the downside of giving up on yourself

Several years ago I used to live in Cincinnati, OH. At the time I was working as a computer programmer and was just starting to get my feet wet in the local hip-hop scene.  There were some one-of-a-kind characters in the hip-hop scene then, and while most of them never made it out of the Cincinnati hip-hop scene, they contributed in a big way to what made the scene special at that time.  There was a weekly hip-hop night at Topcats that was the spot that pretty much the entire scene congregated to back then, and battling was how you earned your stripes and respect, so I was there pretty much every Wednesday night.  I didn’t battle as often as other cats but I definitely did my part to hold it down.

Well, one of the cats that was the most popular was a cat named Unseen.  Unseen was from Dayton but moved to Cincy right around the time i moved there and was a part of the crew that hosted the night, the Animal Crackers.  He would host the battles and battle pretty frequently, especially when new heads would come there from out of town and think they could run thru everybody; it was customary for one of the regulars to show them what time it was.  At any rate, Unseen was a great host and a pretty dope rapper that pretty much everybody loved.  He was a sweetheart that as far as I could tell was probably incapable of having enemies.

Unfortunately, Unseen was a troubled kid.  His problems with drugs and depression were well known among those that knew him, but he always seemed to manage it and keep his head up.  There would be periods where you saw him all the time for several months, and then he would kind of disappear for a couple months.  But he was such an honest and good-hearted dude that you would always be happy to see him again.

Well, in 2006 while I was on the road I got word that in Unseen had died.  I remember it feeling kind of fake, like most deaths do when you first hear them, particularly because dude had disappeared many times but always managed to come back.  Then after you accepted he was gone, I think most people assumed it was from drug related overdose.  At least I thought as much.  Then I remember talking to a mutual friend on the phone and they told me that Unseen hadn’t died of an overdose, he had actually committed suicide.

It kind of blew my mind at first but then I remember saying something like “damn well, i guess if he wasn’t happy here, that’s his choice i guess.” My friend, on the other hand, wasn’t as forgiving about it and said “no fuck that. i’m pissed. he’s a coward for that. he’s got a kid”

It kind of fucked me up then.

See, back then my perspective on suicide was way different.  I felt like if somebody wanted to end a life that they consider to be not worth living then that’s their right, and who am I to stop them?  I felt like it was silly how people saved people from Jumping off bridges and buildings, and that in many instances the people doing the saving are doing it more for their self-interest and need to become a hero than the interest of the person being saved.  This was the first time that my philosphy was challenged and it kind of fucked me up, because for the first time I had to admit that there’s a real downside to giving up on yourself that’s often overlooked, and maybe my view was shortsighted.

Once I took a step back and admitted that Unseen’s suicide wasn’t just about him, i then had to admit that while committing suicide seems like an act that only hurts the person doing it, the damage is just as bad if not worse to those left behind, with nothing but unanswered questions and pain in their hearts.  In this case, a daughter without a father, but it’s different for every case.

The problem is that while you may give up on yourself, the people around you haven’t, and because they haven’t given up on you, they will automatically be brought along to the depths of your depression and self-destruction.

I remember thinking this in 2006 but kind of putting it to the back of my mind, as I hadn’t really encountered anything like it until recently.

One of the scariest thoughts when I was drinking and driving home drunk, wasn’t the thought of getting caught for a DUI or going to jail.  At the time i had assessed the risk, and was ok with the consequences.  The scariest thought for me was having to tell my mother about it, and have her throw herself at the situation to fix it, even if i didn’t want any help or felt like I didn’t need any help.  That was the scariest thought, because at that point it’s beyond your control.  You may have given up, but your loved ones haven’t.

The whole thing made me realize that giving up on yourself isn’t just about giving up on your dreams, ambitions, and your potential to do something great with your life; it’s really about shitting on the love and investment that others have made into those dreams and ambitions, and in that way it seems to be way more selfish that I originally thought.

