Richelle E. Goodrich kind of sums it up nicely for me in her words from Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, and Grumblings for Every Day of the Year: “I have a funny side. I have a soft and sympathetic side. I have a serious side, and a seriously romantic side. I have lots of sides; it’s the main course I haven’t quite figured out.”
I’m not sure I really want to figure out the main course either. I like side dishes. They’re usually the fun ones, full of carbs or nice and sweet; they’re your casseroles, your chips and salsa or queso, basically everything leading up to the main dish. Don’t get me wrong – I can truly enjoy a “steamin’ greasy plate of enchiladas with lots of cheese and onions” as Robert Earl Keen sings about. But when that plate is clean, it symbolizes the end of something. And I don’t particularly care for endings of any kind.
That’s where the irony comes in for me because the paring of this disdain for endings and the life-long managing of my own suicidal thoughts has created both conflict at certain times, and sustenance at others.
As you might imagine, the conflict is how my mind always seems to find a way for me to have thoughts pondering my own demise. Terribly intrusive. Terribly inconvenient. What makes them worse is trying to fight them; this just ends up creating a deeper, more lasting interruption when I do fight. Instead, along the way, I’ve learned to just comment to myself something that merely acknowledges the thought without giving it any more power. I say to myself, “That’s interesting,” and if it persists, I may even say to myself, “Wow, you’re kind of being pushy with that one.” More often than not, this enables me to stay focused on whatever I’m doing in that moment. Even so, this coping skill doesn’t mean the process doesn’t come with a cost. It takes a lot of energy to play this game. When I meet someone with a dark side similar to mine, like my friend Rana, it’s easy to understand just how burdensome suicidal thoughts can be not just personally, but for others. When I learn of a suicide, I’m both saddened, and I understand the relief they were seeking. I understand it because I too wish that these thoughts would end.
But these thoughts don’t end, and that’s where the sustenance comes in. Did I mention that I hate endings? It saddens me when I come to the end of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and must wish my friends Frodo, Sam, and Gandalf goodbye. Yet it’s unavoidable. Buddha wrote, “If you accept that death is part of life, then when it actually does come, you may face it more easily.” Part of my process of sustaining is deciding that I will take my loathing of endings and commit to accepting that while death is in fact part of my life, it won’t be a part that I set in motion. It won’t come about by my hand. It will, however, be something I think about, and I can accept that.
I once felt much more isolated in these thoughts and beliefs than I do now. I am thankful for people like Rana, for scientists researching suicide, for great therapists, for the lessening of stigma in general, and yes, even for medication. It’s comforting knowing, and a source of strength, that I’m not alone in this with an incredible support system around me that includes friends, family, and most especially my wife and son. If any of this resonates with you at all, know that you don’t have to be alone in this either.
The Center for Mental Health is here to help. If you are in crisis or just need to talk to someone, call our 24/7 crisis and support line at 970.252.6220. If you think you might benefit from services, please call 970.252.3200 to learn more or make an appointment.
Read Rana Shaner’s blog post on Creating a Life Worth Living.
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