Content Warning: This post speaks candidly of suicide and suicidal ideations.
The purpose of this post is to raise awareness for National Suicide Prevention Week. Know the signs. Be involved. Be a safe place. Go to the NSPW website to learn more.
I. The Wound.
Two years ago, I was sitting alone on the floor of my closet at 2 in the morning with the cold, metallic heft of release resting in my lap. I can still remember what it felt like. It was heavy and awkward in my clammy hands as my fingers traced the letters etched into the slide:
It wasn’t the first time in my life I’d been down this road, but it was definitely the farthest I’d ever ventured down it. There had been thoughts in the past, even some rough plans, but never this detailed. I was ready, except I hadn’t written a note.
I’ve struggled with depression my whole life. I self-medicated with whatever I could – adrenaline, food, a little pot, more than a little alcohol and a lot of prescription drugs. But you probably never would’ve known. My family and friends didn’t know while I was growing up. I was an athlete, an honor student, a musician. I was involved in church. I had some genuinely great friends. On the outside I looked like the kid that had it all together, while on the inside, I was fighting just to hold on.
And so the charade continued.
Two years ago, I was “successful.” Two years ago I was “happy.” Two years ago, I had a good job and a wonderful family and all of those things that let us know that we’ve made it.
But I was broken. The birth of our second son marked the break in the walls of compartmentalization I had so carefully and painstakingly built, and years of repressed psychological and emotional damage came flooding in. I was out of control. I needed to regain control, and this, I reasoned, was one way to do it.
But I still needed to write a note.
I sat contemplating how to frame the end of my story, trying to find the words to make sure my wife didn’t blame herself, as my thumb involuntarily stroked the safety. How could I make her understand, make them all understand that it would be better this way, that they would be better off this way?
But I waited too long. My oldest son cried out in his sleep with a night terror. Instinct took over, and before I knew what I was doing, the gun was back in the safe and the boy was in my arms, body racked with sobs of terror and tears streaming down his face.
At some point, I’m not sure when, I realized that he’d stopped crying, and that the sobs were mine.
The tears were mine.
Some day I’ll tell him that he saved my life. Some day I’ll tell him that his tiny hand on my face that night was the first thing I’d really felt in almost a decade. Some day I’ll tell him that it was at that moment in his bedroom in the middle of the night that I realized there was a different way to take control.
I started thinking about a new note, one to reach out for help instead of offering premature goodbyes.
II. To the Wounded
You think that you don’t matter. You think you’re invisible. You think you’re alone, that your life has no value. You think that not being alive is better than being in whatever hellish reality you’re living in. You need to control something, and you think this is the only way to do it.
But you do matter. Maybe you don’t have a two year old with impeccable timing to let you know that you matter, so this is me telling you that you do. You matter to you. You matter to people around you that you don’t even realize. You matter to me because I see you on the same road that I was on, and this is me going right back down that road to get you.
This is me opening doors that I’ve never dared to open publicly because the fact that you’re reading this means maybe you’re looking for a reason not to and I’m telling you that this is it. This is me, jumping up and down, waving my arms and screaming that I see you, that you’re not alone, that your life has value. This is me telling you all of the things that I wish someone would have told me when I started down that road. It is worth it. You’re worth it. You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.
If you close the book now, when the drama in the story is at its most fevered and the pain most intense, you’ll never know how the hero of your story would’ve turned out.
Your story matters, and it’s worth finishing.
The world is full of people who’ve been to those dark places but who came out the other side and discovered a better way to take control: by re-writing their own stories.
Reaching out for help was one of the hardest, most painful things that I’ve ever done. Healing is ugly and it’s messy and it takes a long time and there will always be scars, but what matters is that our stories go on. My story could have ended with a widow wondering what she possibly could have done and two boys growing up wondering why their dad left them alone, but instead, it’s still being written. The pages are dog-eared and highlihgted with words and lines and whole paragraphs crossed out in some places, but in spite of all the edits, it’s a story that’s worth finishing.
And so is yours.
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid.” – Frederick Buechner
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline has trained counselors available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you don’t want to talk to a stranger, reach out to a family member or a friend. Talk to a pastor or priest. Talk to someone, anyone. If you’re tooo scared or embarrassed to talk to anyone else, you can talk to me. You can @ me or DM me on twitter @lukeharms or email me at luke (dot) a (dot) harms (at) gmail (dot) com. Take control by reaching out and deciding to heal.