Your piece doesn’t fit their puzzle: Compassion for those we lose to suicide is vital, even if we don’t understand

‘But suicide IS selfish. The person may not be in a healthy state or mind or see any other way, but it is 100% a selfish act because it only ends THEIR suffering, whatever that may be, and brings a whole new level of pain on everyone who loves them. I don’t see how it can be anything but a selfish act. Sorry. I just don’t and I don’t believe I ever will.’

I find it very hard to ignore selfish and ignorant comments. Comments that are thrown out there with no intention to be sympathetic or understanding. Comments that manifested from a sudden urge to make a claim without any desire to study the field. It isn’t necessarily the ignorance that gets to me. We are all ignorant in some way. It is the damage caused by those deluded into thinking they are intellects on a topic without putting in the hours to become educated.

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This was taken in the early hours a few years back, I travelled 40 minutes with my mum and dad to attend an event in memory of loved ones tragically lost to suicide. It was a peaceful morning, the path up to the iconic Angel of the North was lined with candles, the walk leading up to it roughly a mile long. My mother lost her sister to suicide just after I was born, 28 years ago. My uncle also died due to suicide months before this event. I am no expert on suicide, don’t let me convince you otherwise. But to lose both my auntie and uncle in this way and for my mum to lose both siblings, I certainly feel I have an increased perspective of what leads up to such events and a view of how long the fight can be fought.

Many people clearly have a hard time grasping the idea that someone could possibly take their own life. From the hurtful comments emerging from the most recent and tragic suicide of a high profile artist Chester Bennington, this struggle to fathom a desire to end personal suffering leads to much anger and frustration.

People who die by suicide don’t want to end their life, they want to end their pain.

The problem seems to stem, I can only assume, from having a one size fits all mentality about mentality. Our mindsets differ, configurated in many weird and wonderful ways. We all know this, we all accept that our tastes and interests differ, never questioning our friend at the dinner table that doesn’t like peppercorn sauce. Can you imagine how condescending it would be to tell that friend they do in fact like peppercorn sauce because you do? To be unable to understand that your mind interprets things differently to the mind someone else possesses, and for that reason assuming that they must be wrong about their personal preferences? It is very simple to see why this would be highly inappropriate behaviour, and how respect would be lost rather quickly.

As much as our tastes vary, our mentality does towards life and what is thrown our way. Take fear. We are all scared of something, this something could be anything. Some fear heights. Some people have triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number thirteen. I am thankfully unafraid of the number thirteen, however the thought of jumping out of an aeroplane 13,000 feet up terrifies me. Simply taking my fears into account and knowing my nightmare scenarios may be the dreams of others helps me to empathise with those terrified of things I am not. I don’t understand having certain fears but I understand fear.

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Similar to fear, we perceive pain differently. Some have higher thresholds, some enjoy pain, most spend a life avoiding it as best as possible. We hate seeing loved ones in pain because we can relate, even if we don’t feel that pain at the time. The irony in mental and physical pain is that it all originates in the same place, the brain. What makes mental illness hard to comprehend is that it isn’t physical. Unless depression or the various conditions equally damaging prevent people from washing, eating or hiding self harm it is easy for it to go under the radar. We wouldn’t act so selfishly towards non-mental illness or disease. Similar to the restaurant example provided earlier, can you imagine a cancer victim being interrogated whilst in the hospital bed?

‘I’m sorry but I really don’t understand how you are ill? I feel just fine, I don’t see why you are unable to get up without being sick? I can just fine. It’s easy!’

I do not even have to elaborate on how absurd this conversation would be. The invisibility of the pain is what preserves the stigma around mental illness. It is a very damaging circle, on many occasions taking the below forms.

-Person may openly declare they are depressed. They may not but could show signs of a lack of motivation, appetite or desire to be sociable.

-This person isn’t taken seriously despite the intolerable pain felt mentally. People around cannot comprehend what they cannot see or that they do not mutually experience. 

