At some point in our lives, given the constantly increasing numbers, we will all experience suicide. It might be a friend, or an acquaintance, but chances are, at some point, it will be someone we know well, and perhaps love. Some of us might even be the ones considering or even attempting suicide.
Admittedly, I’m more aware of it having lost both parents to suicide. I’ve learned to recognize people who are hiding behind self-made walls and masks; who show little or no value for the life they’ve been given. Sometimes I can reach out to them, but more often than not, they’ve created safeguards preventing people like me who see and feel too much from getting too close. They want neither to be pitied nor judged and are unable to see some of us might just want to help them feel wanted and loved.
Freedom to Be Ourselves
Life these days is hard. There’s no pretty way to say it. For some, the daily challenges are overwhelming, and the stories they tell themselves about not being missed become a reality to be escaped at all costs. Many even become the person they believe themselves to be; withdrawn, angry, unpleasant to be around. They use their behavior to discourage others from reaching out or trying to help change their reality.
Others wrap themselves in false gaiety, often with the assistance of alcohol or drugs. They’re the life of the party on the outside, surrounded by smiling faces who are completely clueless about the turmoil the false front hides. Even those closest to them are oblivious to the cost of keeping the mask in place; of the loneliness they’re unable to break free from.
I talk to friends who’ve at one point in their lives contemplated suicide and understand. There were times I, too felt alone and unnecessary. Times when the only reason I’m still alive was my refusal to put my daughters through the pain and trauma I’ve had to live through twice. I remember being angry all the time, stewing over the slightest thing, and feeling abused and put down by everyone around me. Of course, a lot of it was their reaction to my prickliness and unfriendly demeanor.
Recognizing Our Value to Others
Fortunately, both my writing and the dancing were my saving grace. When I was at my angriest and most withdrawn, I had put the dancing on the back burner to involve myself in the girls’ high school activities. Perhaps not my best choice, but it was the right choice for them, if not for me. Shortly after those responsibilities ended, I got my butt back out on a dance floor. After awhile, the fog began to clear and I found my happy; bigger and brighter than it had been before.
Unfortunately, what may work for some of us, doesn’t help for others. There are plenty of writers and people who dance regularly who aren’t able to escape their pain or realize there are many people who want them around, and who would miss them if they were gone. It puts a lot of responsibility on the rest of us to pay attention to the ones who always seem happy, or who drink to excess and have a long drive home, or simply who share the barest snippets of themselves.
They’ll never say, nor admit to needing help, but they’re the ones we need to do our best to include and reassure we love them as they really are, and that they needn’t pretend for us.
Loving Each Other for Who We Are
I recently saw this graphic on Facebook of Eeyore (my favorite of the Winnie the Pooh characters, coincidentally). I think this really says it all, and was published on the Canadian Mental Health Group Facebook page.
It speaks directly to what I’m saying. We all have friends who are depressed, and they need to be included anyway, and not expected to pretend everything is fine. They need to know it’s OK to be who they are without need for masks and walls, and that they’ll be accepted as they are all the time.
The biggest problem our society faces right now, and probably why suicide rates are climbing at such a frightening pace, is people think they need to pretend to be someone they’re not in order to be accepted or even liked.
I’ve learned people like, and even love you more if you’re yourself and nothing else. Those who don’t, quite frankly, don’t matter. We all have quirks, idiosyncrasies, broken parts, and imperfections. Rather than believing they make us wrong in some way, we need to realize they’re what make us unique, and even in tune with others. If we aren’t worrying about fitting in and matching some arbitrarily prescribed description of normal, we’ll find others are able to let down their guard and be themselves too. Not only that, the relief we get from not pretending might even lift some of the sadness and depression!
Dropping Our Disguises Ain’t Easy, But it’s Worth the Trouble
Learning to open up to my friends was, in all honesty, one of the toughest things I ever did. It went against everything I’d been taught from birth, and left me exposed to the ridicule and abuse I’d experienced most of my life, at least from my distorted recollection. I only saw people teasing and making fun of me, but never noticed when it went in the other direction, or when I was one of the perpetrators. Funny how our memories leave out the important parts, right?
Once I got to the other side, however, it became one of the most rewarding, kindest things I’ve ever done for myself. I have friends who are as imperfect as I am, but who accept themselves as they are. They have challenges with family, jobs, and a million other facets of a life well lived. We all know we have someone to talk to if we need to vent, but also to share successes and joys with. We gather in small groups and large, discussing everything from world events to personal frustrations.
When all is said and done, we feel better for the company and the opportunity to release some of the weight we carry around. What’s good for us is clearly good for those we might tend to overlook. They may not open up the first time or even the tenth, but after awhile, we can show them by our actions and our own sharing that they have a safe place to drop the pretenses and be themselves.
If we have the chance to keep suicide off the table for even one person, shouldn’t we take it?
Gratitude Helps Keep the Gloomies Away
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for the people who have come into my life the last few years who’ve made me feel accepted and loved for myself.
- I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the acceptance I gained while writing my memoir.
- I am grateful to my daughter, Heather, and my oldest friend, Candy who kept me moving forward with the memoir, even when I needed a few long breaks to get further along in my healing process.
- I am grateful for the dance community that lets me see we are all broken in some way, but that it isn’t a flaw, but a badge of honor.
- I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, dancing, writing, inspiration, motivation, support, butt-kickings, ideas, dreams, goals, baby steps, philanthropy, peace, harmony, health, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward