Ask Steve is a new advice column from Steven Spohn. Drawing from personal experience and years of giving advice, Steve hopes to blend humor, positivity, and heartfelt opinions to guide you through the tough times in life.
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So, I’m marginally successful with a ton of friends. I’m generally supported and my life is filled with moments where I’m able to bring joy to friends. That said, I’m in a space where I’m feeling… well, done. I’m literally pondering suicide.
To be clear, I haven’t made any plans and I’m not giving anyone my loot. But I’m tired and I’m sad and I can’t shake it. I’m taking antidepressants, I’m talking to a therapist, but I can’t share the hopelessness and fatigue I’m feeling because I know what it will bring. I’m broken and I can’t fix it. I can’t tell anyone, because I’m surrounded by people who depend on me to be strong and supportive.
I’m pulling back from the people I love and the opportunities that define both my career and my role in the lives of others. I just want to sleep. I just want to swallow a bunch of pills and sleep forever. What do I do?
First and foremost, let me reassure you, you’re not alone. I can’t tell you the exact number of people who have told me they have considered suicide over the years, but I can tell you it’s quite a few. I try never to make broad statements such as “all of us have considered suicide, ” but I believe many of us have. The truth is that we all have dark times in our lives where everything feels hopeless like everything is going wrong. Life is fucking hard.
Thanks to being disabled, my teenage years involved your typical bullying and shenanigans with the added bonus of wondering if I would ever find real friends, a job, and someone who would love me romantically. My days were filled with surgical procedures, medical devices, and nurses hovering over me. Privacy and personal space didn’t exist in my world.
This all came to a head one day when I was just 12 years old. I was laying in my hospital bed, staring at the clock on the wall of Children’s ICU, wishing I could reach over and pull the plug on the freshly installed ventilator they had given me just weeks before.
I was in a super dark place with no hope in sight. Things seemed like they would never improve, and any aspirations I had for my future simply vanished like smoke on a foggy day.
Years later, I experienced the very first time my lips pressed against the lips of someone who loved me very much. The kiss was warm and inviting. The entire world fell away in an instant, revealing a brighter future I had forgotten was even a possibility. In that one moment, every single instance of pain I had ever felt suddenly became worthwhile.
I remember the very last time I kissed her before we broke up–caused by things I did, which is still one of the most painful memories I can’t forget.
On yet another day that feeling returned with a different special person in my life. Although it didn’t erase the pain from my past, the new memory gave me an insight into the human experience: I can look back on those memories as a reminder to myself that life is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, peaks and valleys.
I would suspect what you’re going through right now is an emotional valley in your life. Maybe things aren’t engaging you as they once did. Maybe you aren’t quite feeling like your old self. But that doesn’t mean those good feelings won’t return once again.
Now, “it gets better” is a polarizing campaign. Many people love it and use those stories of challenge and triumph as inspiration to keep moving forward. Others find the slogan annoying, condescending, and patronizing because the definition of life getting better is a constantly moving target.
We bombard people who are considering ending their own lives with really strong positive messages that the perfect life is achievable if we just try. But perfection isn’t an achievable status in life. There’ll always be problems. And we will always have to deal with the challenges and obstacles life presents.
So maybe instead of “it gets better” we should shout “the pain is worth the reward.” There’s no way that I can truthfully post to you that life will get better because I have no way of guaranteeing that. What I can tell you is that the pain you’re going through, the feeling of being “done” will change just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow.
Perhaps, the feeling that you’re struggling to conquer is not sadness but an echo of your desire to do more with life. Sometimes, when we feel like we have done it all and seen it all, the best thing to do is switch up your life. They say we change aspirations and focused goals every seven years. Maybe this is your brain’s way of telling you that you’re done doing what you’re doing with your life, and you need a change.
I would ask that you consider taking stock of what you want out of life. Ask yourself what your desires are this very moment in this very day; not the desires of five years ago. Free yourself from the chains of the past. What is it that you would like to be doing with your life and how can you begin chasing the dreams you have today?
You also say that you don’t feel like you can share your burden with your friends. But perhaps that’s not giving your friends enough credit. The people you have in your life are there for a reason. They’ve stuck around and then by your side, so why would we immediately discount their ability to help you through a time in your life when you need them the most?
I encourage you to share your thoughts with your friends. Pick out your closest friend and tell them first. Gauge their reaction. If your friends are understanding of your situation as most friends are, you’ll find the encouragement you’re looking for and maybe the ability to tell others as well.
If you’re someone who gets a lot of your self-worth by being there for others, shutting people out and isolating yourself will only increase the level of your pain. It’s really hard to share our most vulnerable sides with anyone; sometimes especially with those, we love the most.
Recently, a friend of mine went through a very troubled time in their life. They began shutting out their friends, and when I confronted them about it, their answer was, “I was afraid of how my friends would judge me because I couldn’t stand the thought of the people I love the most judging that what I was doing was the wrong thing to do.”
When they finally reached out to their friends they were pleasantly surprised to discover that their friends not only didn’t judge them but were able to help and offer advice as only a close friend can.
Please remember that your friends and loved ones need you. It may not seem like it every day, and they may not show gratitude all the time, but we need each other in this difficult era. On the days that you don’t want to continue living for yourself, keep on living for those who would be utterly changed for the worst without your presence in their lives. Eventually, you’ll stop being “done” and start living for the next passion that lights your life.
[Editor’s note] While Tired has indicated that they are already in counseling and seeing a therapist. If you’re reading this and this piece resonates with you, please make sure you reach out to a professional. Advice columns are a great resource for finding the first step towards feeling better, but they can never replace the value of therapy sessions.