How These 3 Quotes From the BBC's ‘Sherlock’ Saved My Life From Suicide


Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

“Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.”

I didn’t realize just how much I needed to hear those words, sitting alone in the living room that day. I couldn’t have predicted that even though they were offered from one fictional character to another, they would somehow feel like they were spoken to me, for me. When Sherlock Holmes of the BBC’s eponymous television show, “Sherlock,” spoke those words to a suicidal stranger whom he quickly befriended, I felt as though he was speaking them to me.

I didn’t know why, but all of a sudden something shifted in me. I began to cry with relief as those words washed over me. If it hadn’t been for those words, I may not have gotten help when I needed it most, and may not have been here today.

I didn’t know, then — that day last spring when I was visiting home between ending a two-year job and returning to school for a master’s degree — that I was depressed. I didn’t realize I was suicidal. If you had asked me whether I thought I was, I would probably tell you no. But I was, and it’s only in looking back on that moment of hearing Sherlock’s words urging a stranger not to take her life that I can see just how desperate I was, just how tired, sad, depressed, angry and, yes, suicidal, I was.

I knew I was going through a rough time — I had just spent the last two years of my post-college life working in an incredibly hard, overdemanding, unhealthy environment and that, coupled with family problems, was hitting me hard — but I had always been able to push through hard times like these. I was no stranger to struggling, sadness and loss; I’d gone through really hard things before (including foster care, dealing with family members’ mental illness, losing friends and family members I loved, and growing up in an emotionally abusive environment). Somehow, I’d always overcome whatever I was going through. I had always found a way to remain positive, to find joy and meaning, to make something of my life. Despite all the challenges I’d faced, I was one of the rare one percent of foster youth who graduated from college. I had a future. I had dreams I was accomplishing. This was just another season of struggle in my life, and I would get through it.

I had no idea that this time of struggle would be different — that I simply couldn’t just “get over it” this time. I didn’t know that, in a month, I would find myself in a therapist’s office, sad and scared, ashamed and guilt-ridden because this crushing sadness and heart-pounding anxiety simply weren’t going away. And the suicidal thoughts had become more frequent. I didn’t know that, this time, I would find myself at the lowest point I’d ever been and I would need someone to climb down into the dark hole I’d fallen into and help me find a way out.

As I began getting help for what I now know are anxiety and depression, the last season of “Sherlock” — and, in particular, three quotes from various episodes in that season — kept me going. The words of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes reminded me that my life had value and I wasn’t alone in this battle. They brought me hope in the midst of such utter darkness, and they continue to encourage me as I get better.

The first quote is the one I mentioned above.

1. Sherlock: “Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.”

In a time when I was overwhelmed with heavy, desperate feelings, those words made feel like someone cared, someone wanted me to stay alive.

2. The next quote comes from an exchange that Sherlock and Watson have after Watson shares a mistake he made that has ridden him with guilt ever since.

Sherlock: “It’s OK.”
Watson: “It’s not OK.”
Sherlock: “No… but it is what it is.”

It is what it is. Whenever I have a bad day and depression and anxiety make it hard to accomplish what I need to get done, I think of these words. It’s not OK that some days I can’t get off my couch. It’s not OK that I go through weeks where it feels like I have to battle for every breath. It’s not OK that sometimes, I don’t have the energy to get out of bed, do the dishes, make food to eat. But it is what it is. I didn’t choose to feel this way, and I’m not weak or broken for having these struggles. Instead, I can be compassionate with myself. Sometimes, this is just how it is. But it will get better.

3. Sherlock: “It’s not a pleasant thought, John, but I have this terrible feeling from time to time that we might all just be human.”

This last quote is another one between Sherlock and Watson. Here, he reminds his friend that we all struggle, we all make mistakes, and it’s OK that we’re not perfect. This is something I need to remind myself over and over again. My anxiety makes me feel like I should be perfect, and when I’m not, that’s when the depression kicks in. The more understanding and compassionate I can be with my human self, the less upset I’ll be when I inevitably fall short of my own very high demands of myself.

These three quotes from “Sherlock” continue to keep me going, acting as mantras on the days when I need all the help I can get to fight back the lies of anxiety and depression. The hope and self-compassion they bring me are a gift, and the fact that they came to me in such an unexpected way reminds me that hope is out there, even where we least expect it.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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