I normally write and speak about work happiness, but on this day, I would like to talk to you about your personal happiness.
I want you to be honest. With me. But with yourself most of all.
Are you happy?
A very dear friend of mine (since age 5) committed suicide recently. We grew up a block apart. We walked to grade school together. We went to our first concert in NYC together. He helped me negotiate employment contracts. He visited me in California. He ran in a race with my disabled son because he cared.
Our friendship was the kind that is often closer than a sibling, that transcends time, that always will be. I knew without a doubt that he would always be there for me. Well, for as long as he could.
When I divorced, the first thing he said was “If you need any money, I will give it to you. No questions asked.”
I didn’t need his money, but the unconditional offer was priceless.
My friend was religious. He never missed Mass. But I wonder if it was primarily because it was ingrained in him through his Irish Catholic upbringing. He went more often in the end. Maybe he negotiated a deal with God to be let through Heaven’s Gate. I wonder if that was part of his solution…
A message I sent him a few weeks before he took destiny into his own hands…was answered with:
“I don’t know my next move, jb.”
He always called me ‘jb.’ First and last initials of my maiden name.
An uncomfortable feeling shot through me. My friend was going downhill – fast. Our calls and messages had always been filled with laughter, ideas and plans that moved life forward. But suddenly, the laughter stopped, the plans ended and my calls went to voicemail. I would get a reply text a day later or so, with responses that got shorter and shorter.
“Love the pics.”
“Love you, jb.”
I sent him a text the morning it happened, checking in to see how he was doing and saying that I hoped this year would be his best ever. I know he read it because the double checkmark appeared on Viber to show that a message had been read.
I let my puppies out early that morning, and when I looked up, I saw a large heart shape made of clouds – right above my driveway. The rest of the sky was clear.
I thought it might have been my mom reaching down from Heaven (she died 1.5 years ago). I made a mental note of it.
As soon as I walked into the house, I heard my phone ping. The text came from my friend’s brother.
‘P’ committed suicide on Sunday.
That was it.
I was devastated.
When someone you care for takes their life into their own hands, it can be for many reasons.
Some of which are:
I believe that my friend had a little bit of all of the above.
He had addictions that he hid well with his charm.
He ran out of resources.
He felt abandoned by those who should have loved him. Maybe they were justified, but for me, he had been nothing but wonderful my entire life.
He felt cornered. Opportunities dried up. I remember his beautiful brownstone in Brooklyn. In the end, he was down to two duffle bags.
He was embarrassed, but never let on when we spoke or visited.
A study by the Center for Disease Control regarding suicide reported that men make up 77% of the total number of people who kill themselves in our country each year.
I have a friend in Lake Tahoe who turned 60 recently. He is a life coach. A few of us were out for dinner one night and he told me that single men who don’t feel as though they’ve made it, and who are isolated in the mountains, are the most likely to take their own lives.
I can’t help but think about why men feel so much pressure to perform, to meet societal expectations, to provide. And if they don’t, dark thoughts enter their minds.
Men tend to be more solution oriented, where as women tend to be more feeling focused. Women will cry if they are sad. Men mostly hold it in. According to the American Psychology Association, men are less likely to seek help.
My friend had no children. I think that this can lead to loneliness and depression as we age.
I’m not sure how many life-long friends he had. On the surface there were a handful. But as I spoke to some of those friends, they told me it was more of a business friendship.
My friend slowly withdrew (or was asked to) from his siblings. Things happened. Actions were taken, not all good. Maybe out of desperation.
In the end, I believe he felt alone.
Loneliness, in my opinion, is as serious a condition as depression. It directly leads to it.
LONELINESS = DEPRESSION= SUICIDAL THOUGHTS
We are meant to gather. To connect with others. To support one another.To laugh. To love. To have our own tribe. But when we are lonely, we experience so many emotions that can take us down a rabbit hole with no way out in the mind of the lonely.
Just like emotions tied into alcoholism, drug addiction (of which he may have had attachments), loneliness includes denial, anger, pain, grief, depression, anxiety, shame and hopelessness.
In 2018, the UK created a new government position: Minister for Loneliness. Tracey Crouch holds that position wherein she addresses the condition that is now part of the patchwork of society.
Maybe writer Sylvia Plath said it best:
“Now I know what loneliness is, I think. Momentary loneliness, anyway. It comes from a vague core of the self – – like a disease of the blood, dispersed throughout the body so that one cannot locate the matrix, the spot of contagion.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Two months before he died, my friend made his way to Florida to hear me speak at a conference. However, the night before I was to see him, he called.
I can’t come. I have to go. Can you bust me out of here?
I put him on a plane to the Northeast and let some time go by until I reached out via phone and text. I never saw him again.
I am writing this for anyone who may feel alone. So alone that they are considering options that will finally end their pain. But the pain doesn’t end when someone leaves. Everyone left behind who cares, suffers too.
If you are considering dark thoughts, please, please contact the Hotline and talk to someone. You can be 100% honest and will not be judged. From there you will find hope.
There is always a way out. There is always love. Always.