The tragic loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this week has been a painful reminder of the fact that even people who are successful and seem to have an endlessly enviable life could be at risk of suicide. In fact, middle-aged, high-earning individuals like Spade and Bourdain are one of the most afflicted demographics of a disease that claims 45,000 Americans each year.
That’s why it’s so significant that many celebrities have come forward to share how they deal with their own dark thoughts. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently opened up about his own battle with depression, proving that there’s nothing “unmanly” about expressing feelings of sadness. Ryan Reynolds recently revealed that his upbeat, comic persona is a self-defense mechanism for some very serious anxiety issues. James Marsden talked about the importance of not bottling up your feelings. And in an interview with Best Life, 13 Reason Why actor Ross Butler, who stars in a hit show that directly deals with teen suicide, shared how he overcomes feelings of loneliness and fear.
The point is that everyone, no matter how bright and shiny their lives may look on the outside, struggles with these issues. As people grappled with the news about Bourdain, celebrities took to Twitter to share tributes about the celebrity chef and post the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. On Reddit, which actually offers a lot of support for people suffering from depression, users shared their favorite video of Bourdain, one that really captured his generosity, humor, wit, and ability to see the beauty in ordinary things.
A suicide prevention megathread developed, inviting people who have been on the brink of suicide to share what made them change their minds. You can read some of the stories culled from this thread below. After all, we can tell you about 12 Suicide Warning Signs Hidden in Plain Sight and the many Ways Your Loved Ones May Be Hiding Their Depression, but nothing is quite like hearing from people who have been at the edge of the abyss and found their way back.
Making Plans for Tomorrow
“I’m the mother of a toddler who died of cancer. There is nothing anyone could do to prevent me from killing myself- besides listening and being present. I didn’t reach out to anyone. Being suicidal means you want to die- no one could have talked me out of it. My family knew I was struggling and they took shifts watching me.They bought me my favorite foods, watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race with me for weeks (seriously.. for some reason it was the only thing I could watch.) They listened to me cry and didn’t try to give me solutions. They just said “I know”. We had a code word- potato. If I said potato, that meant that I needed someone to be physically present with me.. quickly. There was always a plan for the next day- ‘Tomorrow we’re going to have lunch at that Mexican place, ok?’ ‘Tomorrow let’s look for a special garden marker for Miles.’ I think that was a big part of it- having a plan for the next day meant I had to keep going. It’s been almost four months since my 3 year old died and I’m still living.”
“I lost a son named Miles. He was a week old. It was sudden. One day he was healthy, pink, and screaming, the next he was blue and going into cardiac arrest. He would be turning ten this July 2nd. My ‘only show I can watch’ was the awful dating show ‘Next’ on MTV. The night he died my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I sat in a hotel room (because we couldn’t possibly go home and face his stuff) and played a cooperative board game all night long. We took breaks to cry and scream, and then kept playing. That stupid game kept me alive, I’m sure of it. I also had to always have a plan for tomorrow. Even if it was just what I was going to have for breakfast. There were days that I would cry so hard I thought the crying alone would kill me. I had to force myself to stop, certain I was about to literally die of a broken heart… I’m nearly a decade out, and some days I still can’t believe I’m a member of this club.”
Thinking of Suicide As An Action
“I attempted suicide at 19. I think the hardest thing for non-suicidal people to understand is that a lot of suicidal people don’t want to kill themselves, they just want to stop existing.Actually going through the steps of writing a note and taking the pills was extremely difficult and all I kept thinking the whole time was that it would be so much easier if I could just fall asleep and never wake up. It was scary to think that I was potentially killing myself whereas a death I couldn’t control or had less control over would just…happen. Then there’s everyone and everything else to consider. I also have caught myself wishing many times that the whole world would end so that I could stop existing but then neither myself nor my loved ones would have to deal with the pain or miss out on a good life.I found those things really hard to articulate at 19. It’s how a lot of depressed people feel.”
Not Being Afraid of Admitting You Made a Mistake
“I work at poison control. One of our main jobs is to provide advice to hospitals caring for patients who have overdosed.I will never forget one teenaged girl who took an overdose of Tylenol, and apparently regreted it shortly afterwards but was afraid of telling anyone. She didnt tell anyone until 3 days later. She walked into the ER awake and talking and died waiting for a liver transplant. She left behind a heart broken family and more friends than she realized she had.If you come to the hospital within a few hours of taking pills, it can be fixed. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need.”
