An icon in the dance world died today. He killed himself with a single gun shot…in a hotel room…away from his home, away from his children, away from his wife, away from the community of dancers, artists, and people who loved him. It seems he left his house, got a hotel room, did it. That’s it. Over.
I cried when I read it this morning. You may know that we deal with “suicidal ideation” in this house. Those are fancy words for when someone thinks and talks about killing themselves. Did Stephen “tWitch” Boss have suicidal thoughts? Clearly, he did. Did anybody know about it? I’m not sure.
Here’s what I do know…suicide is hideous, awful, gut-wrenching, maddening. Only the dead truly know why, what, how, who, whatever drove them to that extreme, extraordinary point of no return. The living can only speculate, blame, guess, wonder.
Here’s what else I know…having suicidal thoughts and talking about it is different than actually making a plan to kill oneself, and further, talking about it and even making a plan is different than actually doing it.
And here’s another thing I know…it’s excruciating to hear talk of suicide. It’s painful beyond words to hear about someone’s actual plans to do it or that they’ve attempted it. So it is truly unimaginable to be close to someone who actually does it.
“Check on your friends.”
“Mental health matters.”
“Check in with even the strong ones.”
Forgive me, but I am sick of it. Are those sentiments wrong? No, probably not. Hearts are in the right place, and it’s always a good idea to check in with people (which is definitely better than not checking on people). And Lord knows, I have been on a personal crusade to spread mental health awareness. But there’s more…there has to be more…
I think we need to get mad. Really fired up. Militant. Tough. We need to boldly and aggressively PREACH, SCREAM, PLASTER ON BILLBOARDS, GO VIRAL, PAY FOR AD TIME, ALL THE THINGS to get the world to understand that suicide IS NOT an option. It’s not. Period. It can’t be.
The world needs to know that suicide is not something the living “get over” after some therapy. We won’t “be okay” after a period of grief. We won’t “pick up the pieces” and move on. It won’t always be “used for good” at speaking engagements and suicide awareness campaigns.
I had to have this conversation with my own daughter LAST WEEK. Her suicidal ideation surfaced…again…and she actually expressed that she thought we would be ok. NO! I had to try to get her to understand. It WOULD NOT be ok for us left behind! My husband and I would be grief stricken, blame ourselves and each other, struggle with going to work, lose our health, potentially divorce…Lord knows. Our 20 year old son would implode. He could turn to the streets, drugs, take his own life…Lord knows. Her grandparents…they couldn’t live so broken. Our extended family would be rocked. Her friends, the children at my studio, the folks at her barn…Lord knows.
I have gathered, through our experience, a lot of research, and talking to others, that suicide is deeply personal. It’s an individual, inward, private, lost within yourself thought process. Sufferers have spiraled down some infinite rabbit hole of pain such that their own problems plague them so severely that they lose perception of how anybody else thinks or feels. They even begin to feel like they would be doing the world a favor. No. No. No.
My own child heads down the hole, and fortunately, we’ve caught her. We’ve been able to intervene, to try and reason with her, to buy another day. And only by God’s grace and no doubt His intervention, she caught herself right at the brink of going too far. Those who have lost loved ones to suicide WISH they had gotten that opportunity. I am grateful we did (do).
So is that the answer? Reason? An attempt at logic? Empathy and compassion? It can’t hurt. I just feel like we, as a society, have lost our collective ability to think beyond ourselves (even on a good day) and feel another person’s feels, get out of our own heads, and try to make sense of what affects our actions have on other people.
“Check on your friends.”
“Mental health matters.”
“Check on your strong friends, too.”
Yes…but this angry mom wants to call “bullshit” on all that. It’s talk. It’s well-meaning words of consolation when we have good intentions to see to our friends and keep mental health top of mind, but it’s not enough. I want EVERYBODY mad. I want EVERYBODY to stop saying “he died” or “he passed away”. No, he killed himself, because he thought it was the best possible option for his pain despite the effects on his family and friends. It’s maddening for him…and for everyone else.
I wish we could flood the world with lessons on empathy and compassion, love for each other, love for ourselves, reasons to LIVE. We need reasons to get out of our own heads, talk loud, share, ask questions, seek help, remember that we are loved and appreciated somewhere by someone on some level.
I’m mad. I’m angry that suicide is even considered for a single moment to be an option for anybody. It is devastating and awful. It’s selfish and cruel. It’s indicative of mental health that has so deteriorated that any sense of empathy and compassion is long gone. It just can not continue to be culturally “acceptable” as an option. And I’m sorry, but it can’t be met with so much whiney, syrupy “check on your friends” bullshit memes and posts. We have got to go to work.
Get freaking busy. Stop talking about it, and actually call people and don’t just check on them…LOVE them. Tell people they are valued. Compliment them. Stop bitching at the store clerks. Stop complaining to the dance teacher. Stop demanding so much from your school teacher. Stop running down the coach. Stop gossiping. Stop airing your grievances with every little inconvenience on social media. Stop posting silly mess about mental health, and start trying to understand, start taking some action, and start reaching out.
If you’ve never had significant mental health struggles yourself or in your home…if you’ve never had suicide get real in your home…you truly have no idea what it’s like. I am begging you to get busy doing actual things to make the world better, to teach your kids and others that suicde IS NOT EVER an option, that they are loved, and that our actions affect others gravely, horribly, terrifyingly. A suicide death is far from final. We have to work to make this better. We must.