Excuse Me, This is Hard to Talk About

Back in the day, man, I’d talk death and suicide and hopelessness all day long, without feeling a thing.  I actually ENJOYED it.

Now?  I feel icky.  Seriously.  I’ve been blogging about suicide, I’ve been talking about suicide, and it makes me feel icky because part of me doesn’t want to even bring it up.  I’ve changed.  I want to talk about how great Lynyrd Skynyrd is, or how cute kittens are, or puppies, or how I loved watching Star Wars when I was a kid.  I’d pour over my Star Wars memorabilia and it filled me with such excitement, such longing, such power.  For an eight-year-old boy, back in the day, Star Wars was magic.

Don’t get me wrong, I can still talk about death and suicide and hopelessness, but inside, it just feels wrong.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because I’m letting the world in on my secret, that I’ve had such a hard time with life—stupid, regular, boring, everyday, inane life.  Getting up, brushing my teeth, going to work, it all feels so hard.  I don’t want it to.  I want to celebrate life because it is so very, very short.  So very, very temporary.  But I forget.

Another reason why I don’t want to talk about suicide is that people have had friends, relatives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers kill themselves, and if I bring it up, I might hurt them.  I worry about that a lot.

A bigger fear is that part of me is afraid if I talk about suicide, I might give people the idea that it’s okay.  It’s not okay.  Not at all.  Suicide and okay don’t even live in the same country.  Like I’ve said before, suicide is a form of murder, the person kills themselves and kills a part of everyone around them.  It’s a nuclear bomb going off in a family.  And radiation poisons everyone long after the fact.

So I’m afraid that, by talking about it, I’m spreading suicidal cheer like a demented Johnny Appleseed.  That’s in the book, one of my favorite lines.

I keep thinking about what one of my characters says to the depressed JD, the hero of LONG LIVE THE SUICIDE KING.  She says, “You don’t get to talk about suicide without there being consequences.”

And she’s right.  I only hope that people who’ve had the dark thoughts, that me talking about it, that this book I wrote, might let them know they aren’t alone.  I’ve been suicidal.  I am not suicidal anymore.  In fact, most days, I kinda enjoy life.

There is hope.  We can change.  There is help.

One good thing about life?  Music?  When I hear a song, and that song hits me in just the right way, like Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark”, it’s like a Star Wars moment.  For a minute, the world is magical, I feel powerful.  There is a mystery to this life thing, a profound mystery I’m going to chase, I’m going to experience, and that I love.

Life is sweet.

I Don’t Mean to Shock You

Suicide has been my friend, and yeah, he’s not a very nice friend. He’s been the friend that whispers to me, that offers me a way out, an end to the pain that boring, everyday life can bring.

Well, if I put it that way, suicide hasn’t been a friend at all, but all the same, I’ve lived long periods of time with the enemy inside my head, chattering at me.

Since he’s been such a constant companion, well, I come across insensitive when I talk about death and suicide. I can shock and offend people so easily, and over the years, I’ve tried to keep my flippant comments about suicide to myself.

I had a friend (a real one, not in my head) who killed himself in college. When I found out, I said, “Well, at least he’s found a way to quit smoking. Permanently.”

My dad’s a cop. Dark humor goes with the territory and it must be genetic.

I didn’t mean to come across callous, but I understood what had killed my friend, and when faced with death, I usually laugh inappropriately. Again, I’ve had to do some pretty heavy self-editing at times.

The problem is, people have had close friends, relatives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers kill themselves, and the living are left to deal with it. And that’s a hard thing, made harder if the survivors never had suicidal thoughts. When I get all flippant about suicide, I hurt people who’ve experience such loss.

One of the things I tried to add to my novel, LONG LIVE THE SUICIDE KING, is that suicide, even talking about suicide, has consequences. No one can be suicidal in a vacuum. When someone kills themselves, it affects everyone around them, and in a way, it kills the ones closest to them. It’s a form of murder.

