The Dance Community is Loving and Giving, Yet We’re Not Immune to Suicide
The word came out yesterday that another member of our dance community took his life. Of course those closest to him are devastated, and many who knew him are baffled. This was another guy with a ready smile and so much to live for, or at least so it appeared to the world outside his own head.
I find it especially disheartening in a community where, at least to the naked eye there is so much love and affection. Many of us share our humanity, our broken pieces as well as our shiny, sparkly ones. Perhaps we need to be more conscious and aware of those who share only the sparkly ones and not the ones in desperate need of a polish.
I didn’t know the most recent casualty, and even the one before him, I knew only on a superficial level. Did either of them share their troublesome thoughts, their feelings of unworthiness, or the belief that everyone would be better off without them? Did anyone notice when their ever-present smiles didn’t reach their eyes? Or did we all accept the image they portrayed of a happy guy with a perfect life?
Learning to Look for Signs
I know from experience that constantly showing the world a cheerful, unblemished exterior takes its toll. I’ve traveled down that road where I began to believe the world would chug merrily along whether or not I was there to provide some momentum. In fact, there were times when the only thing that kept me getting up every morning and putting one foot in front of the other was the two little girls who depended on me.
As the latest victim had a child, is it only mothers who feel that responsibility to their children? I don’t think so, given the number of mothers who either suicide or simply leave their families.
For those who do find a reason to stay and protect their young despite the miserable world their mind has drawn for them, what happens when the responsibility is gone? Children grow up and move away. They start craving their independence from a fairly young age, at least in my experience, long before they understand the responsibilities which accompany their independence.
I was one of the lucky ones. I found my way out of the depths of unworthiness before I got sucked completely under. Through a fortuitous combination of luck, kicks in the butt from my daughter, friends who were willing to pull aside the curtains and see the sometimes ugly mass of protoplasm I tried to keep hidden, and most of all, my writing, I was able to escape from my wallow and learn some painful but healing lessons. Too many lack the right combination of factors with which I was blessed to help them climb out of the hole they’ve fallen into.
Helping Each Other Dispose of the Masks
The question is, if we noticed, if we looked into their eyes and really searched for the person behind the mask, would we be able to help them before it’s too late? Would we, could we be the lifeline they grabbed to haul themselves out of their personal pit of despair? Could we or anyone convince them it’s all right to let the smile slip sometimes and show what they, what we believe is the ugly underbelly where life isn’t perfect? Would we be able to make them believe people want to see their soft, imperfect side? Could we convince them people need to be needed and that by only helping and not allowing themselves to be helped, they’re denying others the opportunity to give?
Too many of us have been raised with a hearty dose of independence. We believe we are only valuable and worthy if we stand on our own two feet. We are taught to look down upon those who are so weak they must seek help outside their own insular world, and in the worst cases, even scorn those who, in reality are strong enough to let others see their imperfections.
Finding Engagement in Our Communities
Yet we all seek some kind of community, even if we fail to share the most integral part of our being. Whether it’s church or, like me, the dance community, or one of the other interest groups I see my friends involved with; jeeps, dune buggies, horses, charitable groups… we all need to be near those exuding human kindness even if we haven’t figured out how to allow it into our own lives.
These days, we’re even more detached as we build communities virtually. We come to the dinner table with our cell phones, and play games or text friends rather than talking to the people in front of us. If we do share, it’s either a rant about someone or something far removed from our own inner demons, or superficialities meant to keep the conversation light and falsely cheerful. In some ways, I believe this is the single biggest factor contributing to the increasing suicide numbers.
Detachment is More Deadly than Disease
According to the World Health Organization, 9 of the top 10 causes of death worldwide in 2015 were related to some kind of organ failure (heart, lungs, brain, etc.). The 10th was road injury. If you ask me, the largest cause of death has nothing to do with our physical body, except as it’s affected by our mindset. The question is, how do we measure the deterioration our minds are doing to our bodies? How do you quantify how detachment sends us into a downward spiral which all too often ends in suicide?
Save.org offers a chilling menu of statistics on suicides globally:
- 10th leading cause of death in the US
- 2nd leading cause of death worldwide for 15-24 year olds
- 4th leading cause of death for ages 18-65
- 1 death by suicide every 40 seconds
On a lighter note, 80-90% of those seeking treatment for depression find success with the prescribed medication and/or therapy. But how many don’t seek therapy because they either don’t see they need help, or have been conditioned to avoid asking for fear of being perceived as weak?
Again, neither of these sources is able to measure or quantify how our mental state can cause deterioration which leads, if not to suicide, to death by mindset-induced disease.
Doing Our Part to Help Humanity, One Person at a Time
Admittedly, we are not our brother’s keeper, and yet, we are all part of the same pool (some may, at this point call it a cesspool) of humanity. So wouldn’t we be helping all of humanity if we started paying attention to those pasted on smiles? Wouldn’t taking time to look beneath the surface and offer a heartfelt hug to those among us who, for their own reasons aren’t ready to share their pain be an act of kindness the entire world would feel?
I don’t know about you, but if I could prevent a single suicide by looking deeply into a friend’s eyes and letting them know I’ve wallowed in the depths a time or two myself; that asking for help was the strongest thing I ever did, I’d do it every chance I saw. If I could save other families and extended families the pain of losing someone to suicide even once, I’d drag my introverted self out of my self-imposed hermit hole and do everything I could to help educate, to inspire. Kind of like I’m trying to do here, but on a much more personal level.
Yes, I write extensively about suicide and especially how it affects those left behind with a million questions, a grain silo full of blame, guilt, and regret, and a gut-wrenching sorrow that seems to have no end. But I know the real solution lies in connection and community. Without them, we will all find too much time to wallow in our own misery and believe the voices in our heads telling us we are unworthy, unloved, and undeserving.
Think about it, and spread the love.
Gratitude Helps Me Find My Way Out of the Downward Spirals
- I am grateful for my friends who have learned to see past the masks I still try to wear.
- I am grateful for my daughter who continues to encourage me.
- I am grateful for the people who have come into my life to teach me asking for help is not a weakness.
- I am grateful for the people who make me think really hard about who I am and what I want to be when I grow up, and who give heartfelt advice even when they know it isn’t what I want to hear.
- I am grateful for abundance; friendship, joy, sorrow, dancing, love, humor, laughter, community, challenges, lessons, opportunities, new directions, stretched limits, peace, harmony, health, prosperity, and philanthropy.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write your expert book with you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author