That situation was far from my last reminder of this reality.  This past spring my older brother suffered a stroke, and has been living with me the past couple months.  I try not to speak about it too much because as anybody who has a sick or disabled loved one in their family knows, it’s a very trying situation that requires sacrifice on everybody’s part.  To that effect, me and my family are still knee-deep in picking up the pieces.  But I only mention this up to bring up a conversation that me and my brother had shortly after he suffered the stroke in which he said something to the effect of “i was doing fine on my own” and my reply was “No you weren’t. if you were then I wouldn’t be here right now. you need to understand that whether you choose it or not, we’re a part of this now because we’re your family and we’re who the hospital calls when this happens”

My brother later admitted to neglecting his health and medicine because he was depressed about other things going on in his life.  I don’t know if he had given up or not, but by his own admission he certainly hadn’t done the things he was supposed to do about his health–things that fall under the umbrella of “giving a fuck”.   When he admitted this to me, the first thing I thought about was Unseen, and his child that will never see her father again.  How they had both given up at some point, even if it was just a momentary weakness, and failed to understand that just because you’ve given up on yourself–others around you haven’t, and you can’t make your loved ones let go of you just because you’ve let go of you.

It’s the price of admission for the love we receive.

And truthfully, that’s how it should be.  Think of the heights we soar when the winds of our family and friends is beneath our wings.  Think about how much we can accomplish when we know people expect excellence from us.  Think about how just knowing somebody cares about them is enough to give a sick person a reason to fight for their life.  It’s amazing, and should never be taken lightly.

Just something to think about the next time you’re thinking about giving up.  I know I will.

Thank you for letting me share.

Word is blog

(NOTE: I have since learned from talking to Unseen’s mother that he in fact does not have a child.  my apologies for the confusion.  I was told this by a person that was a good friend of his and assumed it to be true.  I did not mean to be disrespectful about Unseen or hurt his loved ones.)

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  • King Shinobi

    That was very poignant & hit very close to home. thank you brother!

  • LpK

    A pleasure to read, per usual. Strikes a deep, positive chord. I hope you decide to pen that book someday. Keep writing.

  • Anonymous

    thanks for reading!

  • Anonymous

    thanks for the kind words!

  • Wow.

  • snafubar

    Thanks for sharing and giving me a boost.

  • Adjust614

    thank you.

  • Jennifer

    Lovely, intelligent writing.  My grandmother committed suicide and I have watched my mother suffer her entire life because of it.  Nothing I could ever do will help her fill the void.

  • Dwight2685

    Its a shame to see people go out like that. Hopefully after reading your post more people will realize how it affects more than just an individual. Good stuff print.

  • DugCrates

    Wow Printmatic! I love this story. It hits home, unfortunately. My dad always tells me, “You are the result of the choices you make.” Thank you for sharing.

  • bg

    Wow print, powerful words, especially love the “it’s really about shitting on the love and investment that others have made into those dreams and ambitions” part.

  • bg

    Also, best wishes to you and your brother.

  • Anonymous

    thank you!

  • Deanna

    wow. Thank you for writing this. I’ve dealt with depression for much of my life & while I never agreed, and still don’t, with the whole “cowardly act” aspect of suicide. I’ve never really thought of it this way. I can tell you next time I want to crawl into that hole one thing I’ll try to remember is that “though I may have given up on myself, my friends & loved ones haven’t”. New way of phrasing a pretty basic concept that just hadn’t occurred to me before. 

    “It’s the price of admission for the love we recieve”… damn man.

  • Shepardpamela

    That was beautifully put. Me and your nieces love you and hope to see you soon.wish i could say more but am too moved rite now.

  • Anonymous

    thanks big sis!

  • Jordan Sanders

    damn, good shit. I too recently acquired your mindstate towards suicide with the loss of a friend. mentally depressed, the thoughts lingered there for awhile, since i was a child. but i think your friend was right, you’re a coward if you commit to it.

    praying for you and your brother.

  • Trez

    This is truly some of the most honest writing about this subject that I have ever read!  I’ve suffered from depression for a long time and finally had the courage to do something about it a year or so ago.  It’s a lot to try and correct your train of thought and pushing to realize that all of the abuse that one puts themself through is not right.  It’s crazy to think that it’s a comfort zone, but it really is.  There are so many cliches about struggles and reasons to keep going on; I think anyone who reads this who is headed down that path will be inspired.  Thank you for making me feel like what I’ve been doing for myself is the right thing and that people are proud of those accomplishments.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment. I dealt with depression myself for a few years and know what you mean. Stay strong.

