It gets dark at 5:00 PM this time of year, which leaves even more time for a dark night of the soul. Bob Burg, a friend of the blog, posted an incredibly important TEDx video on Facebook – a talk by Frank King titled A Matter of Laugh or Death. Frank is a comedian, and this is a must-watch video if you or a loved one suffer from depression or have thoughts of suicide. Here is part of the YouTube video description (the numbers are shocking):
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Every year in North America 8,000,000 people contemplate this, 1,000,000 people attempt it, and 39,000 succeed. Succeed at what? Suicide. 39,000…that’s twice the rate of homicide…and practically nobody is talking about it…until now…
I can tell you that many small business owners suffer from occasional bouts of bad depression, or sometimes a lingering low-grade depression. As a coach, people tell me their secrets. I am in no way making light of this: I have had to manage my own low-grade depression for as long as I can remember.
In one part of the video Frank talks about how thoughts of suicide are never that far away for him. He jokes that if the car breaks down, he might go through the decision process of, “I could get it fixed, I could buy a new one, or I could just kill myself.”
When he said that, I froze in shock.
I had that exact thought two days before I watched the video. My car died that morning in the grocery store parking lot in the rain. Someone came by and gave me a jump so I could drive it to the mechanic. The estimate to fix it came in at twice what I could afford.
I have had too many unexpected expenses recently and money is really tight. The guy I was dating moved away and it makes me sad sometimes, especially now that the holidays are here and he isn’t. And I am in a business pivot that is making me crazy as I try to define my new strategy and goals.
In short, it’s not a stellar time for me.
I started thinking about the tone my note should have. Then I looked at the state of my office and my papers and realized that nobody would be able to unravel my business and personal affairs. I thought about how terrible it would be for someone to find me after Thanksgiving. I thought about all the friends I have who have lost people to suicide, and the emotional toll it takes on the living even years after.
Then, as often happens, I received a phone call. My guardian angel is not Clarence. His name is Phil.
So, instead, I had a good cry and postponed my dark thoughts for another day. After all, I was really looking forward to having duck instead of turkey for Thanksgiving this year. I don’t love turkey.
But as Frank says in the video, the thoughts are never that far away. I think a lot of us live like this, but most people don’t talk about it.
It can be helpful to give those thoughts a physical manifestation. I visualize a small gargoyle – cute but menacing. I call him Seymour. I talk to Seymour, acknowledge him and give him attention, and then send him away. This puts me in control, and the process tends to clear my energy so I can move on.
We have had posts about depression on the blog before. Chris Eh Young wrote Even the Champions Suffer in an attempt to raise awareness about depression and how it can destroy your business.
My friend Tim McDonald wrote a poignant post this August for the Huffington Post blog titled The Dark Side We Never See about how he suffered with depression and very serious thoughts of suicide. I found it hard to read because I really like Tim, but I congratulated him on his courage to get the discussion started.
And you can continue the discussion here in the comments (or reach out to me personally if you don’t want to speak out publicly).
Please know that you are not alone. Many, many of us will understand.
(Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.)