Thoughts on How and Why to Stay Alive on World Suicide Prevention Day

There is no act we can ever commit that is so private, separate and singular as suicide. It is a whole and integral contract which severs us from the relational world of living. When we die we leave behind the community of faith which every participant of life enters into. In our state of being alive we are willed by the faith of others, we endure because we have all made a silent pact to. In life we are always a part of something, and we can only see the wholeness of that something when we cease to live. And when someone we love commits themselves to death, what the living one is left with is an entire life, the entire flute of their existence. As human beings, what we simply cannot cope with is wholeness and completeness. We compartmentalise our lives into tiny activities, changing sets of thoughts, conflicts, affairs, ageing and changing. However when death enters into your life your existence becomes monolithic and unbearably full and unfragmented. Of course we’re left with fragments by way of our memories of this person but what we essentially have is something tiny enough to hold in our hands: this little life. It becomes incredibly difficult to compartmentalise again when you are within this empty centre of loss, when death becomes the most prominent part of your life. This is part of the reason why the suicidal cannot believe you when you assure them that things will get better, that it will pass, that this is a hell that they can get through. If you are suicidal then death will pretty much play the starring role in your life and you will have mostly resigned yourself to its wholeness. It is impossible to look to the time where you will be OK just as your mother, brother, friends said you will be. In this state you can no longer believe in the divided rubric of past, present, future – your reality is simply that this is how you have always felt and how you always will feel. You are lugging along your broken and cumbersome body and the only thing that can keep you moving is someone else’s belief in you. The community of faith is the only thing that is steering you. The future is unimaginable but for some reason you are being told to head for it. You get pulled out of bed, someone is running you a bath, you take 20 minutes to put each sock on but you do it because there is someone who believes in your capability to be alive. But mainly you do it because when you say that you want to die there is someone who would doubt their own capability to be alive without you there. This is usually the mother, the ultimate suicide preventer. If you have one, then stick around for her – her unwavering faith in you is absolute and will make sense to you one day. But right now all you can hope for is for your pain to become interesting and vehicular rather than agonising and present, as it will. Though you feel whole and untouchable right now, what we, the participants of this world have is an unalterable commonality. Whether that means being firmly slotted within the community of faith, or the more unfortunate option – of feeling that we do not belong – of feeling that we are in a community of unfaith, we can only ever belong to one of two camps. If you are living thoughtlessly and easily, you are not alone. If you are living conscientiously and difficultly, you are not alone. Although the latter is a far lonelier existence, with prodigious courage and with the brutality of personality we can again find ourselves within a community through our common loneliness. Remember that these are often the most profound. Our condition of aliveness is almost entirely predicated upon it and our relation to it and those within it. This is why it is impossible for any death to go entirely unnoticed as it will always be felt somewhere and by someone. Communities grow smaller and stronger once someone has departed from it. On the day you die your absence will be felt by almost everyone in every community you’ve ever been in. The community of school, work, geographical location – even the girl you never spoke to in your science class will be slightly shaken by your absence. Even if you feel that any sense of community is perpetually outside of you, this is fundamentally and eternally wrong. You unavoidably belong within a structure made up of life-livers and learning to embrace this is synonymous with choosing to be alive.

So, get into the habit of small-talk if you can. First off, good habits such as this are a kind of analgesic. The more you practice something and make a habit of it, the better equipped you are to be alive. Learning to say ‘hello’ to someone you hardly know and to ask them how they are is a blissful kind of artifice which puts us squarely into our community and therefore life. Undo your shyness if you can, there are so many people who want to hear you speak. Secondly, if you are grieving then allow yourself the romance of nostalgia from time to time. Remember smells, dinners you ate together, TV shows you watched together – and permit yourself to beautify banality. It will turn your trauma fantastic and will make the unbearable adorable, if only for a short amount of time. Share these memories. We all want your pain to be easier and we all feel the benefit of your being alive. Together we must ensure that we are creating a culture of empathy and cultivating a community of faith. 

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