Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
The best way I can think of to prevent suicide is to be open with myself and those around me how close I’ve come. To destigmatize the pressures and conditions that have pushed me up to that edge. To help others know they aren’t alone.
Five years ago, I was unemployed, in a crumbling, abusive marriage, and convinced that the only worth I had in this world was the value of my life insurance policy. I had a date. I had a plan. The therapist I was seeing and the medication I was taking chipped away at the despair enough to see some faint glimmer of hope. I started to talk about what I was going through. First with my therapist, then slowly with family and an increasing circle of friends.
I often think of the night I researched that life insurance policy to be sure that it would pay out even if they suspected suicide as my lowest point. Maybe it even was, but it was hardly the end of my troubles.
Through the divorce, through the nights learning to sleep alone, through the realization that the life I was living was one that I hadn’t chosen and that I needed a new one, that I had to get away and start over on my own terms, on my own feet … all through my personal destruction and rebuilding, that voice has come up again and again.
In the last five years I have seen and done things and met people I couldn’t have imagined back then. The man I was then would not recognize the one who is typing this right now. I have circled a mountain, I’ve made art that I’m proud of, I’ve touched the lives of strangers, I’ve comforted people I love, I’ve fell in love a time or three, I’ve lost so much more weight than the 100 pounds I shed … and still that voice says, “I can’t keep this up. I’ve run far enough. This is far enough. I’m done.”
Whenever I hear that voice, I remind myself of all the things I’ve experienced since I came so close. I see the people I love. I feel that love. I feel how much I have for you and I remind myself how good it feels to express that love.
This isn’t because of some fear of hurting you or feeling guilt at their disappointment. The despair that fueled that near-miss, that despair that I stave off and stay on guard against, was like being an animal in a trap. The feelings of those I love couldn’t be my salvation because I couldn’t be inside my own skin for a second longer. The consequences of being freed from that trap didn’t matter. I couldn’t take another breath without feeling freedom. And that’s what suicide feels like when you’re in that hole: Freedom.
I picture the people I love because I need something inside myself to keep me moving. No one can save me. I have to save myself. And I do it by loving you.
Perhaps that’s codependent of me, but it works. I pull myself up with my service to others. With my desire to help. With my need to leave this world just a touch better than I found it.
My method may not be yours, but if you’re in despair, you’re not alone. If you feel like you can’t take another step, I promise that you can. You might need help to make it, but you can make it. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help because the person that helps you might be like me. You might be saving them, too.
You have worth. Your love has weight and substance. And we need it just as much as you need ours.