-The person suffering kills him/herself. Unable to cope with life, not seeing death as an easy route but the only route. Similar to jumpers on 9/11, the mind and body takes any route out of pain, even if an event is temporary. 

-The reaction is that no one saw it coming, or that the suicide was totally unnecessary. An act that was purely selfish and inconsiderate.

I cannot stress enough how selfish it is for people to hurl opinions out there without first hand experience. To read an article, a five minute glimpse into the suffering that may have lasted a lifetime and to come to the conclusion that it was cowardly. I struggle everyday to think of how such a horrific event could be deemed cowardly. To hang a noose from a ceiling and knock the stool from underneath, knowing that these very moments will be the last. Tomorrow there will be no more hugs from loved ones. To have family members that have held on for so long before struggling to take it anymore be called selfish is incredibly arrogant. It doesn’t contribute anything of any worth, nor does it make anyone a good person.

Instead of questioning how someone could leave a family behind, it would be much more progressive to open up to the possibility of mental anguish so unbearable that they have to do so. Anything else is just a failure to empathise with those that had nothing but love before disease got between them.

Compassion will always be the way in this world of unknowns. Don’t ever let disease get between you and the person that may have once held the door open for you, it would be tragic to be the person that closes it on them.

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When we lose our heroes

I woke up this morning with my thoughts on the sad news from yesterday. I have been thinking a lot about those we consider heroes, whether it be a parent or partner, pet, philosopher or performer. What is hard to deal with is when these seemingly immortal and incredible people leave us much earlier than expected. How!?

It wasn’t too long ago that I typed up a quick post with lyrics to In The End by Linkin Park.

Time is a valuable thing, watch it fly by as the pendulum swings. Watch it count down to the end of the day the clock ticks life away…

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Whenever I think of the word time, or utter it in conversation, my mind heads down the path of this song. In a way it is a healthy reminder that time is not something we can put on hold. We can let it slip by or we can ride that wave as best we can and be as active as possible whilst riding it. One day our feet will lose grip of that surfboard, we all fall into the sea but some travel a big distance before doing so.

When we idolise someone, they seem invincible. Perfect. They can also be taken for granted, as if they have always been around and always will be. When their time runs out and they are no longer around, we see them as human again. Not someone that is perfect but someone with flaws that strived for perfection with incredible effort. To me, a hero dying is like a Spider-Man removing his mask. The human is revealed and instantly relatable. The flaws and imperfections, the illnesses and fears all become visible. I don’t mind my inspirations being human. If anything it motivates me to strive for similar success.

The problem with a high profile death is that we only get a glimpse of their life, the success and the wealth. The suffering isn’t always in silence but out of view. For some, a suicide can be a selfish act. If their Wikipedia page states they are currently touring the world and earn this much from record sales, they must be happy, right? Can we claim to know the lives and the apparent state of mind of a person we have never met? Of course not. To assume would be incredibly arrogant. 

My family has been affected on more than one occasion by depression and suicide. Maybe this is why cries of selfishness are so offensive to me. I know the daily struggle that can last years and the instant opinions from complete strangers that form conclusions with 100% conviction. It is much more respectable to admit we cannot know the mind of another person than to be so wrong whilst believing we are so right.

The comforting aspect for me is that no one ever dissapears. They are always here, the cells are no longer assembled in the way they were to create such art, but they flow by us everyday. That I find truly mind blowing.

Peace.

‘Hi mam, awful news about Chris Cornell, such a shame x’

I hit backspace on my iPhone and deleted the text. Both of my mothers siblings died due to suicide. As much as I want to talk about another inspiration dying from suicide, I fear it is something that is still too painful to talk about. I genuinely waited for my mother to text me about the breaking news, as I felt if she wanted to talk about it, she would.

