Be Kind To Yourself (On Suicide) - Making Lemonade
The year was 1999,
A young 6 year old in Sydney’s west had just begun his first year of school.
His father opened up his then purple iMac G3 and loaded up the trailer for “Star Wars” The Phantom Menace!
The video was buffering and blurry and the internet was only in its infancy.
However, the 20th Century Fox logo loomed pixelated over the screen and this boy knew exactly what his father was showing him as the familiar soundtrack began beckoning to him. Shots of spaceships and lightsabers struck the screen. I’ll never forget seeing a pixelated image of a very young Jake Lloyd and Ewan McGregor, as Liam Neeson utters the words “Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi.” The feeling was exhilarating, I knew this was an origin story for the ages before I even knew what a prequel or an origin story was.
Amongst this revolutionary revival of The Star Wars saga was something far larger and simultaneously darker going on.
Say what you will about The Phantom Menace, It was indeed device and may have been Hollywood and the zeitgeist’s first casualty of the internet.
I myself enjoy The Phantom Menace, not unlike the original trilogy, these days through the eyes of that six-year-old who saw that first trailer on his dad’s iMac G3 in the pixelated clarity that the clickety-clackety, almost ancient feeling dial-up internet gave one in 1999.
However what the current world doesn’t realise is there was a young man, from New York named Ahmed Best, who broke down barriers and provided the world with one of the most innovative performances of both the 20th and 21st century. This performance was named Jar Jar Binks.
Now Jar Jar was no regular Star Wars character. He was created by what is called “Motion Capture”. Although now a very common and well known cinematic character type, particularly after James Cameron’s Avatar, not many realise that Ahmed and Jar Jar were the first of their kind in the final year of the 20th century.
However, unfortunately, the character, although in this guys opinion; innovative and endearing, was not invited with open arms in the way that
Ahmed as you heard at the top of this podcast, almost committed suicide.
The World Health Organisation says that about 800,000 people die if suicide globally a year.
That is approximately one person every 40 seconds and indications that for every person who dies of suicide there are almost 20 others who attempt. WHO says that it is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds globally.
This is shocking and scary. It actually brings tears to my eyes.
Suicide is not an easy topic for me and you’re probably thinking, what has this got to do with art?
In fact, it’s got everything to do with art and I’d like to tell you my story.
I attempted suicide back in 2012, it was a dismal attempt. In fact, I ran out onto the road at 2 in the morning hoping to get hit. The funny part was that it wasn’t exactly the busiest of roads during the day let alone early morning so really all I did was run up the middle of an empty road at 2 am, and I got all of 200 meters away from my parents home before my body couldn’t continue soi just ended up falling to my knees and curling up into a ball in the middle of the road.
Although it seems insignificant, that cold winter night changed everything for me as it was the lowest point I’ve ever been. My mother had to peel me off the road as my brother frantically drove her up to meet me.
Something to be understood about those who commit suicide is that they are not in what we would call a “normal” mindset.
For instance, I believe that Leonard Cohen wrote his song “Hallelujah” from a place of severe depression and contemplating suicide. Listen to these lyrics:
“Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah”
These lyrics could be considered the cry for help from a tortured man and the “she” is a metaphor of any manner of mental health issues, depression, anxiety, bipolar, you name it.
Speaking of lyrics about suicide, Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, wrote almost an entire album of lyrics that were a cry for help.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
This is the truth and we all know this. I can empathise with you all.
If you are at all feeling lost, mistreated, misunderstood, alone?
If you feel like no one will care if I end it today, I guarantee you we will.
That feeling of despair, darkness, a hole in your chest?
It will go away. How do I know?
I was you. I realised that the only person who can truly help me is me. I was able to detach myself from my mental illness.
I want you to think about it as a separate entity to you, a character of sorts.
Give it a name, I called my depression, darkness, anxiety, and fear.
Sometimes unfortunately when we are diagnosed with mental health issues we find ourselves trapped in a label. Anxiety, bi-polar, depression, etc...
This does not define you, this does not control you. You are the sum of all the good you do in the world, not the mistakes you make.
You are the sum of that which you learned from your mistakes.
In this context, this means if the mistake you make is suicide, you will be defined by this in the Hearst and minds of those you leave behind.
Now I understand this is a delicate issue, I’m not trying to dismiss anyone’s feelings or the what we’ve been through. Lord knows there are some of you out there who have been through far worse than I.
However, for what it’s worth, I am here today as a father, a fiancé and an artist because I overcame my mental health issues and recognised that I was not well, and that I not only needed medical and psychological help but that I was in control of my fate and my health.
I used to write songs, more specifically rap. If you do a quick youtube search you’ll probably find some real work of mine.
This was something I began at 16 and undeniably it saved me because I was basically writing long-form poetry about everything that happened to men and most every dark thought I had.
Now some of it is embarrassing, however, self-deprecation is the reason a lot of us are in this situation in the first place. I don’t believe in self-deprecation as it is just another form of negativity towards the self.
My depression returned last year, due to the pressures of fatherhood and not having the time to become and do the work I know I’m capable of. Instead, I was stuck at a job I loathed, and it drove me to a dark place.
I had a threat against my life and it threw me for a psychological loop as I was told I suffered trauma.
It struck me hard because for whatever reason I felt like because I had fought it once, that the war was won, I was done with it, I was in a time of peace for a long time and that war would not come again.
Soi became lazy about my mental health and didn’t stick to the habits I had built in to be sure that war would not re-occur.
However the wonderful thing about having been through depression before at a younger less aware age was that I knew how to fight it this time, I knew exactly what I was to do.
So that’s what I did, I went to my doctor, I got medicated, I found a new psychologist and I built a new routine around my old one, to ensure that this would not occur again, or that if it did, I had building blocks and pillars in place to keep me strong in the fight.
I now have to do lists and schedules, I have exercise regimes and rules around what I can and can’t eat.
I do monthly challenges with myself and see how far I can push my discipline and will power.
I strengthen my mind and my body so that if the fight comes to me again, I’m ready for it.
the first war lasted the better part of 3 years.
The second war I fought has taken the better part of a year and I am still fighting it to this day.
I’m here to say to you, that the human condition is a battle.
Being human is not easy and it never will be.
However, the best thing we can all do for ourselves comes to terms with the fact that the way we will get stronger is accepting that life is about suffering.
It sucks, life is hard, its one hell of a war, but as Gary Vee always says; the odds of you being even a person that is alive on this earth is 1 in 400 Trillion.
How is that not a reason to stay alive and be grateful every morning that you are alive?
Please do me a favor and if you are feeling suicidal, just tell someone.
I use to talk to my dog, may he Rest In Peace, because he was a fantastic listener.
Hell please don’t be afraid to send me a message on Instagram, or email me!
I can not save you, only you can but at the very least if I can be the person you talk to when you feel like you have one. If this podcast helps one just one person then I have done something right by you and this whole episode was not in vain.
This Blog post is a from the transcribe of my weekly podcast Making Lemonade.
Making Lemonade is on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify and anywhere you listen to your podcasts.
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