Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that life expectancy in the United States declined for the third straight year. There were 69,255 more deaths in 2017 than in 2016. New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “The last time the American mortality rate fell for three straight years was 1915-1918, during World War I and the flu pandemic, which took 675,000 American lives.”
In an interview, Brooks noted that people are dying from diseases of despair, such as liver disease, opioid use and suicide. I felt incredibly sad upon hearing this. Life expectancy should not be decreasing in this affluent nation which is enjoying a thriving economy. But despair occurs at all income levels.
I understand despair; I lived with mental illness for more than 20 years. I am a suicide attempt survivor. Perhaps my story will alleviate the suffering of someone reading this. Burdens shared are lighter to carry.
How I stayed alive and eventually came to occupy the life I have now:
- I got help.
- I kept trying.
- I took risks.
- I learned to be patient.
- I stopped nurturing my problems and started trying out solutions.
- I acted like there would be a tomorrow, even if I felt like I would not live past today.
You don’t have to live with alone with your despair.