The topic of suicide has come up a lot lately. A couple of years ago, when I started writing, I told myself I wouldn’t write about it. I decided it was something best laid to rest. I never wanted to revisit it. I had attempted it numerous times. Why should I be ashamed of it? There is a shame, guilt and sadness attached to it. It’s not easy to recover from it and it’s no longer my reality. However, I recently had a change of heart and decided to share a little bit on it. It’s not easy to write about it either.
In the many years I suffered from major depressive disorder, there were times when I had happy and upbeat moments but they didn’t last long. I would sink back into the reality of why I became depressed in the first place. It seemed to be a never ending spiral. I did attempt to hide my depression and PTSD from my children. I didn’t want them to have this bleak view of life. There were many good things in life to be grateful for, and I wanted them to see the bright side of life. However, they struggled just as I did to reach those bright days. On numerous occasions, I sank into very dark thoughts and in my despair just wanted to die. I would call a suicide hotline and they’d tell me all the reasons I had to live for. It sort of angered me to tell me to think of my husband or my kids or my family and friends. What if I didn’t have those people to live for, who would I live for then? I know this may sound dark, but if I were alone, would it be okay to go ahead with and suicide? Many people think it’s selfish for a person to take their life, but what if it’s selfish to ask this person to live in their dark despair? They wouldn’t want to if these other people were able to lift them up!
I could never presume to know what someone is going through in their darkest hours, that would make them want to give up because I know it’s different for each person. I do know that it’s a dark space, more like a hole that’s covered in dirt, it’s like being buried alive. There is no tunnel with a light at the end. Who would want to go there? Not many people will dare to tread the darkness searching for light. When I was in this state, I was very lost and alone. I didn’t think my wanting to die or my death would be a selfish act. I thought it would be a great relief. I thought it was an act of love and mercy for those alive if they didn’t have to see me living in this state of living death.
I really didn’t think of the pain I would cause others if I had succeeded, yet I know now, they’d be living in this perpetual state of depression and sadness. It takes a long time for someone to come out of this state though. Medication can help but sometimes it only causes it to linger longer. In my case, it wasn’t just depression but extreme anxiety that I wanted to escape from plus the memories I kept reliving. I hated having flashbacks and just wanted them to stop. I now see that the memories were there to help me heal. Anytime, a painful memory comes up, it’s only service is to heal, ultimatly to set me free, not to shame, guilt or hurt anyone. The more I resisted these memories, didn’t face the feelings, or allow myself to grieve, get angry, or whatever, the more they persisted.
It’s not exactly something to go through alone either. It required the assistance of a therapist, counselor, understanding friends and family. It took a lot of people to walk through the valley of the shadow of death in order to get me through the other side. It takes the person who is in the light, who has hope, who knows life is worth the struggle and worth living to keep you going. It takes a lot of strength and courage to keep going when you just want to give up.
People with mental illness are not weak, they are the strongest people alive because they live with these images, voices, memories, hallucinations, and extreme emotions, yet continue anyway. They hold on to their humanity, keep breathing, keep reaching for the light, keep trying over and over again despite what life throws at them. They are a beautiful and loving reminder that people are strong, yet they are also fragile, that everyone is important, everyone has a purpose, everyone brings meaning into this world, and to treat each one with kindness.
We all have a breaking point, which is why it’s important to love yourself. If I’m tired, I rest. If I’m sleepy, I go to sleep. If I’m bored, find something fun to do. If I’m hungry, I eat. If I need to talk, find someone to listen. If I need a hug, ask someone for one. Balance my life with work, rest, and play! If I’m working and not laughing enough, find the joy. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, it’s imperative to ask for help and not try to be the lone ranger. Life is meant to be lived in community with others. When the dark clouds descends at times, it helps to have someone who is above them.
Life is worth living and it is beautiful. Look at all of nature, it is a symbol of life, breath, and renewal despite the changing seasons and what appears to be chaos at times. I take in the breath of life each day. I allow myself to breathe deeply knowing that whatever is going on, it will pass. The seasons change. Engage in life mindfully. Be in the moment. Do things that brings joy. Just breathe.