Heavy stuff. Life is hard. Death might seem like a solution, however, I don’t believe it is. Don’t ask me for specifics, but I think we have lessons to learn, and if we don’t learn them here, if we checkout, permanently, we go somewhere else to learn them.

I don’t think suicide is a way out. In the end, I think it’s a monumental waste of time and, again, it murders those around us.

It’s my job to be heroic, to find the other side of my pain, to reach out for help. And it’s my job to talk about my dark thoughts with at least one other person on this earth: a close-mouthed friend, a pastor, a therapist, my mom. As humans, we heal through our mouths. The words we say can shed light into the darkest parts of our psyche.

And there is hope and good stuff about life, in all of our lives. Chocolate. Seriously, there is chocolate in this world. You know what I love? I love those cheap, crappy chocolate donettes–not a real donut, but a donette–you find in gas stations and convenience stores. Hmm, crappy chocolate donettes and the waxy milk you can buy to wash them down. Convenience store milk isn’t exactly sour, but it really wants to be sour, you just know it.

I could swing that into analogy, about me wanting to be sour, but somehow, something inside of me, like a FDA-approved preservative, fights the sour, and so I wash down the chocolatey goodness, standing outside the Conoco, with the morning sun on my face.

Life is sweet.

How to Fight Despair

I’m not going to get all dictionary on you guys.  The words I’m about to use, I’ll define by how I understand them.  I’m gonna get totally subjective.  You’ve been warned.

Despair, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, self-destructive behavior, you know what I’m talking about.  Life is a shit sandwich and every day is another bite.  In other words, despair.

I like despair.  I trust despair.  I firmly believe that the worst possible thing will happen and we’ll all be killed and die and be killed some more, or we’ll be crippled, wounded, hurting, in pain beyond endurance.  Yeah, despair is my buddy.  Hello darkness, my old friend…

My default position is despair.  I generally bypass sad and go straight for helpless, hopeless despair.

Do you know what I use to fight despair?  Well, not fight, really.  Any war I fight in my own mind, I always lose.  I can’t fight my despair.  Not a bit.  It’s like the tar baby, or the blob, when I hit it, despair grabs my fist and pulls me inside it.

Instead, my despair is like a huge clockwork structure of madness and sorrow.  But I have a screwdriver to dismantle it, and that tool is called gratitude.

I had a spiritual adviser who taught me about gratitude.  Let’s define gratitude as finding a hundred dollars in your coat pocket when the rent is due.  Or when you’ve lost your wallet, and someone has turned it into Lost and Found with all the cash tucked away.  Gratitude is that feeling of having been gifted.  Gratitude.  Thankfulness.  Thank God I didn’t get in that car accident this morning.  Thank God I didn’t send that scathing email.  Thank God.


So back a while ago, when I was trapped in my clock tower of despair, I called my spiritual adviser, and before you think it was some guru on a mountaintop, my adviser was a shower glass installer.  He had thick fingers, dead-skinned white knuckles, and dirt in the lines of his palm.  But he was my guide and he was very, very wise.

My heavy-glass guru listened while I complained about life, about my sad, mad sorrows, and he said, “Aaron, be grateful you’re not on fire.”
I stopped.  Yeah, I wasn’t on fire.  Right now, where I’m at, in this second, I am not on fire.  I’m not in great physical pain. I’m okay.  Generally, for every minute I’ve lived, I’ve been okay.  I’ve been relatively safe.

But I forget.  My mind races.  I regret the past and fear the future.  I forget to be grateful of the little things.

And it’s the little things that either kill us or destroy us.

For example, at Starbucks I get coffee with steamed soy.  It’s really good and only costs me $1.73.  In the early morning, when I sit down in my special spot on the back wall by the window, and it’s dark outside, I sip my coffee-soy goodness, and then I get to work writing.

Life is sweet.  Too bad I forget to be grateful for all the sweetness.