Not Just About You.
"Do you mind if I talk to you for a moment?"
He was a tall, muscular man, but his face had a frailty that belied his obvious strength.
"What about?", I replied, closing the notebook I was holding, and slipping it into my pocket. It seemed I would not be
writing anything during today's lunch break.
He sat down beside me before continuing to speak. His voice became more tense.
He stared at the floor as he spoke.
"You see, I've been really depressed lately, I think about killing myself. Every day."
He paused. "I don't know why, it 's just too hard to go on. I know I should be able to sort
things out on my own, but I get bogged down in things, like I'm spiralling down a drain
into darkness. Sometimes I try to make a list all the things I think are wrong in my life, and what I should do about them, but I just end up getting angry at myself, for being
in such a mess. I tried therapy once, but they wanted me to go places in my mind that
were worse than where I am now; too much, too fast. I couldn't keep doing that."
He then looked my in the eye, and I could see tears forming.
"The only thing that works", he went on, "is to talk to total strangers, like you.
I get a little bit of encouragement, and it makes me feel good for a while.
It lifts me up again without having to go to all the bad places in my mind."
"First," I said to him, "you are doing the right thing to be talking to people.
You do not have to deal with this alone. Hell, a lot of us are just living day to day,
trying to not get sucked down that drain. If you're not up to getting therapy,
you can still try talking to a professional. There are hotlines you can call!
I can get you some phone numbers if you like. If it gets too heavy you can just
hang up! Then try again the next day! At least you ARE trying..."
I stopped for a moment. He was staring at the floor again, deep in thought.
"Secondly, you can't kill yourself. This is why:"
"Thirty seconds ago i didn't know you, but now I do. And I know that you might kill yourself someday. Every time I come to
this cafe, I will remember you, and wonder if you are still alive or not. And if I should somehow find out some day
that you did go through with it, I will ask myself; Was there something I should have said, something I should have
done, that might have helped you? That might have stopped you from killing yourself? And of course I will never
I held up my hand so that he would not interrupt me.
"Now I only met you a minute ago, I have no emotional investment in you, so
eventually I will get over this, and one day I might even forget about you. But the
people who DO have an emotional bond with you; your family, your friends, they will never forget. And they will never stop
asking themselves those questions; Was there something I should have said, some warning sign I should have noticed?
They will never stop wondering. And if they do think of something they could have done, or some hint you dropped
that they did not react to, they will blame themselves for that for the rest of their lives. So that is why you
cannot kill yourself. Because it is not just about you! It is nowhere near being "just about you"! If you kill
yourself, you will hurt every other person in your life. And you don't have the right to cause them that
He was looking straight at me again, mouth open, trying to speak. I carried on.
"And what you should do is, anytime you're on the brink, just take a moment to write down the names of the people you care
about, and who care about you. As many of them as you can! Thinking about the impact your actions might have on
them, might help you pull back from that brink. - At least for one more day!"
I reached into my pocket, took out the notebook, and opened it at the last written page.
I pointed at the list dated the previous day and said;
"See, it works for me!"