“I wanted to be dead. No. That’s not quite right. I didn’t want to be dead, I just didn’t want to be alive.”
Reasons to Stay Alive
There has been a worrying increase in the number of suicide cases in the past few weeks since the total lockdown was reinstated in Malaysia. Needless to say, it’s a very tough time.
If you are contemplating suicide, perhaps the best thing I can tell you is that I’ve been there, so many times before. I understand how it’s like have these gloomy and intrusive thoughts, to be able to do nothing but stay in bed all day, and sometimes, to not be able to do simple things like going for a shower, for days.
It might not seem like it right now, but life is truly worth living. Yes, we’ve seen some horrible things during this time — dumb politicking being one of them. But we’ve also seen the best in ourselves. For me, the independent “Bendera Putih” (White Flag) campaign has helped me keep the faith, as people have been rushing to assist their fellow neighbors who are in need of basic necessities, at the sight of a white flag put up outside their home.
I’ve found it helpful to keep a list of things that I can do to get myself out of a depression. So when the Black Dog comes around, I can remind myself that it isn’t forever, and that I can take small steps towards getting better.
Of course, you can personalize it and make it your own. But this is the list that I’ve kept, and I hope they can be of benefit to you too.
- Rest. You don’t have to feel guilty for doing nothing or being unproductive. Use this time to rest and sit with your thoughts.
- You don’t have to be okay. Take “cry breaks” if you have to (as suggested by Sheryl Sandberg in her book Option B). If you need to excuse yourself and cry or be alone, go ahead.
- Vent out to God. If you’re a Muslim, Surah Yusuf and Surah Duha in the Qur’an are incredibly comforting reads when you’re feeling down. Personally, I also love to wake up early in the morning (eg. 3 am) to perform tahajjud — it’s a uniquely intimate experience when everyone else at home is asleep, and you’re praying and venting out to Allah. He’s the best confidant, and He understands you better than anyone can.
- Reflect on the things that you’re grateful for. To paraphrase Tony Robbins, the easiest way to end your suffering is to be grateful. You can start by expressing gratitude for the simplest things (eg. the wind on your face, your family members), and then gradually move onto things that are harder to be grateful for (eg. tough experiences that, in reflection, have made your life better in the long run).
- Give away. Helping people in need can really make your world feel a lot larger, because you’re focusing your attention on their lives, and how you can make them happy. From that, you become a lot happier too. Make a habit of giving away whatever extra money or things to charity, or even your time and energy by doing community service. Buy a cup of coffee for a friend as a surprise, or even for a stranger. It’s always worth it when you see the smile on their faces. It’s the best feeling ever.
- Listen to music, I mean really listen. Gently focus your thoughts on every detail — the lyrics, the structure, the soundscapes — and then take a step back to notice how they harmoniously work together as a whole. It’s a great way to find beauty and meaning.
- Treat yourself at your favorite café or restaurant. Even if things have been relatively okay, this is something you should consider doing regularly — because there are always plenty of things that you deserve to give yourself credit for. In my case, I love Mexican food, and before the lockdown, I would have lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant every single weekend. It’s one of my happy places.
- Exercise. Life is movement — slowly bring yourself to get some exercise. If you can’t cycle, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t get out of the house, do some bodyweight workouts (eg. at least some push-ups) to release your endorphins.
- Watch a movie. Play a video game. Read a book. It does help to immerse yourself in a different world for a while. In time you’d be in a better position to confront your challenges, because you wouldn’t be as entrenched in them as before, and would be more able to see from different perspectives.
- Surround yourself with positivity. Talk your problems out with friends who give good advice and make you feel better. You can also listen to inspirational podcasts or watch such videos. Even if the content isn’t new to you, it’s always good to have some reminders that there are different ways to look at your situation. I tend to default towards Ryan Holiday, Tony Robbins, Tom Bilyeu and Tim Ferriss for self-development content — and Matty Matheson for laughs.