Last week’s blog on lost perspective and the tragedy of suicide elicited an unusually high volume of phone calls, texts and emails. Sadly, almost everyone who reached out to me had personally lost a relative, friend or loved one in this fashion.
In speaking with acquaintances in the health and counselling fields, I have learned the province of Alberta is experiencing a higher than usual number of suicides this year with certain communities – those most connected to the energy sector – seeing these terrible events repeated more times than ever before.
Unquestionably the state of our economy has played a role in these tragic tales and, while the media to its credit, rarely if ever reports on suicides, perhaps the time has come to lift the taboo off of this topic and bring it into our everyday discussions.
I mentioned last week that “I cannot even begin to imagine the feelings of pain, anguish, despair, loneliness, helplessness, guilt, shame, anger, frustration, sorrow and desperation that must be present …”
I know precisely how they felt and how those feelings can cause them to slowly spiral down to that final moment when they took an action and irreversible action.
Nine days from now will be December 14 and on that date. 20 years ago, in 1995, a brilliant, gifted and talented young surgeon picked up a scalpel and gave me a new lease on life.
For almost 5 years leading up to that wonderful day a debilitating respiratory disease had turned my life into my own worst nightmare, and, with no ability to earn a living (it’s tough to work when you can’t breathe), those few years included bouts of homelessness and long periods of “moneylessness.”
Five surgeons to whom I had been referred all declined to operate on me as they believed I would not survive surgery and I clearly remember begging the last of the five to do it anyway.
He didn’t seem to quite understand when I tried to explain to him that not surviving surgery would be a blessing when compared to the quality of my then present life.
On many more than one occasion I questioned the wisdom of continuing to live and on several of those occasions, particularly when those feeling mentioned above were at their most persistent I gave serious consideration to ending my own life.
Despite having a small network of loving and supportive friends, I felt alone. Not being able to support myself, I felt quite useless.
Ending it all had its enticing moments.
But despite all that I knew I would never take that ultimate step.
The words “this too shall pass” were my daily mantra and while I did not know how or when I never stopped believing THAT at some point in the future this too would fade away and life would become good again.
We never know what the future might bring and this uncertainty made my mantra of “this too shall pass” more than just a faint hope. It made this a “fact.”
Even more importantly, I have always believed that the gift of life was too valuable to unwrap and discard.
There is a subset of people whose bodies are so ravaged by illness, whose every moment is overwrought with agony and whose every breath strained and difficult. These folks know that as unrelenting as their pain it, it is only going to get worse and when they choose to end their lives, I fully support their decision and applaud their bravery.
But, in my opinion, that is the only circumstance in which suicide make any sense at all.
I implore, no, I beg those who believe their present circumstances, be they caused by financial burdens, broken relationships, lingering depression or any other reasons that point us to despair and hopelessness to please consider that none of these are worth abandoning our lives over.
Time does have a way of healing and curing; what may not seem solvable today may well be looked upon as little more than a bad dream tomorrow.
We humans are all gifted with infinite resiliency and it is in moments like these when we must open the gateway to that gift and lean on it as a source of strength.
We need to stand up rather than give up. We need to look up at the light rather than wrap ourselves in darkness and we must remind ourselves in every possible manner that “this too shall pass”.
For me, “this too did pass.” Twenty years later my life is full and filled with all I ever wanted. One month after my surgery I met the person who is now my wife, best friend and greatest source of my happiness.
I have a business that celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year. I registered my company’s name, Strategic Pathways in April 1995 because, as desperate as I was, I was also committed to be belief that “this too shall pass”. Every day I go to work and do what I love.
My wife Gimalle and I have a wide circle of friends, enjoy diverse interests and, most importantly, we laugh a lot.
Yes, life can be challenging, it can be hard and it can be cruel.
It can also be pretty darn wonderful and amazing and we may never experience this if faulty perspective leads us to take drastic and unnecessary steps.
The lesson for all of us is to realize that in those moments when all seems futile and hopeless and ending it all seems logical, we need to shift our focus away from what is and move it to what can be, and then direct all our energy into making what can be our new reality.
We must do this, after all nothing good ever comes from that other choice.
Till we read again.
Finally, after months in the works, my company’s new website is up. Please take a moment and visit www.strategicpathways.net . Browse through this site and then click on the “Contact Us” tab or firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think.
Your opinion truly means a lot to me.