Last Friday, I shared a post on Facebook about a man who was missing. His wife was concerned because he had been depressed and had left without saying anything to her. This morning, I learned that his body was found in a park near his home. It appears that he committed suicide, leaving behind a grieving wife and children.
I will start by saying that I never knew him nor do I know his family or friends. He was a stranger to me. His death could be just another story that I glance at and scroll on by. But it isn't.
His death hits me hard because it could have been me.
Just writing that last sentence gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. But I share it because it's true.
Ready for some more truth?
I think about suicide often. More specifically, I find myself so overwhelmed by everything in my life that I find myself imagining a way to make it all stop. I just want everything and everyone to go away, to stop asking and needing and demanding things from me. Everyone's individual request seems minor to them, but piled one on top of another, it gets to be too much.
Add to that my own unrealistic expectations. I'm in a documentary about weight loss and fitness, so I'm a failure if I gain weight or skip a run. I'm a founding member of a non-profit, so I'm a failure if I can't find a way to help everyone in need. I'm nearly fifty years old, so I'm a failure if I'm not financially secure at this age. On and on the list goes, a litany of all that is wrong and terrible about myself.
When that happens, my mind goes to dark places. Instead of thinking logically and prioritizing the things I can and cannot do, I respond emotionally with an all-or-nothing mindset. And since I can't do everything, I immediately feel like a failure. And right behind that, my desire to escape it all.
Be clear. When I say, "I think about suicide often," I'm not saying that I consciously work out a plan to kill myself. It's more a passing thought, like, "damn it, enough already." But it's still something that concerns me.
Cognitively, I know everything that I should.
- Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
- I'm not alone in dealing with anything in my life.
- I am loved and appreciated.
- My death would cause terrible harm to those I love the most.
- I don't want to die. There is so much more I want to experience.
But knowing something in my mind doesn't change how I sometimes feel in my heart. And all of my life, I have struggled with that conflict. And quite likely, I will struggle with it for as long as I live.
So why am I sharing all of this now? Because there is great power and comfort in learning that we are not alone. Knowing that someone else struggles as we do, that someone else understands our pain and our fear, that can be enough to give us the strength to carry on.
I know that sharing this blog will upset some people. Am I really okay? Should my friends be worried that my thoughts may one day become my actions?
I'm fine. Not every moment, not every day. But in this life, I am fine. I am surrounded by more love and true friendship than my teenage self could have ever imagined possible. I have people I can call in times of crisis. I have resources to assist me should I find myself spiraling out of control. My plan so far? Surround myself with the very best people I can find and try to live up to them. And sometimes, that just means clinging to them when I don't have strength of my own.
I am okay. In fact, most days, I'm awesome. But if standing up and sharing my truth helps one other person find their own strength, fine. Here it is:
I am a happy person with a great life, and yet sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that I just want it all to stop. And in those moments, it would be easy for me to forget that my sorrow and pain are only temporary. Instead, I seek out the best in my life, the friends and other loved ones, who help me shake off that darkness and find my way again into the light. Instead of hiding away, I cling to those in my life who give me strength. And I survive.
When I read this back, I am sure that I will find a hundred things I wish I had written differently. But I'm not editing this. I'm not going to make it perfect or polished. I don't even know that it will make any sense. But there is one thing I know to say clearly:
The only thing worse than feeling overwhelmed is believing we are the only one feeling that way. If any of this sounds familiar to you, and you are struggling and feel lost and alone, there is help for you. There are anonymous hotlines that you can call. There are websites you can log into. There are friends and family begging for you to call.
And there is me. I get it. I've been there. And some days, I'm there still. So I know what you are going through. And I know what it takes to survive it.
You matter. You are loved. And we need you to stay.