Trigger warning: Suicide, depression
Perfection almost got the better of me. Seventeen years ago, I was so hopeless that I set a date for my suicide.
I am not the only one. You don’t have to go far to hear a heartbreaking story of someone else choosing to end their life. The World Health Organization estimates more than 800,000 people take their own lives each year, and suicide remains the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds.
Years ago, I had a seemingly perfect life. I had a successful chiropractic practice, a beautiful fiancé, and money—and yet, inside I was dying. I knew the faces of depression and despair, and I wanted it to end.
So I set a date for my suicide. I gave the universe six months to show up or I was out.
If depression, sadness, and thoughts of suicide are familiar to you, please know that you are valuable. There is hope! Today, my life is an adventure. I wake up every morning with a sense of joy and possibility, and I am grateful for the gift of being alive. Seventeen years ago, I didn’t even know that was possible.
If someone reading this article takes only one thing away from it, please, I beg of you, let it be this: Never give up, never give in, and never quit.
I believe there is one major contributor to the global increase in suicide we’ve seen—society’s fictional ideal of perfection.
We place too much emphasis on being perfect, and we hold expectations and other points of view about how life—and we—should be. When those expectations aren’t met, we believe it is our own result of failure. We make ourselves “bad” or “wrong,” and in doing so, we are unable to see the greatness that we really are.
Many of the expectations we hold about life are not actually our own. They are points of view we have unconsciously adopted. How many points of view or expectations about life have you absorbed from your father? Your mother? If you had no past and hadn’t been influenced by points of view, what would you like in your life right now? What would you create for yourself?
Here are some of the factors that undermine our natural sense of greatness:
1. Being highly aware and sensitive
We are unknowingly bombarded constantly by the thoughts and feelings of people around us. Much of what goes on in your head isn’t even yours. Highly sensitive people are particularly attuned to, and affected by, the emotions of others.
Think of yourself like psychic sponge, so attuned to others that, at an unconscious level, it’s like you are absorbing and reacting to everyone in a 100-mile radius!
Tip: Surround yourself with happy people! Secondly, repeatedly ask yourself this simple question whenever you are feeling sad, angry or blue: “Who does this belong to?” If you feel lighter after asking this and the emotion ‘lifts’ from you, you can be assured that you have just picked it up from someone else. Recognizing this allows you to stop trying to fix what never belonged to you in the first place.
2. Experiencing abuse
Many of those who suffer from depression have been abused physically, mentally, or emotionally. Far too many people who have been abused unconsciously believe that abuse wouldn’t happen to a good person. So, by default, those of us who have been abused have decided they must be ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ to have created the cycle of abuse. Then it is perpetuated into a belief in the future to justify why we can’t choose or create goodness in our lives.
Tip: Learn to see yourself from a different perspective, such as, “I have been confronted with the worst of this reality and I’m still here and I’m still searching for something greater.” Many abused people become the kindest and most caring people in the world as their way of going beyond the abuse. You are different. You are greater than anything that has been a part of your life. You are a gift to this world.
3. Constantly seeking answers or conclusions
Constantly trying to make sense of (or find answers to) life entraps you in a cycle of judgement, blame, and disappointment. Instead, ask questions. A question always empowers. An answer always disempowers. One of the problems with depression and unhappiness is that we don’t see any other possibility. When you ask a question, even a simple one, you open other doorways of possibility that didn’t seem to exist before.
Tip: Ask yourself these questions every day: What can I do differently today to move beyond this depression? How does it get any better than this? What else is possible here that I’ve never considered?
4. Living a sedentary lifestyle
Sedentary lifestyles are very, very stressful on our bodies and are actually quite unkind to them. Your body is meant to move! That’s one of the reasons you have it. It loves to be mobile. It loves to run, jump, swim, play, walk, rock climb, and be enjoyed for the gift of movement it can be.
Tip: Ask your body each day: “Body, what movement would you like to do today?” And go do it! You don’t have to do it perfectly or like a world class athlete. Make it easy. Do it for fun! For your body! Just do it.
Would you be willing to consider that you are a gift? Would you be willing to see that you are a contribution to the world? No matter where you are, no matter how you feel, joy is possible. Keep asking, “How does it get any better than this?” and “What else is possible?” at all times and in all situations. These two questions are the beginning of a whole new reality for you—a reality that you would love to live.
So, to anyone overwhelmed with the weight of expectation, judgement, and despair, I have a simple piece of advice: Please know there is always hope. Never give up, never give in and never quit. You are far too valuable to the world!