Monday, October 28, 2019

Keep Yourself Alive

I have to admit, as movies go, I love a music biography.

Sure they take some liberties with the stories, but overall these make for great cinema. And I’m a sucker for a good redemption story. Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Ray Charles in Ray. Elton John in Rocket Man.

But today I wanted to talk about a song from the movie Bohemian Rhapsody about Freddy Mercury and Queen. It was one of their first hits and features at the beginning of the movie.

Keep yourself alive.

It’s sort of become my goto song this year. I play it on my phone when I’m struggling to get through 20 minutes on the treadmill.

‘Keep yourself alive’

In this instance it means, you’re getting old dude, and the choices you make all have consequences. Now get on that treadmill and finish the job. Exercise might save your life. 

But I’ve also thought about it with my clients, many of whom are literally fighting to find a reason to keep going. Often a person considering suicide doesn’t want a whole lot of advice about mental health or managing anxiety or whatever. They are just looking for one reason. Sometimes just one. And it’s your job to try and find this. Instill some hope. Find something worth sticking around for.

Keep yourself alive’

And yes, in one instance I even helped put this song on someone’s phone (yea for pirating.) It’s sort of become our thing. We play this song when life feels like it’s not going anywhere, and find that one reason to keep going. 

And sometimes things do get really dark for people. Sure you’d like to be that therapist who dazzles a client with advice about beating depression or how things pass or how suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. 

But that’s not always the move. Someone in a dark place doesn’t always want to hear that stuff. They’ve probably already thought about these things and then feel guilty for feeling suicidal. It’s important to meet people where they’re at. Sometimes you need to empathize with the fact that life in that moment has lost all of its light. And sometimes one person, just one person, being able to listen to their story without judgement is itself quite therapeutic. Support comes with many faces. Sometimes it’s just listening. Often it’s just listening.

And in being this person for someone else, the most amazing thing happens. You keep YOURself alive. The single best antidote to feeling worthless, useless, and hopeless, is to be that person for someone else. It sounds counterintuitive, but I have almost never met a depressed person who didn’t have that kindness or compassion towards others, that they were often unable to give to themselves. As Robin Williams said, “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”


So for anyone reading who finds themselves struggling to find their hope, please, just for today at least, keep yourself alive. Listen to some music. Eat your favorite food. Watch a silly movie.

And no, I’m not just some pompous psychologist dishing out simple advice. I’m talking like this because sometimes it’s been a struggle for me as well. We all need to dig for our reasons to keep going once in a while. But things do change. They do pass. Again, I’m speaking from personal experience.  Think of all the mornings you didn’t think you could get out of bed to face another day. How many financial worries that have come and gone. All the bad holidays. All the long winters.

You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for.

Now keep yourself alive.