reaching for drastic solutions to temporary and fixable problems.

Share your feelings with someone who cares about you; tell them that you need help. There are helping professionals all around the world who want to make a difference and help you find “you” again.

It is okay to say you’re struggling. It is okay to reach out. It is okay not to suffer in silence. It is okay to recognize that the things you are chasing might be making you feel worse. It is okay to feel like the life you are living cannot continue as it is and you need to find a new way of being in the world.

If you cannot tell a loved one, tell your doctor or healthcare provider, go to your local emergency room department, or call the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 (if you’re in the United States).

May you be seen, supported, heard, and understood. You are worth rescuing, even when it feels like you are not. You are meant to be here simply because you are alive.

And may you always be curious enough to see what the future has in store for you by staying on the planet and witnessing how your story unfolds after the tough stretch is behind you.

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