Category Archives: Suicide

Storytelling Will Save the World… Yes, Even Yours

This is a guest post written by Joshua Rivedal. Read to the end for details on his projects.
Josh Rivedal

Josh Rivedal

Captain’s log, Stardate January 2011. Where unfortunately many have gone before. I’m twenty-six years old and thinking about dying… actually I’m not being entirely truthful. I’m dangling halfway out the fourth floor window of my bedroom in New York City.

I don’t really want to die. I just want the emotional pain to stop… and I don’t know how to do that. Hell, two guys in my life—my father and grandfather—each didn’t know how to make their own terrible personal pain stop and now both were, well, dead.

My grandfather, Haakon—a Norwegian guy who served in the Royal Air Force (35th Squadron as a tail gunner) in World War II—killed himself in 1966 because of the overwhelming post traumatic stress he suffered because of the war.

My father, Douglas—an American guy who was chronically unhappy and an abusive man—killed himself in 2009, the catalyst being a divorce with my mother along with some long-term depression and other mental health issues.

How did I get to such a dismal place in my life so quickly, just a month shy of my twenty-seventh birthday? Coming out of secondary school and high on optimism, I thought by the time I reached my mid-twenties I’d have it all together. After a couple of years singing on Broadway, I would have scored a few bit parts on Law & Order, and transitioned seamlessly to being cast with Will Smith in the summer’s biggest blockbuster. After which, my getaway home in the Hamptons would be featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and my face would grace the cover of National Enquirer as Bigfoot’s not-so-secret lover. Not to mention, I’d have my perfect wife and perfect family by my side to share in my success.

But instead, “perfect” was unattainable (it always is). I only managed to perform in some of small professional theatre gigs and on one embarrassing reality television show; and over the course of the previous eighteen months my father killed himself, my mother betrayed me and sued me for my father’s inheritance, and my girlfriend of six years broke up with me.

This storm of calamity and crisis had ravaged my life… and I wasn’t talking about it to anyone. My silence led to crisis and poor decisions—to the extent that I was hanging out of a fourth story window.

Both Haakon and Douglas suffered their pain in silence because of the stigma surrounding talking about mental illness and getting help. I too felt that same stigma—like I’d be seen as “crazy” or “less of a man” if I talked about what I was going through. But I didn’t want to die and so I had to take a chance.

I started talking. I pulled myself back inside and first called my mom. She helped me through that initial crisis and we became friends again. She never called me “crazy.” I then started reaching out to the positive friends I had in my life. They hugged me and helped me with open arms. They never told me I was “less than a man.” Soon I got more help by seeing a professional counselor, and by writing down what I was going through in a journal.

But this idea of keeping silent continued to bother me. I did some research while in my recovery and found out that each year, suicide kills over one million people worldwide… and that many of those one million never speak up about their emotional pain because of stigma.

Dagnabbit (I totally just said that). I had to figure out a way to reach people like that. So, like any other actor, writer, or comedian living in New York City whose life dealt them a crappy hand, I created a one-man show… and it toured theatres and universities in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia—and people were getting help.

But I had to keep talking because this isn’t just a Rivedal problem or United States problem… it’s a world problem.

I had to get other people to tell their stories, so I started The i’Mpossible Project. Why? Because storytelling is one of our oldest traditions—yes, even older than the hokey pokey. Stories can make us laugh or cry… or both at the same time. They can teach, inspire and even ignite an entire movement.

The stories of The i’Mpossible Project are about overcoming obstacles, reengaging with life, and creating new possibilities—a son’s homicide, a transgender man finding love, and even coming back from the brink of suicide (you can read a couple of the stories HERE)… because it’s okay to be struggling, it’s okay to need help; people have your back… there’s hope.

It’s been four years since my crisis and life is definitely looking up. The acting and writing thing is going well, I have a great girlfriend; but most important I’m able to give and receive help and love, and with hard work I’m able to stay mentally well—all because I took a risk and told my story.

No matter what society says, it’s COOL (as in “okay”) to talk about your feelings. Don’t ever forget that you are important, and your story needs to be heard so we, the human race, can learn how to live and love better. #iampossible #mentalhealth

* * *

Josh Rivedal (founder, executive director of The i’Mpossible Project) is an author, actor, playwright, and international public speaker on suicide prevention, mental health, and diversity. He curated the 50-story inspirational anthology The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life Creating a New You. He wrote and developed the one-man play, Kicking My Blue Genes in The Butt (KMBB), which has toured extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. He writes for the Huffington Post. His memoir The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah, based on KMBB and published by Skookum Hill in 2013, is on The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s recommended reading list.

What Do I Even Say?

