Why I Decided Not To Commit Suicide
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest -- whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories -- comes afterward. These are games; one must first answer. ALBERT CAMUS, An Absurd Reasoning
Between the last quarter of 2013, through the final quarter of 2015; I was forced to move out of my home of more than 10 years, found myself in an untenable business relationship which resulted in a substantial financial loss, fended off more than one legal action, was publicly humiliated and shamed on more than one occasion via social media, witnessed the sudden and inexplicable collapse of an 8 year romantic relationship, and had my current home, healthcare and lifestyle threatened. Phew!
The two years between 2013 - 2015 are a testament to what I call my method of resilience training (The Merideth Method®). I thrived through those two years with the faith that eventually the dots would connect, growth would ensue, my container would get larger. I did it without antidepressants. I refused to numb myself with recreational drugs, alcohol, emotional eating, video games…etc. It wasn’t easy and I made some mistakes but ultimately my method worked. I am without a doubt stronger, clearer and more capable now than I was before I entered the maelstrom.
In October 2014 the CDC released the NCHS Data Brief No. 168. This statistical brief provides vital information about life expectancy in the united states. One of the tables breaks down the top 10 causes of death. Surprisingly suicide is 10th on the list, right behind kidney disease. Even more startling between 2011 - 2012 the rates of suicide increased from 12.3 - to 12.6 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a disturbing increase of 2.4%. Digging a little deeper, it turns out suicide rates have been on the rise over the last decade going from 10.4 in 2000 to our current rate of 12.6…this is a nearly 18% rise in people taking their own lives! When you consider that there is only one successful suicide in every 25 attempts and that 25% of the population suffers from depression in any given year…the numbers are staggering. Now consider that suicide among men is four times higher than it is among women. Males account for 79% of all US suicides.
According to the OECD (Organization For Economic Co-Operation And Development), physiologic imbalances in the brain account for only 45% of all suicides. The remaining 55% are psychologically based. 32% are the result of grief related to romantic love. 10% from financial or career failure. Shame and humiliation and loss of hope make up the rest of the pie.
Taking into account the above statistics, I dodged a metaphorical bullet. From 2013 - 2015, I found myself reeling from one life altering loss after another. Looking back now, I simply want to give myself a hug. In the midst of it, I kept asking myself “What is wrong with you, why can’t you get a hold on ALL this?” Today I laugh because most people would have bowed out at public humiliation - not me. With some simple tools, regular workouts and daily reminders, I was able to stay on course. I could have drowned, there were hours when I thought this is just too painful, too embarrassing, too devastating. I absolutely wanted to disappear at times…into anything other than the grief and pain.
Despite the surreal onslaught, suicide never entered my mind. I have trained myself to be a tenacious and incredibly resilient human. Instead of allowing my negative thoughts to win and allowing the behavior of others to negatively influence my longterm wellbeing, I decided to use the pain of loss as a tuning instrument. My goal was to raise my awareness to the next level.
What I did is less important than what I needed to execute my plan. I needed people in my life that believed in my potential to grow beyond the situational John that was showing up in pain. I needed people that could remind me of just how incredibly awesome I am at my best and how much they loved me even at what felt like my worst. I needed mentors and trainers (to encourage me to work like I was being chased by a rabid dog) and friends and confidants and fellow explorers. In short, I needed a community. There is irony here because one of the things I do well is build communities and connection through shared experiences, I have been doing it for most of my life. Nonetheless, it is not easy for men to ask for help, to admit failure, to be vulnerable and experience shame (it is not easy for anyone but men seem to be less resilient)…and it was particularly hard for this man.
I also needed to simplify my life and remove people who were passively and actively not going to help me execute my plan (this is an important step when practiced wisely!)...more on this step later.
More people commit suicide each year than are killed by murder, traffic accidents and animal attacks combined. As a culture we are far more comfortable talking about murder and home invasions than we are about depression. The media is blanketed with stories of el nino “enhanced” storms and car pile-ups on the interstate but rarely do we see meaningful discussion of why men are four times more likely to take their own lives than women. The result is a serious disconnection between what we are experiencing internally and the hysteria of cultural pageantry propagated by the media.
I wrote this article for many reasons. Writing is one of the many ways I steer my mind back on course. I want to publicly acknowledge my journey and leave a trail for others to follow should they need signposts on their journey. I am taking responsibility for my life, my choices, my growth. I want to encourage anyone, any man in particular, to find a way to work with the pain, set up a plan, get back on track, win the game (I love sports metaphors), let go of the addiction - it is counterintuitive but you can do it by learning how to be more open and vulnerable.
Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, creed, social status or education, life is fraught with levels of distress that are often bigger than our ability to countenance them alone. We are in this together and despite our differences each of us needs to feel love, meaning, hope, acceptance, pride, status and know there is a way forward after we get lost...and we all get lost from time to time. While we personally may not have the ability to stop the next terrorist attack, we do have the capacity to stop terrorizing ourselves and to more gracefully accept the pain and distress of those in our lives.
I leave you with homework…take the hate out of your communication and replace it with curiosity. Yeah I know people say and do insanely inconsiderate and inflammatory things…but trying to hurt or shame someone into acting “properly” is small minded and worse potentially fatal. I'm not suggesting we stop holding each other accountable...rather I am suggesting we avoid shaming one another into submission.
If your interested in resilience training, check out TIFIK.COM and join me for a weekend intensive.
Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.
ALBERT CAMUS, The Rebel