  • Unibrow Chic

    Ok, this is old, but I was surfing around about Unseen, since I caught clips of and appreciated his talent. Then I happened upon this article, and clicked it, hoping to learn a bit about his biography. I didn’t expect to get struck by a sensitive topic. I got blindsided and maybe because I’m so sleep deprived, a bit shaken. I’ll try to be concise: I lost two family members to suicide withing the past 6 months. A friend came close a couple of years ago. A cousin left us when I was in high school. Another (more casual) friend, a few years ago. I’ve been impacted by the thing.

    Never once did it cross my mind to call any of them ‘selfish’. I see that as a kind of angry expletive, akin to the anger involved in any grieving. Only in this case, given that the immediate ’cause’ (here enters the fallacy – mistaking the antecedent action for the causative impetus) of death was the dead’s own hands, blaming becomes a ready option. The human mind always wants to blame someone, or some thing, for its troubles. The impulse drives science. Before science, supernatural causes were evoked. “Why”, had to be answered. Antecedent events/behaviors are the natural first place to look.

    Not all suicides trace back to a clear-cut ‘mental illness’, but I’ll stick to that tract since science knows a bit about it. Firstly, mental illness is real. Neurology confirms this truth solidly. Mental illness effects thought patterns. Your reasoning will never be ‘their’ reasoning (as if thinking and reasoning are the same, which they are not).

    Globally, 90% of those who commit suicide
    had a psychiatric diagnosis at the time of death. Certain disorders clearly jump out as strong risk factors (bipolar type 2, schizophrenia, bipolar type 1, major depressive disorder, borderline/personality disorder(s), anxiety disorders…. those involving states of hypomanic agitation are the worst. Substance abuse, common in mood disorders, compounds the risk considerably. So does age. Suicidality increases linearly as humans age.

    When I lost people I loved, I felt grief, sadness, disorientation, and yes, anger. I understand what is meant by, ‘felt like I got kicked in the chest’. It’s an apt saying. The anger I felt wasn’t towards the person. Ever. But towards life. Towards the Monster that took them away. In stalks my family. It hunts us. It nearly took one of closest friends. I remember when I heard the desperation in his voice…the panic I felt…the rage… “No Fing WAY!” Ithought to myself. “You are NOT going to take this one away – I won’t let you!”… and I poured myself into being the best friend I could possibly be to this guy for months.

    I think of it like an enemy. Whatever be the cause. Biological, metaphysical, you name it. I hate it, with a passion beyond any hatred I’ve ever felt for any man. It hit me so hard, listening to my friend, it brought me to tears. I walked the streets for 2 hours, talking to him on the phone, hiding my face from humanity. Life breaks people in a thousand ways. Storms. Diseases. Tragedies. You name it. Life is not our friend, any more than a tornado is friends with the people it hurls into buildings. I don’t understand it, but it’s not our doing.

    Life is a war that we all fight together. We might not know it, but we’re all on the same team, ultimately. All in the same burning boat on the same heartless sea. When a man goes down, we step up and fill the gap, as we are able. Over and over and over…. Selfishness, is getting mad at the fallen for making your job harder – as if man invented hardness, or the cruel indifference of nature. Selfishness, is bringing a child into this world in the first place, and then demanding he persist, no matter what, for the sake of other blind wanderers.

    Everything that everybody does, is selfish. Being so upset about a suicide that you insult him after his death, serves no purpose other than to express/inflame one’s own hurt. It’s as logical and helpful as blaming unseen evil spirits. It DEFINITELY does not deter a suicidal person from acting. Any expert can tell you this. All it does is compound the shame, self loathing, and (this is statistically critical) the feeling of isolation/rejection.

    I’ll just pick now to shut up. I don’t mean to harsh on you, but I got a flash of the kick to the chest when I read this post, and I responded emotionally. I hope also intellectually, in a manner somehow informative and helpful. If I don’t do that, I fail. It’s all about the tribe, dude.

    Be well.

  • Unibrow Chic

    Thanks for letting me spew here. And again, I hope I wasn’t too harsh. But it’s hard not to respond emotionally, being human and all. I’m glad you were able to get a handle on your own depression. That’s always good news to me. The enemy is fallible. Good guys CAN win.

    And thank you for all the wonderful music you create. Music is one of the few things that reliably stoke my hope; and I didn’t just find ‘some guy’s’ blog – I know your work, and I’m a fan. Sincerely. Thank you for bringing joy into my world. It means a great deal to me. Guys like you are a gift to us all.

    Please continue being awesome.