In light of the suicide prevention day on the 10th September I wanted to take a bit of time to share about the importance of talking. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat…
If you’re worried you are crazy, then I can tell you that YOU ARE NOT, crazy people have no idea they are crazy.
I can also tell you that right up to the point I nearly took my own life, I was not crazy either. Rather my thoughts were twisted in my own warped perceptions and rooted in my own experience of previous traumas. But I knew something was up, so I wasn’t mad. What nearly killed me was the belief that not a single person alive on this planet had felt like I did, and that if you knew….. Well then you would see that suicide was my only option too. Why were my thoughts so distorted? Because I had never once in my life shared them with another person, more still, I tried my best to not to share them with myself. But to quote Bessel Van Der Kolk, ‘the part of our brain that is devoted to ensuring our survival (deep below our rational brain) is not very good at Denial’. I couldn’t make any rational sense of my thoughts or feelings, and by the time I reached a place where I actually spoke about what was going on, my thoughts were like a giant rubber band ball of anxiety that needed breaking down one thought by another.
But it didn’t need to be like that. What I’ve realised today is that some of the thoughts that nearly killed me are thoughts that millions upon millions of people think every day, and that the very thoughts that kept me so alone are the very thoughts that connect me, at gut level, with a whole community of people. For example, the fact that even as a grown man I had cried about my dad dying, or the fact that something simple like calling another of my children’s parents filled me with a terror and an anxiety that’s difficult to put into words. I hid and covered up a million and one different thoughts on a daily basis on the belief that I shouldn’t be thinking them. Stuff that made me feel sad or angry were feelings I especially thought were wrong. And so I did things I didn’t want to do to avoid having to feel the type of feelings I couldn’t deal with, my daughter would have to go without having her friend over because I was too scared to call for example. It’s no wonder the world felt like a never-ending battle, my internal struggle to not feel the types of feelings that everyone feels left me with no tools to deal with them when the situation became inevitable. So I acted crazy a lot, I created attitudes and outlooks that helped me cope. People thought I was this carefree loose cannon that bounced through life, when actually, I cared more than they could ever Imagine, and it was killing me.
So I had, what became, a huge and complex issue going on in my mind. Today I believe a huge contributor to this, but of course not a stand alone one, was a rule that almost every child of an alcoholic can relate to, and that’s that ‘we don’t discuss how we feel’.
When we are children is when we start to get a concept of how we feel. We learn right from wrong, and, in the right environment, children should learn to deal with all the internal goings of their minds. This comes from talking, sounding off against a compassionate elder who understands the ways we feel. With my children, I often don’t give them the answers to how they feel but aid them in finding their own way so they learn the process of going from positive to negative feelings and all that’s in between. But as a COA I never had the opportunity to properly nurture the ways I was feeling, I was constantly having to guess what was normal. I never had the benefit of sound boarding how I felt, so I often guessed what was right and acted accordingly. Then came the depression and kind of thoughts that aren’t talked about enough anyway, this served to almost rectify I was pathetic.
I saw another great quote recently that said that too often children are labelled as ‘troubled’ rather than children that are ‘coping and adapting to the trauma they have experienced.’ Well that was me, and I was coping and adapting alone. That’s how suicide had become such a valid option, because I couldn’t cope any more. In fact I could argue I wasn’t about to kill myself but rather my trauma was finally about to kill me.
Today is different. Today I try my best to attempt to talk and express the way I feel. I try to remove that filter between the way I feel and what I say and I find a deep honesty in that. I have a process for that, I first accept my feeling for what it is and in doing so it instantly loses power. I speak to my wife about everything I feel and find that most of the stuff I’m petrified to share is met with ‘oh yeah I feel like that too’ and I find a little more freedom in that. I learn that I don’t have to believe all my thoughts, that they are just thoughts. I learn that, in spite of my desire to be a tough guy, I’m a pretty emotional man who feels thoughts on quite a deep level. In talking I begin to understand who I really am, in talking I begin to learn that the thoughts that nearly killed me are the very same thoughts that have helped me to like the man I am today.
I am speaking out, but don’t set that as your bar. Just speaking to one person may give one the release they deserve, and help to start unravelling who one is. Finding someone you can trust is not always easy and that is why NACOA
. All the volunteers are there to listen with compassion to whatever you feel you need to talk about, or anything you may need help with. If you feel like the anonymous helpline is too much there is an email where a volunteer will look to get back to you as soon as possible.
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