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It has been on the news that the lead singer of the band Soundgarden had killed himself by hanging today. With every suicide by a well known artist, more awareness, more understanding. At least I hope this is the case. Too many people condemn suicide. I hate the fact that people have to resort to such measures for a cease in the pain, I could not imagine being a person that condemns the individual. Whether that person had a mental illness so horrific we cannot imagine or their feet were practically melting against steel in September 2001, who are we, in a completely different frame of mind, to judge how and why individuals go to the lengths they do to escape the pain.

It angers me, truly. I don’t mind admitting that things anger me, this is healthy and if I can open up about certain feelings, I will. According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-29 globally. We need to stop pretending we know how much pain people go through and that death is never the answer. Sometimes it is the answer for that person. We tell sufferers to ‘man up’. We weep at their funeral, crying to the church ceiling asking why they didn’t speak up about such problems. We create this vicious circle and we need to find alternative ways around addressing such problems without labeling suffers as weak or that they undervalue life.

Life isn’t a gift that we need to force upon people that want nothing but and end to their own consciousness. We need to make life that gift, by understanding how horrific mental illness can be and preventing such illnesses from manifesting. This won’t work by telling them how good life is because yours is more tolerable. Sadly, death provides the wings to leave this world for too many people, lets stop pretending that this world isn’t worth leaving.

Rejection.

A cross and statue of Virgin Mary (out of view) overlooking a town in Maragogi, Brazil.

It is interesting that we mourn those that are no longer with us despite suffering only being inflicted upon the ones that are still breathing.


It took me a couple of years to get over an existential crisis, one that had me struggling to cope with the fact that I was forced into existence 27 years ago and one day will be forced out of it. It isn’t the mentality I choose to adopt, it morphed into this uncomfortable perception around mild episode of mental illness. A passenger on a roller-coaster with no control over the destination, the ups and downs of life coming and going, riding the wave with no control over where the wave is taking me. It was the worst feeling in the world.
I can cope with reality today, some days more than others. One thing I cannot cope with is the idea that we are born, need to believe or fully commit to a religion or face an eternal punishment for failing to do so. The kind of person that has the nerve to utter such words is person I have no respect for. They say hate is a strong word and for those that can honestly say they don’t dislike anyone enough to hate, I feel they aren’t being honest with themselves.

‘If you’re struggling to find God, you aren’t looking in the right places.’

‘Lose yourself in scripture or find a place of worship, maybe then you will find God.’

‘You aren’t praying or praying hard enough.’

‘You need another outlook on life, you are seeking truth in the wrong way.’

How about stop telling me what I should be doing to meet your ideals? If a vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, I don’t tell them ways to find meat. They don’t want it and it is a pointless conversation. If I don’t want to put effort into finding God, don’t give me tips to find him. That isn’t what I am looking for. I am looking to meet people in my life that come to me as often as I see them and if I have to put effort into finding God, he isn’t worth my time. I’ve got shit to do.

Existential crisis #1

This week I learned that tomato consumption can cause anaphylaxis. Of all the foods that I worry about in restaurants, a tomato isn’t on the watch list. It wasn’t me that suffered (and thankfully recovered), despite never saying grace before a meal.

*Puts down peanut butter on toast*

I also learned that when someone orders a gluten-free afternoon tea, they are still at risk of getting a gluten-filled afternoon tea. That customer may also be lovely about this, much nicer than the ignoramus complaining that their food arrived five minutes late and served to the wrong person. People watching can be so exhausting.

I also learned that cardiac arrest can kill someone one year older than myself. I’m 27. That person died four days ago on the street in which I work. It isn’t being treated as suspicious, just tragic. Being in the city center, this person inhaled his last breath and didn’t take another step. He received CPR, all to no avail. His body was taken away swiftly, the street once again empty at 10pm other than the drinkers walking up to the cash point at that very spot, totally unaware that a human life just expired as they plan their next drinking spot.

After a very long day at work, I have sat down at home, a little exhausted. I can feel the onset of anxiety slowly creeping up on me, tics are becoming more prevalent and breaths a little deeper. Conveniently, the following video emerged in my recommended YouTube feed.

