By Pat Raphael 20
We have made it! We’ve arrived at the end of another year and none of us were taken out by our heart giving up and stopping to beat, or falling to that big C cancer, or going to the doctor and having a well meaning medical professional make a fatal mistake at the cost of our very life. We were also spared from the deadly fires that raged in our county — killing scores before they were put out. Also none of us reading here were killed in an accident or any of the random acts of violence we hear and read about far too frequently. We weren’t the victims of a robbery gone wrong nor did we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time while a crazy person was shooting up the joint… But having arrived here, at the end of yet another year, we are also at that season when we humans are statistically most likely to do harm to ourselves and die by suicide.
This subject became a necessary discussion topic for exploration in this column when I walked by my friend Joey Lucky (y’all know him — he’s got that cop car on main street that he rents for movie productions — JoeLuckay,com), and I saw him upset about something as if he had been crying. I asked him what was up, only to learn the sad news of Jacob Godinez, a well beloved member of the street people community here in Venice, and his death by apparent suicide.
While I only knew Jacob in passing, (his friends called him GreenEyes), what really struck me in the aftermath of his death is the gaping hole of sadness and loss that was left among his friends as they struggled to explain why this happened or went on second guessing whether they could have done anything to prevent this deadly outcome. Green Eyes weighed the burden on my heart that I use my small platform here in the Free Venice BeachHead to stir up a dialogue and assure that none of my friends feel that they have to carry sadness and despair all by themselves, or think that they are the only only one who struggles with guilt, hopelessness, love lost, shame, or any or the myriad ennui of the human experience that makes us feel like it’s time to check our selves out of it all. Stop. No. Don’t do it.
But what is it about this time of year? Why is it that so many of us carry such hurt and despair to the end of the year only to get here and let the hopelessness consume us to the point of suicide? As the holidays approach and the days get shorter, when everything around seem to be vibrating joy joy joy, the stark contrast of internal depression has a way of casting an even darker shadow inside from which to crawl out of. Add to all that, the end of the year’s assessment of the year itself. When we get here, it is time to reflect on all the goals that were laid down in the beginning of the year. Here is when we ask ourselves how we did on those things we said we would do. While we can lie to others and rave success, it is harder for me to lie to me… and knowing that every year that I do not accomplish those things I set out to do, just makes it harder and less likely for them to take place in the future. This can be quite the bummer to process now that December is here. And those short December days — fewer mood elevating sunny hours to soak in — and cold nights which might be lonely if you are not sharing your bed. No wonder they can’t shut up about it in Winterfell, and all their days are consumed with the thought that “winter is coming”.
Breathe. That’s one of the best coping tools available to us. When we learn to take in deep relaxing gulps of air, and feel the life-giving oxygen sustain and maintain us, we can slow down long enough to notice and reflect on all the good around us. That’s when we begin to remember that the dark days always pass and we notice that if we only look at the bad, we will only see the bad. Suddenly breathing allows us the quiet we need to re-orientate our perspective. Looking closer, we’ll see community.
The world of friends and family that populate each of our circles, certainly include those who would be devastated at the thought of anything bad ever happening to us. They are out there sending us all their goodwill, full of love towards us. Sometimes these beloved people sending out all those good vibes to us do not always know how to communicate their heart in a way that truly expresses their deep love. And people who have a hard time communicating, often don’t know how to listen. This is where it takes a bit of creative imagination in order to tap broadly into our circle to find those listening ears that can help carry it all. Don’t leave it up to interpretation. Tell someone in your life how you feel. Only one who has unloaded themselves can tell you how good it feels to lay down your burden. Keeping it all bottled up inside can only make the whole thing grow heavier as day by day new things arise to consider and carry. Find ways to unload.
Take time to do what you love. Music, outdoors, long walks, drinks with friends, sports, Hollywood entertainment, a quiet sunset on the beach or whatever else might suit your fancy. While our lives are all full of pulls from many directions and responsibilities that arise to obligations, we always have to remember that we are no good to anyone else if we are no good to ourselves. This is where the my-oxygen-mask-first rule applies. If I do not learn to decompress and frequently unload my mental burdens (even if I have to pick them up later on), I will wear myself haggard til there’s nothing left… However we do it — having some great sex, or blazing a fat jay with the homies, going to a comedy show, looking though an old album and recalling some good times — all options are valid. Balance requires that we manage all of our responsibilities while keeping up a healthy regiment of rest and relaxation. Even almighty god laid out a day to just chill and kick it.
If all of that has not turned the corner and added a nice pep in your step, here is where we remember that everybody is different. What has worked for me, and the next guy over there, doesn’t have to work on you. And that’s the point of the human experience. We are all different and have a valid right to exist… each of us bring our own experience and unique perspective to the tapestry of humanity. No true expression is more necessary than someone else’s truth. The goal is to continue growing and moving forward. WE have to define what that means for each and every one of us, and develop the patience to be okay with whatever pace that this growth takes place.
Don’t forget, too, that there are pros out there as well. If your case continue to weigh heavy in spite of all of your own personal effort, and that of your circle of friends and family, maybe it is time to call in some experts. Even though our society is trying to improve in this area, we are still a people steeped in mental heath stigma. But your well-being is too important for such petty considerations. If you have a medical emergency and need to be rushed to the hospital so that a medical professional can intervene to save your life, there would be nobody looking down or calling you weak. How come when the trauma is mental and the wounds are invisible, we allow others to sit in judgement and tell us what we should and should not do for our own mental health? No. Pick up the phone and call the suicide prevention lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK (8255). Or walk into any emergency room. And one day after we train our cops to be less eager with a gun, you’ll even be able to flag one down and get the help you need. Won’t that be an awesome day? That alone is a reason to stay alive… we all gotta work to make that glorious day come to pass. We need your input in creating this great tomorrow. Stick around and help us out. Join us in the Trans-National Alliance.