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Image of Diane Ackerman on What Working at a Suicide Prevention Hotline Taught Her about the Human Spirit

Choice is a signature of our species. We choose to live, sometimes we choose our own death, but most of the time we make choices just to prove choice is possible. Above all else, we value the right to choose one’s destiny. The very young and some lucky few may find their days opening one onto another like a set of ornate doors, but most people make an unconscious vow each morning to get through the day’s stresses and labors intact, without becoming overwhelmed or wishing to escape into death. Everybody has thought about suicide, or knows somebody who committed suicide, and then felt “pushed another inch, and it could have been me.” As Emile Zola once said, some mornings you first have to swallow your toad of disgust before you can get on with the day. We choose to live. But suicidal people have tunnel vision—no other choice seems possible. A counselor’s job is to put windows and doors in that tunnel.

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So often loneliness comes from being out of touch with parts of oneself. We go searching for those parts in other people, but there’s a difference between feeling separate from others and separate from oneself.

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People take our lives in their hands all the time — parents, mentors, lovers, teachers, patrons. How often do they hear from us?


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Wow. As someone who struggles with depression and bipolar disorder I have had many times where I've thought "pushed another inch, and it could have been me". I do know that once I snap out of the tunnel vision she describes that it is hard to even fathom what could have been bad enough to push me to that brink, but it never the less happens over and over again. I have started to remind myself in the dark times "DISTORTED THOUGHT PATTERNS"; it's not enough to pull me out but it's enough to remind me that my brain is tricking me.

"So often loneliness comes from being out of touch with parts of oneself. We go searching for those parts in other people, but there’s a difference between feeling separate from others and separate from oneself."

I also have a tendency to search for parts in other people (reflected in the first poem I posted here actually) and that should be a new reminder to myself. Thanks for posting this.

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