But, I’m not going to. Really, none of that matters. If you’ve ever been depressed or very ill or just plain tired, you’ve stood on the edge of that precipice, that cliff hundreds of miles above the earth with clouds blocking your view of the ground and wondering what might be on the other side of them. Redemption? Honesty? Freedom? Sharp rocks? Hard dirt? Coldness?
What I want you to know and what I want you to see is what happens on the other side of that precipice, beyond the clouds, beyond setbacks and holdups, beyond the obstacles and pain.
Let me try.
1. You’re not going to find clarity.
Instead you’ll be met with confusion. There’s this expectation of clarity after killing yourself. You think you’re going to find yourself in an afterlife or nowhere at all — void of existence. But, your flight or fight mode kicks in. Your body will fight back. It will show you how it wants to live and keep going. I found myself more confused, more terrified, and more lost than ever before. Wasn’t I already confused? Wasn’t I trying to make the confusion go away? Wasn’t I looking for clarity in an otherwise chaotic life? You can’t take the short way down. You’ve got to find the clues along the way and earn clarity from the world around you and, most importantly, yourself.
2. You’re stronger than you think.
Pain. Maybe it’s in your arms. Maybe it’s in your head. Maybe your neck. Maybe just your brain. Your body will have suffered. It takes a lot to kill you. You want to know why? Because you’re stronger than you think. You’re stronger than you’ve ever known. And you don’t need to test this with suicide to believe it. Instead, you can play the real game — the game that lets you reap benefits. You can talk, you can defend yourself, and you can fight. You can try. And it’s certainly a lot easier to do this in the comfort of your home and your family or friends than in the lonely plastic mattresses in a psych ward with beige walls and cold floors and constant supervision by detached and emotionless doctors and nurses.
3. You do have friends.
They’re everywhere. They’re people you’ve met. They’re people you haven’t met. They’re complete strangers who you met once upon a time and never took the initiative to hang out with again. They’re people you made a connection with that stuck with you even though you haven’t yet explored it any further. They’re your family. They’re the dog at the shelter waiting for you to commit to it so that it can commit to you. But, you’re scared. You’re fearing rejection. You don’t want to let anyone down. Here’s a not-so-secret secret: Everyone is scared. Every single person you’ve ever met in your entire life has been scared at some point. Everyone gets sad. But not everyone gives up.
4. Dying is not an awfully big adventure.
Peter Pan had it wrong. There is no adventure beyond life. Just afterlife or nothing depending on what you believe. Life, that’s the real adventure. Growing up, something Peter and his lost boys were too afraid to do, that’s the real challenge. Peter was scared. Adulthood to him meant the death of his childhood. It’s a metaphor. And he was a child, fearful and ignorant. If I’m being a little stiff here, it’s because death is not glamourous. It’s not fun. It hurts the people you leave behind and, ultimately, it hurts you. So, here’s some straight up truth, no glitter: Grow up.*
5. There is always an option C.
You’re on a cliff. You’re looking down. You can’t see beyond the clouds beneath your feet. Option A: You can jump, but you’ll never see anything but the ground and only for a few moments. Option B: You can wait. You can hold your position and wait for the clouds to clear. Option C: You can walk. You can walk away or you can find a path down. And you know what’s great about walking? It’s slow. It’s step by step, one step at a time. You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to, but it will make the boring parts go by faster. And you get to see EVERYTHING. What’s beyond the clouds? You get to look. You get to embrace it. And at the bottom, your real life is waiting for you.
Yes, for some that’s entirely metaphorical. It is for me as well. But, let’s build on it for a moment. What happens at high altitudes? Altitude sickness. Your mind reacts poorly to its environment. Thinning air makes it harder to breathe, think, and focus. As does depression. But jumping won’t help. It won’t make you any better. It won’t make your journey an epic or glorious one. Instead, you’d have had a sad, tragic ending to a journey you’re already on. So, when you’re feeling as though you’re hundreds of miles away from everyone else, like you can’t see through the clouds, maybe you’re suffering from a little bit of altitude sickness and all you need is to walk back down to ground level.
6. So, what’s on the other side of those clouds?
Presence. What I found after admitting to myself what I had tried to do — end my life — and what I had really been looking for that I wouldn’t have found if I had succeeded was the ability to live in the present. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. I had to get better. But this is a choice. This is a choice you make. Please, do not think the only way to get there is to jump. Most don’t survive that jump. And you’re special if you do. You’re just lucky.
If you’re feeling depressed or having thoughts of suicide, please seek help immediately. There are many avenues that will provide help. You can call a suicide hotline, make an appointment with a psychiatrist or therapist, or find free meetings in your area. Tell a friend or a family member. Explain to them that you want to get help and want to get better. Best of all, don’t be scared. Because if there’s one thing you can count on it’s that you’re not alone.
*Don’t be a pussy.