“In 2015 I was fresh off a wonderful honeymoon with my amazing wife when I hit a little low. I’m manic depressive and am used to the ups and downs, but this low didn’t go away. I thought I was stronger than my depression but it just kept going. After about 6 months my spouse was just barely able to hang in there and was spending a lot of time at her mother’s in another town because I was… losing myself. Christmas night that year, wife was at her family’s celebration, I sat in our guest bedroom alone and had my 9mm in my hand. I struggled and was crying and angry and…a nightmare was unfolding in my head. I couldn’t do it though. I let my dog in and he jumped on me and was licking me and wagging his tail, so I hung out with him for a while and put the gun away. I promised my wife I would try to make the changes necessary to recover and fast forward to today, we’re halfway through her pregnancy with our first! It’s a boy! I’m very physically active and I have things to work towards, and now a son coming that deserves a great set of parents. My wife is incredible and she stuck with me through times where I would have left myself… She did what she could when she could, considering how much I was pushing everyone away during that time. I can never repay her for being loyal to me when I don’t think I deserved loyalty, I just hope I can give her and my son the best husband and dad possible for the rest of our lives. At the time, I was planning to make everyone hate me so no one would miss me when I finally killed myself. It was a dark pattern that made me lose who I was. I am a different person today and I have learned to recognize the signs and not ignore my ‘small lows.’ I never miss a chance to tell my wife how wonderful she is. I also added the physically active part because getting back into shape and being physically tired is incredibly therapeutic for me, personally.”
Realizing People Love You
“When I was a teenager I had bad problems with depression and anxiety that led to very self-destructive behavior. There were many times I imagined killing myself and one night I was set on doing it. Came home drunk and sad and started cutting myself, which was one of my methods for dealing with my emotions. I sat in my bed crying, trying to find the courage to cut deeper and end it. Then my dog Snoopy hopped up on the bed and put his head on my lap. Thanks to him I realized that I just couldn’t do that to him or to my parents and friends. He saved my life that night. The next day I decided to open up to my parents and ask them to help me find some help, which was a huge step forward. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder that someone loves you to help you start trying to love yourself.”
Seriously, Though, Dogs
“I bought a dog. I have a very busy life, so people ask me if I regret having her, since dogs are all high maintenance. I need to walk her a few times a day, feed her, keep her entertained, clean up after her, remove dog hair from everything including myself with an unending supply of lint rollers. I don’t regret it. I got her for one purpose that I won’t tell them. Because I’m lonely. Because when I’m at my loneliest, I don’t have anyone to turn to, no-one to go see, to talk to, despite my best efforts. I have her because I know if I died, something would miss me, so I can’t leave her.”
“I’m now 2 for 2 in suicide attempts being stopped by my cat. Just her staring and meowing. Always have something or someone nearby; that might just save you.” Another user also wrote, “In 2012 I lost pretty much everything: my job, my wife, my friends, and I had alienated my family. I got close one time. Everything was ready, except I didn’t know what to do for my cats. I had to make sure they were cared for. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that they need ME. No one else would love them like I do. Those little fuzz balls need me. Now, any time I’m feeling down I just go hug my cats and remember that.”
“I was suicidal about 6 months ago after my girlfriend/lifelong best friend left me. I decided I finally needed help. I knew I had deep issues but didn’t want to deal with them. I always masked them and found ways to distract myself. I went to my family doctor and got referred to a psychiatrist and I’ve been seeing a few for the last couple months. I feel very proud to say that this week has been my first week in years that I can say I’ve been genuinely happy and proud of myself. It gets better. It genuinely does. Even when you’re in the deepest hole. But you can’t do it alone. You can’t just cover over your issues. You need to destroy them.”
Realizing How Much It Will Hurt Your Loved Ones
“I tried to kill myself at the end of May of this year. I felt like I hit rock bottom, and at the time it seemed like the only way out. I lost the woman I loved, I started drinking everyday, I hurt a lot of people emotionally. I thought that if I pushed everyone away, it would be easier to let go. I’m not comfortable saying how I did it, but when I regained consciousness I called a friend who helped me. I’m so glad that I wasn’t successful. When I was a young child, my mom and I walked in on my brother unconscious after a hanging and it’s an image that is seared into my brain. Thankfully he survived, but I’ll never forget my mom’s screams of agony, and her pleading with God when she was trying to get him to wake up. The thought of her having to go through that again, ensures that I will never attempt it anymore. Instead of wishing to die in my sleep, I’m so thankful for every day that I wake up. Because every day is a fresh start.”
Talking to Someone
“Almost exactly a year ago one of my best mates called drunk in the middle of the night telling me that he was going to end it, and he wanted to apologize for doing this and thank me for being the only one to support him. I got so scared and started calling people that had been on the same party that he attended earlier and managed to find him nearby walking alone towards the rail tracks. I ran towards him and stopped him. We talked for almost five hours straight that night. We agreed for him to try therapy.It worked. A tleast for him, and now he is on his way back up pursuing a career in graphic design.I urge everyone who feel depressed at least try to talk to someone, your family, friends or a therapist/hotline as it might help more than you think.”
