The Stigma Affects Us All

beltEvery morning after work the first I do, before getting into the car to head home, is take my belt off.  It’s a strange thing, I know, but the belt isn’t necessary and I don’t like feeling constricted.  Perhaps this is part of the reason I don’t like driving.  Over the past couple weeks I’ve been looking at it as I drop it on the passenger seat and I wonder how a person could use their belt to end their life.  It sounds like an especially awful way to die.

The thought doesn’t stay with me long but the unfathomable nature of the action does.  I know that thoughts of suicide have bounced around my head rather often and I’m sure most people, if they were to be honest, would say the same.  There’s a certain kind of comfort having the power to end one’s own life.  Or maybe it’s just human to be attracted to that sort of power that it makes it feel comfortable.  But the actual act, actually doing it is a whole other thing and it’s not something that I fully understand.  I don’t think anyone really can unless they find themselves in that position where it makes absolute sense.

Over the past year, there have been more than a few people connected to my life in one or another that have committed suicide.  I didn’t know any of them personally but it still struck me in a prickly sense.  Especially the way the living speak of suicide, the idea of it being the “easy way out” is incredibly offensive.  In what way does suicide sound easy?  I’d really like an answer to that.

This is rather difficult to write because a large part of me wants to be preachy.  But I know that I can’t do that because that would make me a hypocrite.  There’s nothing worse than someone pointing out that I should live and live well.  I get the “Smoking is bad for you” speech quite often, like I don’t know.  I want to be preachy because it really gets to me how so many are struggling with thoughts of suicide and other symptoms of depression when there are many resources available today.

My Uncle Brian killed himself towards the end of 1981 and that was a very different time.  He spent some time in a mental institution after the Vietnam War and back then there was so little known about mental illness.  The answer was imprisonment and a dose of lithium.  It is painful for me, the knowledge that there are people out there right now that are struggling and won’t seek the help they could benefit from, the help that wasn’t available to my Uncle.  But at the same time I know if it was me (there was a time that it was me) I wouldn’t seek help either because why should I?  Therapists are not helpful in my experience, I shouldn’t have to pay someone to want to help me or talk to me.  But there are people who are absolutely eager to help, there are quite a few non-profit organizations giving a voice to those who are trapped behind the stigma surrounding mental illness.  I want to live in a world where suicide and mental illness can be discussed openly and received in a way similar to how my sobriety is.

I think it’s possible within my lifetime.  There has been significant progress; look at Dead Poet’s Society, there is not a single instance in that film where the word suicide is uttered.  Not one.  Fast forward some twenty years and you have the band The Color Morale with not only a song called “Suicide; Stigma” but an entire album written around the struggles of self-sabotage.  Sure one isn’t as prevalent as the other in terms of popularity or success but that’s not the point.  The point is progress.  There are people being honest and trying to change things.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re struggling with this very topic, there’s many things I can think of to say but the most important one is: What do you want from life?  Close your eyes and let that question slide along your eyelids, what do you see?  For me, I’ve always been drawn to writing, it’s the only thing that has really made sense to me throughout the majority of my life.

Your life matters.  It took me a long time to see it but it is true.  My life matters, sure it doesn’t really seem to matter to the ones that it I believe it should but my life matters to me.  That’s enough.  That’s not selfish.  Not a single person, not now or ever before, can live without being selfish in some way.  As long as you’re not hurting anyone, including you, then you’re not doing anything wrong.

Thank you for reading.


If the music isn’t your cup of tea, just mute it and read the words. 😉




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