I am writing this while heartbroken. Our little corner of the world, our tight knit community, has lost two young men to suicide very recently. They were both my children's peers; their families are friends with my family.
In a town like Houston, especially our suburban area of Houston, friends are like family since so many of us come from somewhere else. We raise our families together and become an extension of family. So we collectively share this loss, we grieve, and share the heartbreak. The only difference is that our lives go on while these young men's families' lives come to a screeching halt.
I can't help thinking of these two young men who I watched grow up, and play a film of their lives in my head -- the memories of both are that vivid. All of that loving, nurturing, fun, laughter, and community togetherness, and still we end up here with both of these outstanding young men gone. Both could not have come from more loving and supportive families -- wholly intact, fully functioning families.
And why? That is the million-dollar word from all of us who knew and loved these boys and their families. That question is uttered silently in our minds, and the parents ask it aloud.
Suicide is usually a byproduct of depression and hopelessness. It's time this silent and deadly disease comes out of the closet. We need to support people the way we support people battling other diseases. There is no shame to depression or any other form of mental illness. The only shame is that society has given it a terrible stigma. Those of us who are educated know better though.
So if anyone reading is depressed and feeling hopeless and in too much pain to go on, may I please just ask your indulgence in just reading through the rest of this to consider the following before giving in to your own despair?
1. Suicide leaves those family members who love you the most in the world condemned to suffering a hell-fire of anguish, pain, guilt, and broken-heartedness through every day they live on without you. There are no words to describe this kind of searing never-ending pain -- most of us are lucky not to know of it. It's like a gun has shot a giant, gaping hole in the middle of their hearts, but they live and endure the constant burning, and vicious pain forevermore instead of dying from it, and with no surgery or medicine to correct it. Every family occasion from then on will not be fully realized, fully attended with full happiness, no matter what happens, because you are not there with them.
2. There are so many who would like to help you with your despair and pain. There is a mental health community full of compassionate people who are true healers and want to help you feel better. There is a world of medicine out there now that can help, but it may take time and various courses of treatment to find the right one. My own daughter is one of these healers, and she has been part of incredible teams of people dedicated to finding the right course of treatment. If you have tried this route and failed, try again. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Let your family help you find these compassionate caregivers and let them hold your hand through treatment. They want to be there for you and see you through this.
3. Dying is not the answer to end your pain. It may seem like this, but you are not only cheating yourself, but you are cheating those who love you if you do not give other options a try, even if you have to do this over and over again. Life goes in cycles -- you can be devastated one day, and back on top in no time. There is never a point where there is no hope, unless you have a terminal illness -- and even then, you must have hope.
4. You are not a burden, and no one who loves you will be better off without you. Never have I heard from a parent, NEVER, that an ill child was a burden -- no what kind of illness that child had. Any thought of that was concocted out of misery but totally incorrect. Even parents whose children suffer from drug or alcohol addictions would rather help their child get treatment and help them get well, rather than see their child give up.
5. Every single thing that is wrong in your life is fixable. The only thing that can't be fixed is death. Everything else -- from gambling problems, financial problems, health problems, legal problems -- can be fixed. There can always be a resolution to anything in time. Except death.
6. Open up to your loved ones about how you feel. They WANT to be there for you, they WANT to help you. Do not keep suffering in silence. Don't put on a brave front. Be real, and reach out for help. As in number five, chances are they can help you fix or help make better a situation.
7. Be brave even when you don't want to be. Summon up the courage and the strength to reach out to at least one loved one when you are at the bottom. Give it one last chance, one more shot, to get better.
8. There is no shame in how you feel or what situation you might find yourself in. Don't let society give you the impression that there is shame in mental illness, depression, or addiction, because that is an old-fashioned, outdated, untrue one. If you feel no one wants to hear about what you are going through, you are wrong about that too. Find a loved one who will listen to you without fear or shame. Trust me, from being an eyewitness to the aftermath of suicide, relatives and loved ones beat themselves up daily because they weren't given that option. It is always better than the alternative.
When life seems unbearable, please re-read this and then reach out. There will be a world of people ready to help, trust me on this.
Read my regular blog at www.arlenelassin.com.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.