Like, For Real, Dogs
“I got a dog here. If I didn’t come home one day, he’d never stop sitting by the door waiting for me. He’d never stop missing my smell and my voice. He’d never stop wishing for one more walk, one more game of chasing the laser with me, one more high-five for a treat. He’d never stop jumping to peek out the window when he heard somebody coming up the sidewalk, and letting his heart be filled with a moment’s joyful hope. No matter how many times that hope was dashed, he’d never let go of it. He’s kind of a doofus that way.Anybody else in my life might eventually get over it. You can explain to them what happened and they’d at least be able to understand if not accept it. But my little brown dog would sit forever wondering why I didn’t come home. And he’s had a hard enough life so far. I was his only friend when he had nobody, and he was mine.No matter what I’m going through in life, putting him through that sort of suffering is not something my soul would ever let me do. Otherwise, I probably would have done it already.”
Indeed, if there’s one thing we learned from the famous dog that waited at the train station of his dead human to come home every day for nine years, nine months and fifteen days, it’s that dogs will never get over it.
Realizing How It Will Affect Your Children
“Please don’t use the saying ‘It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’ This might be true for someone who suffers from situational depression. The depression that goes away. For someone with chronic depression it never truly goes away. It is not a temporary problem. It can be managed. You can be better. You can learn to live almost normally. But when a person has been suffering for years, barely living, barely able to get out of bed most morning, it’s not a temporary problem. When I was in my worst depressed state and I heard that saying for the first time, what I heard was: “It’s a permanent solution to a permanent problem” And you know what? That was comforting. It was encouraging in the wrong way. I wanted to just cease to exist. Not have to worry about waking up the next morning.What got me through was knowing that I would destroy my children’s lives. I knew they would blame themselves. Even if I thought they were better off without me there and that I was damaging them. If I took my life it would be much worse for them.”
Cutting Down on Alcohol
“I’m 22 years old and have been suicidal for around four years. Three weeks ago, I attempted suicide by taking a bunch of pills. I know I have people who love me and support me, but depression has a horrible way of making me feel like i don’t deserve them and they’d be better off without me.I don’t feel that way any more, and it’s taken cutting alcohol out of my life to make me realize that. If you’re struggling and using a substance, please consider giving it up, or even cutting down. I spent years using alcohol to cope with my feelings, and it ended up being the reason why I needed CPR to keep me alive.I’m over two weeks sober now, and things are getting better. I WILL make it to 23.”
Realizing It Will Destroy Your Parents
“I attempted suicide by overdose when I was a junior in high school. I’m about 22 now so it’s been 6 years. I took in the whole 100 count bottle of acetaminophen and I said some ‘off’ things (my goodbyes) to my friends and they noticed and rushed over at midnight to tell my parents something was very wrong and called the ambulance. I wouldn’t fess up to what I did but they knew from my eyes that I wasn’t okay either so they took me to the hospital and made me ingest this absolutely horrifying liquid charcoal. I threw it up all over myself in the middle of the night but when I woke up at one point I saw my mom turned over praying and crying and I’ll never forget it. The other sight that stops me from it all now is my dad crying when they checked me into the ward. In all of my life I had never seen him cry except for that one day.People out there love you. Even if you don’t have family that supports you, friends are there. Around two years after that I got pet bunnies and I love them to death. I can’t imagine leaving my pets behind and when I get emotionally distressed I go over and pet them in silence and it helps me calm down a little more and straighten myself out. It’s hard, but it’s something. Therapy helped me and my family open up to each other about things that I kept in that caused me to go over the edge. Now, especially being someone who knows first hand what that dark void feels like I push to help my friends around me if I feel like they’re going through the same thing.”
Other People Intervening
“I’ve attempted suicide three times in my life. The first I was attempting to slit my wrists and I was stopped by my childhood friend. The second I had a gun in mouth and I heard my nephew laugh from across the house and I couldn’t have him see that. The third I had accrued a gun, picked my location to go out to in a field, went to close all of my bank accounts to leave my money for my family. My sister found my note, told my dad (who is a cop) and his fellow officers picked me up at work and I was hospitalized. Mental illness needs to be addressed. As someone that suffers from it, I know how hard it is to talk about let alone live with. I spent years being silent about my illness. I was ashamed. I thought it was my fault and I should be able to handle it. I was wrong. It cost me jobs, friends, and partners. It very nearly cost me my life. Once I was hospitalized I was finally able to receive the help I desperately needed. I’m still rebuilding. I still struggle. But I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel.To everyone that suffers from mental illness: I see you, I’m here for you, and you are not alone. The world may seem empty. Everything may lose its luster. Just know that there are those who genuinely care for & support you. Even if you can’t always see or feel it.”
