Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day. As a social worker who has spent a huge part of her 14-year career hearing from people who think of dying, and who have attempted suicide, nothing strikes me harder at the core than personal friends and relatives who have died on me.
One of these deaths triggered my career switch into social work, while another of these deaths made me agonise over the meeting of deceptive societal influences with humanity’s difficulties in grappling with insignificance.
So much of our self-identity and self-worth is shaped by external influences from the people who raised us, the friends we played and studied with, the colleagues we worked with, the systems we exist in, the religious institutions we claim membership with, and more. Why? Because we were created to be relational beings.
What are systems? Your schools (are you getting your As?), your place of employment (are you competent enough?), your government (are you obeying my rules?), your medical institutions (are you following the doctor’s instructions? Well, because the doctor knows best.). Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that these systems are bad. What I am saying is – systems are flawed. Just like human beings are. So, don’t forget to question the prevailing narrative till you are satisfied with your conclusions. The prevailing narrative does not shape who you are.
One of humanity’s greatest vulnerabilities is the inability to reckon with oneself that “I am at the end of myself”. There is a certain level of pride that we do hold about ourselves, even in times of adversity and crisis. And perhaps, that pride is also the cover-up for the ultimate shame we feel about ourselves – that we will turn into virtually nothing if we let go of our pride, and so, it is better to stop existing in this world.
If what I have shared above strikes a chord with you, I would like to expand your narrative about yourself and how you can live in this world.
- Talk to people wiser and with more experience in the areas you are struggling with. For eg. If you are a manager struggling with leadership issues, talk to bosses who have been there done that. The frog in the well can see more sky, and even sunlight, when its view expands.
- Talk to people outside your field of study or work. You will be surprised at their views about the same issue, which can be very refreshing.
- Talk to a trusted counsellor about the shame you feel. Safety and privacy is important when talking about shame-related issues. Don’t let pride get in the way.
- Take note if you are consuming psychiatric medications such as anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, as they may have suicidality as an adverse side effect (you can Google this). Do have a discussion with your doctor about this, and how to manage the suicidality if it does come on.
- Take care of your nutrition and lifestyle. Are you taking foods that are highly inflammatory and harming the brain? Are you having enough sleep? Are you exercising regularly? (I know one person who actually recovered from depression through running regularly).
Last but not least, I would like to leave you with this question: When was the last time you felt alive?
Take some time to ponder over this question. If you know the answer, go back to where you last felt alive. Like, really alive. It may not be a place you can necessarily return to (if it is a place), but can you recreate similar moments?
I remember during the Circuit Breaker, which I absolutely dreaded, I had gone on a morning walk with my toddler and a picnic mat in tow. I threw that mat on the wet grass along the walking trail, lay there and looked up into the blue blue sky. As I watched the white fluffy clouds drift by, and felt the cool morning breeze on my skin, that half an hour brought me so much peace and even a healing memory.
You can experience that too.