1 | The Semicolon Series

On November 4, 2018, I will be running the New York City Marathon, God willing. I wanted to run for something that I was very passionate about, because running for a purpose was more meaningful to me than running to push my physical boundaries. I was very fortunate to be invited to join the team at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and will be raising money towards the services & research that they support. Why the AFSP?

Because their work help people like me survive.

Suicide is rarely talked about in an open and transparent way. The mere mention of suicide has a chilling effect on conversations — nine times out of ten, you will be hushed by other people for bringing up such a heinous thought. When a word has the power to startle others into silence, its a form of censure that hinders any kind of constructive dialogue. Arguably the people we want to hear the most from are the ones that prematurely leave our world, leaving us ignorant of their fears, insecurities, and intentions. It’s against this backdrop that I hope to break these social mores and advance a discussion that is heavily stigmatized.

The name of this series is inspired by Project Semicolon, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention through connected community and greater access to information and resources. Their punctuation mark of choice is the semicolon, noting:

“…a semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life. You’re choosing to keep going.

Since its inception in 2013, it has helped more than five million people and advanced the public health model in suicide prevention. And yet, despite its tremendous grassroots momentum and the sizable impact it has made on mental health discourse in this country, its visionary founder and leader of the movement, Amy Bleuel, took her own life in the organization’s fourth year of existence. We believe that if we break the stigma around suicide, initiate a national conversation, and build a web of support around it, we will collectively save the lives of millions. While Amy’s suicide undermines that premise, it serves as a reminder that the complexity of these ideations should not be underestimated.

I have to state the disclaimer that I am not a physician nor am I qualified to give any medical advice — all views are my own and not the views of any affiliated organizations. Some of the things that I write on will touch upon subject matter where a professional might be better versed to speak with — I am simply sharing some of my own experiences & observations in the hope that you can connect with them. As I stumble my way through this extended reflection, I don’t intend on being your psychiatrist, your therapist, or your spiritual guide — I only ask to be your friend.

This series is not intended to be only for people who are considering taking their lives. Suicide is the final outcome in the plague of the mind, a plague that is triggered by hardships that range from job loss to heart break to medical ailments. Suicidal ideation does not happen overnight — it is an erosion of one’s will to live that plays out on the timespan of months and years. But we can’t wait for this cancer to metastasize. If you are considering taking your life as a result of your adversity, then you are taking action too late — but thankfully, not before its too late. These lessons are universal, and do not apply to the ones in greatest despair. I published a post on suicide last summer that elicited many private conversations, and I got to know people in a way that had never been exposed to me before. There’s something about death that lays bare one’s most personal truths — it provokes a degree of humility that is unchallenged by any other thought. The reminder that we are mere mortals forces us to come to grips with our greatest struggles and confront our most haunting demons. But if the thought of death is what compels us to do that, then so be it. The most powerful asset a person can have is a resilience against shame — defined as the belief that you are not enough — and when you are able to withstand the unyielding forces of self-doubt, overcoming the desire to end your life is a trivial matter. And so with that, I hope that you follow me as I delve into this subject over the course of at least a dozen reflections. My walk up and down the plank has been cold and isolated. My hope is that if you find yourself on the same plank one day, you are not alone.