The Tragedy of Suicide and How Mindfulness Can Hold Us Strong
On a day where another tragic suicide is making headlines, our meditation instructor, Tamara Levitt, explores this difficult subject through the lens of mindfulness.
First Kate Spade, now Anthony Bourdain.
These tragedies are simply heartbreaking. And they leave us with many questions… What led to their pain? Why weren’t they helped? Shouldn’t they of all people have found support?
But we know that someone’s status, money, and fame are not indicators of a happy life. In fact, living at the top can be extremely isolating, and make it more difficult to reach out for help.
And then, of course there are so many others who take their lives every day. They might not make headlines, but equally they were precious lives.
Although the stigma of mental illnesses is fading, when we are stuck in depression or have suicidal thoughts, asking for help doesn’t always feel like an option. Our shame and overwhelm leaves us feeling powerless to step out the door, send a message, or pick up the phone.
In the online world, little by little, people are destigmatizing mental health issues. But offline, in the real world, how can we find connection when we need that most? And for those of us who want to support those in need, how can we show up in times of crisis, especially when we’re unaware of what those we love are going through? I’m not sure of these answers but I think questioning is a good place to start. As is making sure that the people we love in our lives know we’ve got their back and we care. For those in need, reaching out can feel impossible. So look for the signs. Depression. Withdrawing. Mood swings, sleeping issues. Breaking plans. Despair, hopelessness. Drug use.
The truth is, I’ve been there. Right at the bottom. I know the feeling of being stuck in the dark and how impossible it can feel to imagine a way through. But as we learn in mindfulness practice, impermanence is the one constant in life. Everything will and does change. After the darkness, if we fight our way through, the light eventually appears. We just have to dig deep and find patience to stick around and see it.
Rather than run from them, we begin to see them come and go, change and soften. And this practice helps us create space around the overwhelm in order to help us view the darkness as a potential great gift. It doesn’t feel that way, of course, but as J.K. Rowling said,
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation in which I rebuilt my life.”
I know this to be personally true as well. When we’re at the bottom, there’s nothing to lose, and it can open us to a new way of being. Being at the bottom can motivate us to make life changes we’d never make otherwise. So to anyone who reads this today, who is feeling stuck or depressed or suicidal, know you are not alone. And know that help is available, so find the courage within to reach out no matter how difficult it feels. Call a friend, or family, or your city’s suicide hotline.
There will be dark moments in our lives. But we must remember that each breath leads to another. Each moment, a new moment. And the dark night, though it may seem to go on forever, eventually leads to the morning light.
With love, Tamara