Letting the Love In
“I had struggled with mild depression and anxiety for a while, but it was never overwhelming. Then the day after Thanksgiving, 2016, I moved 5 hours away from my family and fiancée to take a job at a tv station. The town was depressing in and of itself, with some of the highest heroin overdose and poverty rates in the state…I hit rock bottom.I was keeping it mostly under control, and actually started seeing a therapist who helped quite a bit. But one day came where it was too much, and I was so stressed and broken from the thought of having to go to work and throw myself into a job that was so draining that I decided I was going to drive myself into a tree on the way over. I never self-harmed, I still could laugh and joke with friends, but I simply didn’t see the point of going on any longer. While I didn’t tell my fiancée, she could tell something was wrong, and called my therapist. My therapist immediately sent someone from the services over, who helped talk me down. She called into my job to tell them I wouldn’t be coming in to work that day. That I was thankful for enough, but it was the reactions of those around me that moved me. When he heard what happened, my roommate (who worked at the same station and whom I had only met a few months before) rushed home immediately to make sure I was okay. That night, my fiancée drove five hours in a snow storm to get to me, and spent a week with me, and got to meet my coworkers. I ended up leaving the job two months or so later – a year ago since this past Tuesday. I moved back home with my parents for a few months, and now I’m back in the town where I went to college, working as an admissions counselor for my alma mater. I married my wife last December, and she has been my saving grace. She is lovely, and funny, and smart, and so much more than I can ever hope to be. I entirely credit her with saving my life, and I never can tell her enough how much I love her. People care about you. You just have to let them in.”
Realizing You Have Control Over Your Emotions
“I was gonna commit suicide for a while. I had a date planned, I had a method, I had things I wanted to do and I had done it all, I had even practiced what I wanted my note to be, I had a glorious vision of people coming back to the area for my funeral and getting together again to have a good time. That’s when I realized I was being delusional, no one coming to my funeral would be having a good time. They would all be miserable. The note wouldn’t explain it well enough, no matter how many times I rewrote it in my head I couldn’t get it so that people would understand. My mother, she would never understand, ever. So, I thought about it. Most of the stuff I’m worried about, it’s just stuff I’m worried about. If I just stopped caring about it, it would no longer be sh*t. I’m worried about. I mean killing myself is the end, The is nothing worse that can happen to you at that point, the game is over. Maybe I just needed to start a new game, one where I was free from the stuff holding me down in this one.”
Imagining the Person Who Finds You
“I attempted suicide when I was 16. I was depressed, and untreated because mental illness just wasn’t something that was recognized in my family.I cut my wrists and held them under water. The only thing that stopped me was the thought that my 5 year old niece would be the one to find me. I didn’t want that. So I bandaged up, cleaned up, and went to lay down to re-evaluate my life. Probably should have had stitches but I wasn’t ready to admit I had ‘problems.’ I’m 26 now. I still struggle with my depression. I was medicated for a while, but I hated the side effects. I’m happily married, bought a house this year, and have a wonderful goddaughter who is an absolute ray of sunshine in my life. So the depression is there. But the suicidal thoughts aren’t. Any time it even crosses my mind randomly, I remind myself why I’m still here. But my life is important to me. I want to live to enjoy the good times and fight through the bad. I will survive. Please, anyone that reads this. If you need help, get help. Your life is worth it. There’s a lot of love and support out there if you need it.”
Understanding What Depression Feels Like
“When you have depression it’s like it snows every day. Some days it’s only a couple of inches. Some days it snows a foot. Some days it snows four feet. Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep. Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you even do, tunnel out of a forty foot snow bank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you even get there in a blizzard? If you do, can they even help you at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay here, but it’s death to go out there too… Sometimes, shoveling isn’t enough anyway. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but it’s important to understand what it’s like from the inside. I firmly believe that understanding and compassion have to be the base of effective action. It’s important to understand what depression is, how it feels, what it’s like to live with it, so you can help people both on an individual basis and a policy basis.”
Realizing You’re Not Alone
“This will get buried but until just recently my major depressive disorder was in remission. Something happened about 2 months ago that turned my life upside down and as a result, I’ve recently been struggling with suicidal thoughts. They’ve been escalating, inch by inch.I read through maybe 30 responses on this thread and am nearly in tears at my desk. I needed to be reminded that I am not alone and that the metaphorical demon that is depression haunts so many people on this earth. I cannot give up or give in.I needed this today to motivate me to stay the course. I beat this once, I can do it again.One of my favorite quotes is by Winston Churchill: WHEN YOU’RE GOING THROUGH H*LL, KEEP GOING.Thank you to everyone contributing to this thread.”
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