yesterday i biked from my home in jamaica plain to the massachusetts medical society (mms) for a meeting, and then back to waltham center where I took the commuter rail home. with wrong turns, it was about 20 miles, much of it on sidewalks and up and down hills, in the oppressive 90 degree heat. i was almost hit by a car turning right once, at a low speed, but otherwise there were no incidents.
why would I bike so far on such a hot summer day? i needed to get to the mms and didn’t have another way there (of course I could have taken a bus or train, but let’s ignore that for a minute). my stubbornness and lack of common sense played a big role. but also, yesterday, I kicked off my new initiative, which I have entitled, 500 miles against suicide; 500 miles against fear.
my hypothesis is that fear, stigma, and suicide are intimately related. years of fears and internal negative emotions building up, along with social isolation, depression, and a lack of creative and faith-based outlets, are what drive many people to suicide. (if we take a freudian perspective, the root causes of suicide can go all the way back to infancy, but i’m not sure i’d go that far. i think recent environmental exposures in adult life have the biggest impact).
and suicide is an epidemic, don’t forget. it’s one of the leading causes of death in america.
suicide is what almost happened to me. i’m an emotional person, and in the context of multiple stressors at work, at home, and in american and international politics, i had suicidal ideation.
i was standing near the train tracks here in boston and this wave of emotion came up inside me. being so clear to suicide and death was awful. the darkness, the lack of hope, the physical and psychological pain. i was afraid, of many things, including being “mentally ill” and being judged as “crazy” by my physician colleagues. and ending the pain seemed like a real option, in the context of my isolation.
but no more. i’ve been feeling better and better for weeks. no more thoughts of suicide! if i can ride 500 miles on my bike against fear, stigma, and suicide, i’m confident it will be a step toward my own healing.
right now I’m in neck pain (spasmatic torticollis) because i was carrying a 15 pound backpack when i was cycling yesterday. but the pain is going down, and i’m ready for another day. will you join me in this work to end suicide and end fear? i’m not trying to raise money. i’m just trying to raise attention and end suicide.
what i’m going to do is keep track on this blog every day the people i met and the places i went, and whom i talked to in this quest to end suicide and end fear.
yesterday, i spoke with folks at a bike shop, the mms, and also the tap tap station cafe in waltham, about this initiative.
thanks! please leave a reply below if you like.
philip albert lederer m.d.
p.s. — RIP, Aretha Franklin