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

I was a bit of a mess after reading Wil Wheaton’s latest post Tears in Rain. It made me cry, then it made me sad, and then it made me happy. And then I cried some more, because reasons. After I regained my composure, I went back to my emails, because in those vast caverns of private conversation, I have some really great stuff from you guys who are too shy to share publicly.

Continue reading

My Dad, My Father

 

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

I throw a couple of words around a lot on this blog. My Father, and my Dad. They are two different people. Two very different people. My Father and I shared a name until after his death several years ago. My Dad, however, is a dear man whom I have known for over a decade now. They also have very different roles in my life.

My father was a kind dude. A little odd, a little too loose with the law, and terrifyingly racist, but a kind man. I didn’t know him as well as I’d like, but I did have a relationship with him. He died just over four years ago, and his funeral was a wake-up call for me.

I went to honor a man I’d called Daddy all my life. Up to that point, I thought I’d had enough of a relationship with him. When I spoke, though, I didn’t have a lot of stories to tell. I have gallons of memories of sitting with him, fishing, talking, working, so many memories that fill my heart with love, but aren’t easily shared. As I listened to his friends speak, though, I learned that my father was a deeper man than I’d ever known.

I learned that he’d once broken the jaw of a large dog, while rescuing a little girl from it. I learned that he’d kept his childhood friends for his entire life. I learned that he was gracious, and didn’t leave a favor un-returned. I learned that he’d struggled with mental illness his entire life. I learned that the responsibility of his eight children weighed heavily on him. I learned that the last thing he did before he killed himself was to go to his mother’s bedroom, and tell her he loved her.

I learned that I wanted more. I wanted my Daddy to come back and tell me more about his life. I wanted to tell him we loved him, even though we lived so far away. It wasn’t his fault our mother moved hundreds of miles away. I loved him, dammit.

Six years before my father died, I met a man on a writer’s forum. His screen name was something boring like Andy67, or whatever. (I’ll call him Andy here. Why not?) He and I became good friends over the years. A few months before my father died, Andy’s mother died. It hit him really hard.

We already talked every day by then. We already checked in with each other. But after Andy’s mother died, he was more alone in the world. He has credited me with being there for him when he needed it most. I’m honored that he thought me worthy at the time. I was able to be there for him as he recovered, and learned to accept his grief.

Then I got the worst call of my life. My Grandma called me to tell my that my father had died. I didn’t have much of a support network at the time. My then-boyfriend was at a loss as to what to do, but I figured I’d handle it alone. It was one of the hardest weekends of my life. Thankfully, my many brothers and my sister were there for me, and I was there for them. We mucked through it.

When I flew home, I got some bad news. My boyfriend’s dad had cancer. A week later, his mother was in a car accident, and a few weeks after that, she fainted at the bank and was hospitalized. It was a crazy summer. By my birthday in August, I needed a break. I went on a weekend vacation with my brother and some friends to just chill.

A week after that, I found out that our bills hadn’t been paid in months. I had faithfully given my boyfriend’s mother the rent and utilities, and she hadn’t paid the bills all summer. My relationship with my boyfriend had been suffering for most of the year. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I left.

I moved to Arizona, with the help of Zooey, the magical friend of mine who provided a plane ticket when I couldn’t get one. I moved over a thousand miles away. I moved in with Andy. I got a job, started college again, and found the best friend I’d known to that point.

Over time, several people told me I looked like Andy. We’d jokingly introduce ourselves as “Dad” or “son”. It stuck. At some point, I told him that I did feel like he was a “dad” to me. We discussed it. Then we took a break. Then we discussed it again. It just felt right. I started calling him my dad all the time, and we care for each other very much.

Now, my Dad will never be my Father. He’ll never be “Daddy.” He can’t go back and fill the gaps, and he can’t make me miss my Father any less. It still hurts when I think about him. But it is nice to have a friend like Andy. Someone who cared enough to take me in when I was down. Someone who has cried on my shoulder, too.

I can’t go back and do nice things for my Father. It’s too late. I still have a strained relationship with my mother. We’re working on that. But I can do something nice for my dad. I can make his life better, just because.

Just because. If you need a reason bigger than that to do something nice for your parents (or kids), then take a hard look and see if you can reach out, or accept the reach from them. It might be worth it. Your call.

Committing Multiple Suicides [Now Theoretically Possible]

Screenshot of video

Screenshot of video

So, here I am, working away my day, and my beautiful and amazing wife shared a video. It was cute, and lovey, but also super sciencey. Science-ish. Sort of related to Science. Well, actually quite scientific. Aha! Scientific is the word, there. “…also super scientific.”

