On Suicide.

From my late 20s I lived with bouts of depression.

I don’t know if I’m chemically prone to it or just the pressure of perception of the expectations I placed on myself created a new ‘gem’ in my crown. In any case, I would have quite deep lows.

The first time the thought of suicide crossed my mind was when I was 31 – in the worst time of my divorce and wracked with guilt about failing as a father to two young children and the hitherto unresolved grief of missing my Dad. It was the usual thoughts of ‘they’d all be better without me’ / ‘I’d be better without this’ / ‘this is too much to take’.

I have always managed to talk myself away from ending my own life. There has always been a voice of reason that chimes in and says something to talk me down. There has always been work to pour myself into, to ride out the darkness.

Recently though, I have come to another place. One that I find great logic in and certainly what seems like a longer term cognitive solution.

A party at Hotel California, but you can leave anytime you want.

I accept that the person I am now can have these thoughts and probably always will – given enough stress. That’s OK. There is a cycle to it. There are signs of an impending low I can see and there are things I can do to mitigate.

I also now accept that I have the power to end my own life anytime I chose. That is the biggest release I found. It – for me at least – is the biggest affirmation to staying alive. In a thought, I have broken the biggest reason I had to contemplate suicide – that horrible, powerless sense of being trapped.

Speaking to my daughter recently about this, I developed a really apt metaphor (those who know me, know that metaphors are my thing!). This is something that now plays in my head and reinforces that sense of NOT feeling trapped – a new kind of fearlessness.

Imagine you went to a party. You will hear music you love, some you hate. You will bump into rude people, you’ll hang out with others that make you laugh and love. Sometimes you will feel miserable and want to leave. But there is no exit and every time you try to leave, your friends guilt trip you into staying. At some point, you’re not having fun anymore. You’re trapped.

What should have been a fun night, turns into a nightmare.

But what if, as you enter the party, – you are told where the exits are and you can leave any time you want and no one would stop you. They would miss you and perhaps might feel disappointed, but you wouldn’t feel like a party pooper for wanting to leave. My bet is you would stay all night – simply because you have the power to decide if / when to leave.

I’m sticking around in this party – however sucky it gets – because I know I can leave anytime.

Time to teach people to not feel trapped.

It is time for the taboo about suicide to end. I have no doubt that it contributes to the sense of being trapped that many people who consider suicide feel.

The fact is we each do have the power to end our lives – we should have the legal right to also.
It should not be criminalised.

That is not to say other forms of intervention are not necessary – if someone is being abused and decides to not commit suicide, the abuse still needs to stop and the trauma of that still needs to be resolved.

We must still talk more about how we feel with open hearts and open minds and people who need treatment should still have it. This metaphor of being able to leave the party is only a part of the bigger picture of care for all of us.

I think that without being released from this sense of being trapped, all therapy is similar to asking a bird to live more happily in its cage.

This might have triggered you.

Yes, suicide is a sensitive subject.

People who have lost loved ones and are dealing with the grief and inexplicable nature of it all might feel angry about reading what I have written. That’s OK – lets talk about it.

I offer my words as someone on the same path as their loved ones but who has found a way to manage it differently. Perhaps it might help someone.


Featured Photo by Kajetan Sumila on Unsplash

Mike’s theory of arcs and angles

One goal, which path would you take?

Imagine you had a goal – perhaps to lose weight or to learn a skill, or even to build some capacity/capability as a person, team, company or country.

Lets call that goal ‘B’ and your starting point – now – is ‘A’.

The sharp angle path

Now imagine you did very little towards getting to ‘B’ until one day when ‘B’ stops being a nice-to-have and , instead, becomes a must-have. I call that day or the event triggering that realisation ‘a sharp turn event’.

So now you’re scrambling, stressing and enduring a massive disruption to everything so you can start heading towards ‘B’ and you needed to be there yesterday.

An example of a sharp turn event is cancer, a heart attack i.e it happens and to reduce the chances of it happening again or as severely – you start to eat better, exercise, cut out smoking and excessive drinking.

