Around this time two years ago I stood up in 41 degree heat and delivered my story of anxiety and depression to an audience of ~100 at a Lions Club District Convention. It was a special event and I could see the impact I was having in the eyes of the audience. Or rather the little wells beneath them.
Every event that I’ve spoken at over the last two and a bit years holds a special significance. I remember talking to the principal of one school before a presentation on the Gold Coast last year and learning of girls as young as eleven already self-harming. Or another occasion at a Men’s Shed event where I listened to stories of elderly retired men so lost and lonely that they were now just ‘waiting until the day they died’.
Sometimes I stop and wonder what my uncles might have taught me had I known them for longer; had the thought of suicide not been so poisonous to their will to live. When I sat through Uncle Michael’s funeral I must only have been three or four. I don’t know why I could not stop crying that day because, as my older sister reminded me at the time, I barely knew him. Perhaps I somehow foreknew at the time what I would later endure myself and grow to become so passionate about?
Sometimes I also stop to reflect on the days my Dad was battling severe depression and PTSD; the days he no longer lived at home; the days in which we’d wonder where he was sleeping that night – if he was safe. Knowing what we did about his two brothers, sometimes it was far too easy to fear the worst. Thankfully he was able to find the tools to fuel his recovery and is now the man I always hoped he could be. I cannot bear to imagine how things would have been if the opposite were fate’s choosing.
To me, suicide is humanity’s greatest tragedy and indeed our greatest failing.
I guess bullets and bombs and the horror they inflict are easier to understand than the terrorising thoughts that plague those suffering with mental illness. And yet almost one million people kill themselves every year.
It is easy for the actions of a coward strapped with bombs to bring the world together in ‘love’ but let me add this:
What good is our love for the oppressed in countries afar if we continue to ignore our neighbour next door? What good is our professed ‘unity’ in times of global hardship if we still won’t sit next to someone in Starbucks because they dress a little differently?
We are enraged by the atrocities we see abroad and yet the man we avoided eye contact with in the supermarket checkout line today later went home to his house just two blocks from ours to kill himself with the items he picked up from isle nine.
Every day we have opportunities to create the world in which we tell our Facebook feed we so desperately desire. Every day.
Love is not a feeling, it is an action.
In all that we do we must set the example that we want the world to follow. We must resist the urge to condemn the actions of those who stray from the ‘good’ path. For of course, ‘the way of a fool seems right to him’. Only the persistent presentation of a better alternative from we the majority will, slowly but surely, rid the world of the evil we see and despise.
I passionately believe that if we are able to create a culture in which we are so connected, accepting and supportive of one another, so much so that no one ever feels so hopeless and alone that they would even contemplate the mere thought of taking their own life, then all of the other problems we face today will have naturally faded away as a result.
In the coming chapters of Life of PJ I hope that you will share my journey in which we create this culture of which I speak. Of course, I cannot do this alone. I can do nothing alone. Only together will we succeed.