HOW JOKES KILL & SIMPLE HELLOS SAVE LIVES
Leo discusses the massive impact on others we could have on a daily basis through a simple culture shift around. How many lives have you saved today?
It was a wet winter day in the Scottish countryside when I decide to commit suicide. It was the obvious thing to do, the right thing. It wasn’t an emotional decision but a purely logical one. In fact all emotions had left my body completely.
I was at my lowest, struggling with PTSD induced depression and anxiety. By all rights I should have been happy. I had money. I had a loving partner and family. I had a job where I was well respected. However what I didn’t have was balance. I didn’t have satisfaction with my life. I was struggling just to keep my head afloat in day to day life. I’d flip flop between extreme lethargy, apathy and hopelessness to desperate anxiety, mania and restlessness day by day, even hour by hour sometimes.
We were preparing to go to a wedding party. My partner was dashing around packing; my mother downstairs watching the dog for us. I was sat on the floor in a quiet room hugging my knees and trying just to focus on the sound of the wall clock ticking. That constant regular, reliable sound. No judgment. No expectations. Just tick then tock, tick then tock, tick then tock.
It was obvious really. I was a burden. I must have been horrid to be around. I must have made everyone around me miserable. If I wasn’t there they would be better off. If it looked like it might be an accident they might even get some life insurance and my death at least would have some positive impact for them. A last gift so to speak.
Decision made it was not fear I felt but relief. I felt peace for the first time in months. I went upstairs and dressed. Put on a nice shirt, nice proper shoes and a squirt of my favourite aftershave. It felt like an occasion I should dress up for.
I told my mother I was going to pick up a parcel, grabbed my wallet so they could ID the body and stepped out into the rain.
As I walked along the street towards the waterfall I was going to plunge from I stumbled and tripped. I fell to my hands and knees. Stupid idiot, can’t even walk. A hand appeared in front of my face.
“Up you get. Well fall sometimes. Happens to the best of us” the cheerful stranger quipped as he continued on his way.
That statement was enough to break my internal monologue, enough to make me doubt my actions, enough to save my life.
Needless to say since you’re reading this I didn’t go through with it and I owe my life to that stranger. Mental health issues continue to increase in number and suicide is one of the top killers amongst young men today. The taboo hasn’t changed though. Mental illness is still often thought of as a choice rather than a physical illness, particularly among men.
“Suck it up.”
“Happiness is a choice”
“Don’t be so pathetic/such a wuss/such a girl”
Phrases that many men say to each other often in jest when someone seems down or out of sorts. Many men mean well but don’t realize the damage these words can often do. Imagine getting one of those responses from your friend that you’d finally plucked up the courage to speak to them about your feelings and you were near breaking point. Would that make you feel better or worse? Words like this could be enough to push them over the edge. I’m not saying friendly banter doesn’t have its place, I’m not saying you nee to “get in touch with your feminine side” but maybe add a word or two of support or compassion to your jest. It might just save a life.
Imagine that stranger had instead told me to “Man up”. I can guarantee I wouldn’t be writing this as a result. Those words would simply have confirmed to me that I was as pathetic and worthless as I felt I was. It would have probably just made me walk faster to my doom.
Instead that hand of help and simple words of encouragement were enough to save me. Enough to lift me up with a little ray of hope. Those simple friendly words validated my existence, validated that I existed and was no worse than anyone else.
That stranger may never know that he saved my life that day. I wasn’t walking down the street that day with a sign that read “Off to kill myself”. I wasn’t humming a funeral durge. I was just a bloke who’d tripped and fallen. People struggling with mental illness aren’t constantly crying or jabbering. Many people look normal and are very high functioning, able to hold down a job and “normal” life whilst at the same time are fighting a storm of emotions inside.
I was lucky enough to meet my guardian stranger that day and since then I’ve tried my best just to acknowledge every person I see. A simple hello, a nod of the head, a comment on the weather or admiration of something they are wearing. I try my best to repay that favor and validate everyone around me’s existence. Who knows one of them might also have been making their last emotionless walk and my simple words might be enough to break their cycle of despair.
We can all save a life every day, whether we realize or not, just by being a little friendlier to those strangers around us. By being a bit less hard faced and being a bit more compassionate. By not letting manly banter get in the way of compassion and support.
How many lives could you have saved today and how many could your “man up” have cost?
Read more about Leo’s past traumas and lessons learned in his autobiography “Reliving the Past to Release the Present” available on Amazon on both Kindle and Paperback.
About the Author
Dr Leo Lafferty-Whyte grew up in the North East of Scotland in the 80’s and 90’s. As a young gay man in a small fishing village he suffered mental and physical abuse on a daily basis. He used his past traumas to fuel his hunger for self improvement and adopted the life goal of leaving the world a better place than when he entered it.
After several years experience and receiving his life coaching accreditation Leo launched Triple ‘H’ Coaching in 2016 and the Triple H Coaching mobile app in the same year. By providing videos and exercises for free in the app Leo aimed to ensure that life coaching was available to everyone without the often high barrier of fees.
As well as multiple scientific publications Leo’s autobiographical/self-help book hit the top 10 ranking in kindle LGBT true Life stories shortly after publication. Leo is currently working on his second book where he will share his life coaching methodologies alongside his own success story in applying them (expected publication in the first half of 2018).
With a PhD in Molecular Oncology as well as an experienced accredited Life Coach Leo brings an unusual mix of scientific and motivational tones to his work alongside an often humourous and captivating voice.