Check it out, it’s only a few minutes:

 

Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you will notice that I have stumbled upon a theoretic ability to commit suicide a bazillion times. Unfortunately, this would (as you saw) leave a trail of inexplicable corpses in my wake. Not at all acceptable. As a conscientious commentator, I hereby forbid the practical applications of science in reference to time travel. Either get on the Fantasy bus, and make it magic, or GTFO. Capiche?

On a more serious note, this all might be moot to you, but for me, it’s a new way of looking at death, and life, and the possibilities of science in affecting me. Hell, I take a small collection of compressed chemical substances to tell my brain what to do. “Don’t see this. Do feel that. Look what you did!” All that jazz.

Science is awesome, and we aren’t done yet. Hopefully, we’ll reach the point where we can fine-tune our emotional regulation. I don’t want a button on my belt that delivers “happy”, and look like Vader. Nor do I want a multi-dimensional-death-machine. I want something simpler, like, maybe, one or two fewer pills a day without reduced function. So if you could do that, Science, that’d be great.

TL;DR: It might be theoretically possible to commit suicide multiple times via time travel, but I don’t suggest it for, well, anyone. Get a magic wand, or a time-turner, and do that shit right.

I’m Not Okay: Help!

Jenny sent me a link to the article included below, and it made me happy inside. It will forever live on a wall in my house, because I need perspective too. If you have something that helps you, tell us about it! Share in the comments. We are all learning different things that help, and I could use some advice too, you know.

From Eponis.Tumblr.com, this article was originally published and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Are you hydrated?  If not, have a glass of water.

Have you eaten in the past three hours?  If not, get some food — something with protein, not just simple carbs.  Perhaps some nuts or hummus?

Have you showered in the past day?  If not, take a shower right now.

If daytime: are you dressed?  If not, put on clean clothes that aren’t pajamas.  Give yourself permission to wear something special, whether it’s a funny t-shirt or a pretty dress.

If nighttime: are you sleepy and fatigued but resisting going to sleep?  Put on pajamas, make yourself cozy in bed with a teddy bear and the sound of falling rain, and close your eyes for fifteen minutes — no electronic screens allowed.  If you’re still awake after that, you can get up again; no pressure.

Have you stretched your legs in the past day?  If not, do so right now.  If you don’t have the spoons for a run or trip to the gym, just walk around the block, then keep walking as long as you please.  If the weather’s crap, drive to a big box store (e.g. Target) and go on a brisk walk through the aisles you normally skip.

Have you said something nice to someone in the past day?  Do so, whether online or in person.  Make it genuine; wait until you see something really wonderful about someone, and tell them about it.

Have you moved your body to music in the past day?  If not, do so — jog for the length of an EDM song at your favorite BPM, or just dance around the room for the length of an upbeat song.

Have you cuddled a living being in the past two days?  If not, do so.  Don’t be afraid to ask for hugs from friends or friends’ pets.  Most of them will enjoy the cuddles too; you’re not imposing on them.

Do you feel ineffective?  Pause right now and get something small completed, whether it’s responding to an e-mail, loading up the dishwasher, or packing your gym bag for your next trip.  Good job!

Do you feel unattractive?  Take a goddamn selfie.  Your friends will remind you how great you look, and you’ll fight society’s restrictions on what beauty can look like.

Do you feel paralyzed by indecision?  Give yourself ten minutes to sit back and figure out a game plan for the day.  If a particular decision or problem is still being a roadblock, simply set it aside for now, and pick something else that seems doable.  Right now, the important part is to break through that stasis, even if it means doing something trivial.

Have you seen a therapist in the past few days?  If not, hang on until your next therapy visit and talk through things then.

Have you been over-exerting yourself lately — physically, emotionally, socially, or intellectually?  That can take a toll that lingers for days. Give yourself a break in that area, whether it’s physical rest, taking time alone, or relaxing with some silly entertainment.

Have you changed any of your medications in the past couple of weeks, including skipped doses or a change in generic prescription brand?  That may be screwing with your head.  Give things a few days, then talk to your doctor if it doesn’t settle down.

Have you waited a week?  Sometimes our perception of life is skewed, and we can’t even tell that we’re not thinking clearly, and there’s no obvious external cause.  It happens.  Keep yourself going for a full week, whatever it takes, and see if you still feel the same way then.

You’ve made it this far, and you will make it through.  You are stronger than you think.

End quote.

Remember to love yourself. You deserve it, motherfucker. If you want to download a printable version of this for your home, you can download it here.

Rory the Rodeo Raccoon

Yes, you read that right. No, I am not a raccoon. I’m just very excited to hear that Jenny Lawson has finally finished her second book! The cover features a rodeo raccoon named Rory. See?

 

Image: Jenny Lawson's publishers, I think.

Image: Jenny Lawson’s publishers, I think.