Other examples might be being mocked for being overweight or a global pandemic.

The arc path

Now imagine you are in exactly the same starting point and the goal remains unchanged. But instead of doing very little about getting to ‘B’, every day you did something tangible towards the goal and you kept the goal alive by checking if those things you did got you closer and adjusted as you went.

Sharp turn events are not entirely eradicated on this path, but their negative effects can be significantly reduced. You are already some way to the goal, you are on the path.

An example might losing your livelihood whilst pursuing a goal of saving for a home and choosing to live frugally whilst you were saving – being lean. Of course, it seems calamitous that you have lost your job – but given how you are living as you pursued the goal, you are in a better position to weather the disruption vs someone who lived extravagantly (even if they had the same goal as you!).

Arcs are softer but build habit and resilience.

Some thoughts on arcs and sharp angles…

  • Arcs require diligence and deliberate action to the goal – not huge steps, but small ones, consistently taken.
  • Sharp angle paths are easy – you don’t have to do anything but wish and occasionally lie to yourself and others that you are doing something.
  • The longer you leave a goal without working towards it, the sharper and more disruptive the turn. Sometimes, you can leave it too late you pass a point beyond which that exact goal is unattainable and you have to pick another that is within you then-current abilities. E.g. I want to buy a home in 2 years time. I need to save €50,000 for a deposit. The sooner I start the more likely I will be able to do it. If I leave it until, say, a month before I wanted to buy the home – I would have to find €50k in 1 month – an almost impossible task for most people not robbing banks. So maybe you now have to set a goal to buy a house in 5 years vs 2 or not buy at all.
  • Arcs require regular reflection and calibration that what you are doing is still valid towards the goal. You might even question if the goal is still valid.
  • Critically reviewing your goals can shine a light on what potential sharp turn events might happen. e.g. if my goal was to save €50k in 2 years, an obvious sharp turn event is that I could lose my job. That might lead me down the path of developing side gigs that build resilience to my finances.

In closing, I am no expert in this and I’m not selling any ‘improve your life’ crap. I am simply introspecting into events and paths in my life and things I see around me.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown us that many – if not all – countries have been fixated on either the wrong goals or have not acted in an arc way towards the right goals and we find ourselves in a sharp turn event where the world is mostly unprepared for massive unemployment coupled with a lack of digital tech for everything from government to education.

What are your thoughts on this theory? Please disagree with it and lets explore it further.

10 Days into #LinkyBrains and this is what it's about for me.

10 mad days

It has been the maddest 10 days of my life and I’ve had plenty mad.

Time to reflect on this LinkyBrain thing – taking in all the feedback  that’s rolling in from chats, blog posts and spontaneous conversations and I’d like to share them.

Here are my reflections, 10 days in.

LinkyBrains has touched on something profound

People from all kinds of backgrounds, jobs, ethnicities, genders are engaging with this. They want to share their experience, others just want to read and comment. Others still are volunteering to help – even as the plan of what needs help is emerging.

People are organising and meeting up and connecting.

The Core Are Committed

Every community/movement was started somewhere by someone.

This one started with  3 naked dancers –  Doug, Alex and Chris.
It was joined by a follower – Mike (me) – now we are all dancing naked.

It is what it is.

We aren’t more important, we aren’t thought leaders, we sure as hell aren’t experts in anything remotely like this.  ‘First’ doesn’t confer any more rights and privileges than ‘last’. What matters is being in the movement – everyone earns their respect from the things they choose to help with, and the impact they create.

We are simply naked dancers and we keep dancing and working to keep the dance growing. Join in.

We are walking a fine line. Inclusion vs Exclusivity

A really amazing article gave words to what many seemed to be thinking:

Is this some kind of self-congratulating, wealthy male party?

Is this another exclusive club for those who love talking about themselves – because we need that like a hole in the head?

Is this LinkyBrain vs non LinkyBrain?

