Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
Is life worth the effort?
JD Schramm asks and answers a few important questions about suicide, and what happens to its survivors in his recent TEDTalk. As a psychotherapist and as one who has asked myself these same questions a few times in the past, the reasons for considering suicide seem obvious. A simple summary would include pain, addiction, depression, and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness. In addition, we also generally make the assumption that things can never get better.
Statistics show these feelings are particularly common as we enter midlife. From my research I have found that "midlife crisis" is no joke, not as suicide rates among boomers continue to climb precipitously.
My research shows that midlife is a particularly vulnerable time as we begin to question where we are now in our lives -- all of our efforts to matter, to make something meaningful of our lives, and define what success looks like now.
I was recently divorced, so I was feeling depressed about that apparent life failure. Soon after my divorce I lost my job suddenly, with no warning, at age 49. I now say I experienced the Great Recession before the recession. -- Laura Lee Carter
In a culture where many of us have great difficulty asking for help, it is important to realize that the decision to kill yourself is often taken from a very narrow perspective. Clinical depression generally clouds judgment, causing one to consider a permanent solution, to a temporary and often curable illness. You may not be seeing your life and choices clearly. And before you make such a permanent decision, please seek a few outside perspectives, especially from trained, caring mental health professionals. Share your symptoms and ask for help. It is available, and can change your perspective and save your life.
You may ask, "Why bother?" Here's why: Because life circumstances can turn on a dime. I will never forget my own circumstances back in the summer of 2004. I was recently divorced, so I was feeling depressed about that apparent life failure. Soon after my divorce I lost my job suddenly, with no warning, at age 49. I now say I experienced the Great Recession before the recession. Yes, I would define my perspective as clinically depressed, with no positive prospects in sight.
But looking back now, on the lowest point in my life, I feel so glad that I didn't give up. I instead clearly remember Richard Gere appearing on some talk show. I'm sure he has no idea how he changed my life that summer, when he looked up from his TV interview, straight into my eyes, and said: "Hang on it all changes."
With those words I decided to seek out help from others around me and in that simple act found many who also felt discouraged and hopeless. I knew then I was not alone. I built on that sense of fellowship and support, learning new ways to believe in love again, and eventually met the love of my life six months later.
Marriage at age 50 is quite different. You finally know the value and uniqueness of the soul mate experience. My new husband believed in me so much that he was willing to support my efforts to change careers, beginning at age 50 as a professional writer.
The development of my Midlife Crisis Queen blog in 2007 was a direct result of my own midlife crisis experience. After suffering through such a difficult time feeling so alone, I wanted to begin to offer support and encouragement to others who saw no reason to go on in midlife. I have since written a few books which document the evolution of the concept of "midlife" as an important life stage, and then explain why we are particularly vulnerable at this time in our lives.
I have found through research that feeling in crisis in midlife is actually a normal, natural occurrence which can often lead to a personal renaissance. This period of heavy questioning of our past purposes and motives is the first step towards a healthy rite of passage, one where we finally have the strength of character and courage to rediscover our reasons to be here, and re-imagine a life well worth living.
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