So yeah. You can pre-order the book. It is totally coming home with me. I wonder if Jenny Lawson would sell me this cute guy? I want him in my home, pronto. So yeah.

Pumped up day.

Top 10 Reasons to Not Commit Suicide

Image: Rory

Image: Rory

Many of us have faced this problem: Will it even make a difference in the world if I die? Would it be a net loss for the world? If I commit suicide, will I be missed?

I’ve had this internal conversation more times than I can count. In the end, each time I came back to the decision to keep going forward. There are hundreds of reasons to keep living, but I’m going to share the 10 I come back to most often.

1: Your story is not done.
Sometimes I felt that I was out of options, and that there was no reason to keep trying. Each time, I held on, and my story continued. Every tiny little victory has been worth it. Every time somebody laughs at a joke, or smiles because I randomly waved at them on the street, I know I have furthered my story, and that it is worth it.

2: You are the only you.
A person is nothing more or less than their total experiences in the world. Nobody shares your experiences. They are perfectly unique. As a twin, I often despaired that my life didn’t matter, because my twin could make up the difference. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how wrong I was. Even if I don’t know why, my experiences are building towards something, and nobody else in the world will have my exact perspective.

3: You can help.
Coming out on the other side of a mental health crisis is a trial. I know better than many. It hurts to come back to real life, especially if people know what happened. As I’ve gone through this a few times, I have learned that most people struggle. Nobody is exempt from the difficulties of mental health. By knowing that you have come through, people can take solace in knowing they aren’t alone.

4: You aren’t alone either.
The world is built on the successes of the crazies. From Edgar Allen Poe to Mary Lambert, crazy people have a constant effect on the world. Whether you have Bipolar Disorder, or you are suicidal, there are literally billions of people who know. They can’t possibly know every detail, but they don’t need to. They have literally been there, and can understand your struggles.

5: You can make somebody else’s life better. / The world is better because you are in it.
Whether it’s being there for somebody you know personally, or writing articles, or even your own blog, you have the ability to help others feel less alone. You can be a member of a peer group, or volunteer at a local behavioral health facility. You can also make somebody’s life better. Every time you make someone laugh, you have made their life better. Every time you express your gratitude, you make that person feel special.

6: You are on somebody’s top 10.
I’ve practiced writing down my top 10s many times. The top 10 people who changed my life. The top 10 people who I am thankful for. The top 10 people I would miss if I died. Well, guess what? You are on someone else’s top 10. Whether it’s because you make them feel special, or because you share a unique friendship with someone, somebody out there has you on their top 10 list(s). When I started making my lists, I realized that many of those people weren’t in contact with me anymore. They had no way of knowing they were on my top 10, because I didn’t treat them that way. Just because somebody hasn’t told you that you are on their top 10, doesn’t mean you aren’t on there. It just means they haven’t told you.

7: You deserve to live.
So many times, I have felt that I didn’t deserve to live. This is a downright lie. Depression, anxiety, hallucinations, they all lie. You are worth every second of your life. Every emotion you feel now, or will feel later, is potential that you can only unlock by living to feel them.

8: There is more to learn.
The greatest thing about this life is learning. There are an infinite number of things to learn. Whether you are taking classes, watching television, reading, or just talking to someone, you can and will learn something every minute of every day. Each time you learn something, you add to yourself. You make yourself bigger, better, stronger. You will never be done becoming better.

9: You are not the sum of your failings.
I have spent hundreds of hours beating myself up for my mistakes. I decided at one point to make my mistakes right, no matter what. I learned a hilarious thing about mistakes: Nobody remembers them like you do. I’ve apologized for inappropriate actions, mostly to find out that the person I’m apologizing to has no idea what I’m talking about. This isn’t 100% true, and isn’t an excuse to behave irresponsibly. But it is something to remember in the dark. We are truly our own worst critic. No matter how much you feel like nobody cares, nobody truly feels that you should die.

10: You have your own reasons.
Your passions, your loves, your friendships—they are yours, and nobody else’s. If you don’t know your own reasons for living, search yourself. Meditate, pray, or talk to someone (even yourself) to help you figure it out. Somewhere inside of you, you have reasons to keep living. Nobody can take those away. Nothing is worth giving those reasons up, and nothing negates them. Your reasons to live are a sacred part of who you truly are.

This list is not perfect, and it is not complete. Remember that you are not alone, and that the world will be diminished without you. If you feel like nobody cares, remember that you are reading an article written by a broken, sad, and desperate person. And I care, God damn-it. I pray for your heart, for your compassion, and for you to keep making the right decision. If you need to know I am thinking of you in particular, leave me a comment. It can be anything. When I see that comment, I am thinking of nothing more or less than you. You are loved. Don’t give up. You’ve got this.