No. It isn’t any of that. 

The narratives so far seems to be dominated with stories/confessions of ‘look how great I turned out with these things that should have slowed me down’.

If that is all you read, it would paint a picture of exclusivity. But I see this differently.

Life is full of challenges, they are like tunnels.

Of course it can be hard for everyone but, for people who see the world differently from society’s normal range, it can be especially hard. That is what this movement is about – making it easier and helping those people contribute to the benefit of everyone.

Most of the confessions are from ‘Jubilant emergers’ – they’ve emerged from various tunnels and discovered ways to be happy and successful at navigating tunnels.

We are not hearing from anyone currently in a tunnel – confused with where they fit, struggling with school / work / life, being understood or however it manifests.

We are not hearing from those approaching a tunnel – who might not even know there are tunnels.

We are not hearing those who might not be facing the challenges themselves, but are supporting people who are. Their voices are important too.

Those groups aren’t often able to speak out and share their realities.
We must do better to find way to hear them. Help us.

We need to move beyond Jubilance to sharing ways to navigate tunnels with anyone just behind us. How did you cope with this, what did you actually do to address that fear etc.

Some abuse will happen

I remember seeing someone trying to sell underwear with the tag #metoo. It pissed me off.

There will always be people trying to promote a personal agenda with any movement – however noble the cause is. That is just what it is. There’s nothing I can do about that beyond doing my best and remain committed to the bigger picture.

The Good Will Shine Through

We – me and the emerging LinkyBrains community – are going to keep encouraging the good, the humanity in us all, the positive. We will continue to help stories emerge, help people connect and do their best work for the benefit of everyone.

By: JohnCC BY 2.0

I am an unwavering believer in the fundamental goodness of people and that will carry our efforts to everywhere in the world. It will quieten the negativity and amplify the goodness.

What Now?

You have simple decisions to make :

Help or not.

Join the dance or watch from the sidelines – pointing and laughing while we change the world.

Helping is easier than you imagine – just some easy things you can do now!

 I’m still dancing. I’m in.

Be a Person of Substance

I love to take my dog – Maya – for walks and she loves it when I throw for her and she fetches. A long throw really helps her open up the speed!

As I took her for a walk this morning, I brought with us one of her ‘throw and chew’ balls. Much like a tennis ball but squidgier.

Usually I throw rocks for her and I have a pretty long throw – but despite my usual effort, this ball didn’t travel as far.

Now, it was substantially larger than a stone and almost perfectly spherical – looking picture perfect to throw, but it lacked density and this is why it didn’t make the most of the strength with which it was hurled. In fact, sometimes it only travelled a few meters! Needless to say, Maya was none too pleased.

It got me thinking

I believe that Life, the Universe and the force that is greater than us all, seems to want to propel us to great heights towards what we wish for ourselves, but what do we bring to this ambition to help it along?

If life presents an opportunity to propel a person forward – perhaps to greater learning and prosperity, how does that person get themselves in a position to maximise how far they travel?

As I pondered this, I wondered if the density or substance of the rock was more suitable to be propelled than the ball – which ‘looked’ like the best thing to be propelled.

What is the substance of a person that helps them make the most of the propulsion that life offers? Seems to me that by the time the opportunity arrives,  there is likely very little a person can do to acquire the skills to make the most of that particular gift. So it seems substance is a set of general characteristics and capabilities.

Here’s a list of attributes that I think count as ‘substance’ by which a person ‘goes far’.

  1. Integrity – being true to your word and being guided by your principles.
  2. Being good to work with – being respectful of others, open to collaboration.
  3. Being adaptable – anticipating and responding elegantly to change,
  4. Learning what they need to – and quickly.
  5. Being generous – with their time, knowledge and resources.
  6. Being open – in mind and of heart.
  7. Persistence –  knowing when to push on (and pushing on) and when to pull out.

I’m sure this is not exhaustive but what do you think?
Do you agree with my list, can you think of any more?
How does one develop these capacities to be a person of substance?