An attractive woman will always distract me for a brief moment, no wonder the video has 34.7 million views. I decided to look past the click-bait thumbnail and give it a shot. 27 minutes and 53 seconds in, it is keeping it’s promise. I am relaxing. I sometimes forget it is in the background, it will be interesting to see if I make the 3 hour mark. It is as fascinating as it is scary coming to the realisation that I need something external to keep my own body and mind in order. It doesn’t sound like much, however putting conscious effort into considering this reality really makes me feel almost separated from myself. My mind need servicing every now and then just like my car does. Sometimes, I need someone else to help me with this, whether it is therapy or therapeutic music. I don’t hold such power.

To throw a spanner into the works, relaxing also has its downfalls. I do not always feel in control, as baffling as I am sure that sounds. I am used to tics as a result of Tourette’s, overthinking as a result of OCD and constant movement as a result of ADHD. In the rare moments that the symptoms subside, I feel an incredible amount calm, even if my symptoms are not as severe as other sufferers experience. This calm makes me uneasy, I had mentioned this to my therapist last year when I was seeking techniques to alleviate the associated conditions. I feel I am going into a state of paralysis, or losing control of my movements. It’s a weird feeling to feel like I am losing control when I should feel I am gaining it. Maybe this has something to do with claustrophobia or the desire to be in open space. I need to be somewhere in which I can move, and regular movement reassures me that I am.

So there we have it, I feel overwhelmed at times and when I try to relax it feels weird. I need to find the right balance, if I have such a thing. It’s like I am not a single person, but a person trying to break a wild horse, with no end in sight.

Yee-haw.

I went on a date, she laughed at a mental illness she didn’t know I had

I am very fortunate that my symptoms are mild. This is why I am able to fool colleagues into thinking I am much more focused than I am, living with this condition relatively undetected by anyone other than family and close friends. Intensity comes in waves, usually at times of stress or around people that I don’t want to know of the condition. The irony.

Surprisingly, I was stress free during the date at the local restaurant. This was helped by chugging a beer before I jumped into the taxi, taking the edge off things. This was also the second date, the first was a brief coffee chat and although caffeine can send me off the rails, it was a brief encounter was short enough to suppress any urges. I have been on dates and catch ups with friends in the past when in a much more depressed state of mind. It is perfectly possible to be in a bar full of people, having an intimate chat with someone and feel like I am here.

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Tourette’s is a very strange condition. It is also highly misunderstood. Thanks to television and stereotypes the first question I get asked when someone learns I have the condition is ‘so why don’t you swear?’. Only a portion of sufferers have verbal tics and only a portion of those let out obscenities, roughly 10%. More responses to such myths can be viewed over at Tourettes Hero. For this reason, I have had conversations with people that poke fun at the condition, failing to realise that I have the illness that they are joking about, right in my face. Despite being able to suppress tics, they build up every few seconds or so on a bad day. A good day, maybe every few minutes. Some create enough pressure for me to have to let them out, usually in a minor head movement, blink or vocal grunt disguised as a cough.

So, back to the date. We were sitting, a few bites into our main course when we got onto the topic of interesting television documentaries, those with Louis Theroux in particular. If you haven’t watched any of his, I recommend them. His cool and calm persona whilst in some of the weirdest situations with the wackiest people is hilarious. She then told me of a documentary that she watched, consisting of Tourette’s sufferers swearing and saying the most offensive of things in the most inappropriate of places. I understand why the stereotype holds up. I would be boring on such a television programme. Who doesn’t want to hear people shouting that they have a bomb whilst in an airport? Or shouting the ‘N’ word in a largely black community? This is what you get when being educated on TS on TV.

‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! It is so awkward to watch!’ At least she is willing to empathise with those burdened with the symptoms it seemed. She wasn’t being patronising or condescending either, making the chat a little more bearable. It lasted a couple of minutes before moving on to the next topic, however hearing the condition I have had for a lifetime being condensed into a two minute bunch of laughs will always stay with me a little longer, whenever this may be. What I have to remember is that I do the exact same thing. I don’t know when or with what person. Which is why it is impossible to not offend no matter how hard we all try. I will make a joke about something that will no doubt have a big impact on someone, whether it be a myth that I haven’t been corrected on or a condition that I know nothing about.

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For that reason, it’s cool. I won’t get wound up about it. As long as that person isn’t doing so intentionally to offend me or being misled by, lets say ‘alternative facts’ that we are hearing so much about. I am just about to get ready before heading to a gig later with the same girl. I am looking forward to it. Maybe I will do something that gives away the condition, maybe I will tell her that I have it. Maybe she will tell me that she has a condition that I embarrassingly mocked during our last date. What I do know is that she isn’t going to intentionally insult me. It is important to know the difference between those that offend intentionally and those that do so out of ignorance. The latter should be held in a higher regard as we all do it, every single one of us. If you don’t think so, you are wrong. Those that are hurt by our statements are probably used to hiding it very well, it is our duty to understand that as best we can.

 

The link between mental health, religion and why I am an atheist

Obsessive thoughts and tics have proved to be a hindrance within the past 72 hours, to the extend that I have been reviewing OCD and Tourettes on dedicated websites. My therapy ended a couple months back and although I have techniques to ride the waves, there are always ones that come crashing over me.

These include constantly regretting past mistakes, being over critical of previous decisions and worrying about potential events that haven’t taken place. They don’t come and go, they stay from morning to night. It is easy for me to understand that it is abnormal and that I shouldn’t overthink but this is ineffective. I guess it would be like someone knowing they will have a bad trip on LSD and still freaking out in the process.


I am on the website OCD UK, and it is interesting to read they have a portion of the page dedicated to religious beliefs and/or constantly needing answers for the universe. This has me written all over it.

Here is the information provided:

‘Rumination’ is a term often used to describe all obsessional intrusive thoughts, but this is misleading. In the context of OCD a rumination is actually a train of prolonged thinking about a question or theme that is undirected and unproductive. Unlike obsessional thoughts, ruminations are not objectionable and are indulged rather than resisted. Many ruminations dwell on religious, philosophical, or metaphysical topics, such as the origins of the universe, life after death, the nature of morality, and so on.

It also states further down that:

OCD often fixates on areas of great importance and sensitivity and religion and matters of religious practice are prime candidates for OCD obsessions. Sometimes referred to as scrupulosity, religious intrusive thoughts include:

-Sins committed will never be forgiven by God and one will go to hell.
-One will have bad thoughts in a religious building.

-One will scream blasphemous words loudly in a religious location.

-Prayers have been omitted or recited incorrectly.

-Certain prayers must be said over and over again.

-Religious objects need to be touched or kissed repeatedly.

-One is always doing something sinful.

-Repetitive blasphemous thoughts.

-That the person has lost touch with God or their beliefs in some way.

-Intrusive sexual thoughts about God, saints or, religious figures.

-That the person has broken religious laws concerning speech, or dress or modesty.

-Intrusive bad thoughts that occur during prayer will contaminate and ruin or cancel out the value of these activities.

The constant analysing and questioning of a person’s faith places immense strain on their beliefs and prevents the person deriving peace from their religion. As a result they will often avoid church and all religious practice out of fear of their thoughts.

I have suffered both aspects to a degree. The first aspect has really developed my open mindedness. I can no longer believe what I want to for comfort, as my comfort is not brought on what I want to be true. It is brought on by what evidence points to. The second aspect fuels it further, as I should not feel guilty for thoughts, especially as I cannot help them. 

Everyday I question reality, constantly analysing how we behave as a society. Mental illness certainly has its perks, at least that’s what my crazy mind has me believe.