Your Story is Worth Finishing

by Luke

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.

Angel of grief

 

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:

9mm

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.

55 Responses to “Your Story is Worth Finishing”

  1. Ed September 11, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    My heart breaks for you in so many ways Luke. I’m so grateful that you wrote about this, and I pray that it gives to hope to many others.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      Thanks, Ed. I’m hoping and praying the same thing.

  2. Joanne Viola September 11, 2013 at 6:53 am #

    This is a post that is much needed. Thank you for sharing your heart so openly and so transparently. May it bring hope to many that are suffering in a dark place.
    Blessings,
    Joanne

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

      May it bring hope indeed. Thanks, Joanne.

  3. Lydia September 11, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    That share was heroic Luke! Our culture uses the word “hero” so loosely. You truly are a hero. Thank you for your courage and compassion!

  4. Heather September 11, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Thank you for sharing this. Depression is an isolating scary place.

  5. Megan at SortaCrunchy September 11, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Luke. My God, this is powerful. I don’t even have words for the depth of gratitude I feel for your heart and your soul and your spirit. Thank you thank you.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      I’ve said it before, but thank you, Megan. For everything.

  6. Tami Kirkpatrick September 11, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    you just helped a LOT of people! wow! this is a great post!!
    “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid.” – Frederick Buechner

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Tami, and I hope and pray that you’re right.

  7. Amanda Williams September 11, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Luke, I am so glad you wrote this. I am so proud and grateful and sobered. May so many who need to hear these words stumble upon this post today. And yes – You are loved, you are loved, *you* are loved.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      Thanks, Amanda. I know I am (now anwyay), which is a big reason why I was able to even write this in the first place. Love’s what makes stories like these possible at all, I think.

  8. Diana September 11, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    This is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever seen on the internet, anywhere. Thank you, thank you for putting your pain down in words. Thank you, thank you for encouraging others who are near the edge to remember they are loved. Thank you, thank you, Jesus, for the cry of that little boy and for the tears they cracked open. Thank you, thank you, Jesus, for trained, compassionate professionals and medications and biofeedback and behavioral modification and any other thing that humans, designed in your image – bearing your stamp! – have come up with to help those in pain. Thank you, Lord, for my brother, Luke.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

      Thanks for being you, Diana. :)

  9. Wendi September 11, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Words cannot even come close to expressing how amazing this was written and for you sharing…thank you

  10. Jennifer September 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Luke. Thank you.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

      Thank you, for always encouraging me to be honest.

  11. Leigh Kramer September 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    There are always scars, yes, but I’m so grateful we’ve both been able to continue living our stories out. So proud of you for sharing this, Luke. I hope more and more people will be able to talk honestly about this struggle and that we’ll be safe people for those who need them.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Yes! For people considering suicide or even people who have considered/attempted in the past, shame is a big part of the isolating process. Letting people know you’re a safe place is huge.

  12. amanda September 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    Thanks Luke. You are truly brave. I sent your article to a friend who is in the same place right now. Your words are God given and have power. Again, Thank You

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      As the rain and the snow
      come down from heaven,
      and do not return to it
      without watering the earth
      and making it bud and flourish,
      so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
      so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
      It will not return to me empty,
      but will accomplish what I desire
      and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
      You will go out in joy
      and be led forth in peace;
      the mountains and hills
      will burst into song before you,
      and all the trees of the field
      will clap their hands.

      Isaiah 55:11

      Lord, hear our prayer.

  13. Rea September 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Thank you for this. I’ve been in this place all too many times, still doubting that there is a story worth finishing even as I plug away at the deciding to heal. So days like today I need this.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

      The darkest moment of my life was transformed into a beacon of hope for countless people this week. You just never know how the story’s going to turn, which is why it’s always worth finishing. You are loved. You do deserve to heal and be whole. Oceans of peace and grace to you.

  14. Nancy Franson September 11, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Thank you. Just thank you.

  15. Matt September 11, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    This is a real sad issue that is to real! You are a inspiration to many Luke and I am glad that I didn’t have to know a world were I didn’t get to meet you! More people need to hear this message that is a reality in to many people’s lives. Thank you for sharing such a powerful message that took more guts and courage then I could ever explain and even fathom in my life.

  16. Daniel Garrett September 11, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Luke. Love your transparency. Such a powerful testimony and I pray it will move the hearts of those feeling hopeless. Reading this was like reading a modern version of Paul and Silas in prison. After being miraculously freed by God, the jailer, disillusioned and scared, was about to take his life too. Paul yelled out to him “brother you are loved by the greatest of lovers!!!” The jailer was saved, he and his whole household (Acts 16:25-34, my own emphasis added)

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Loved by the greatest of lovers…I love that. :)

  17. Tanya Marlow September 12, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    This is fully brilliant, and so, so helpful. You’ve described it so well: that disconnect of depression where you can be totally in one frame of mind, sure that people are better off without you, and then suddenly instinctively responding to others because you see the need, and that breaks through, somehow.

    This is such a powerful piece and I am so glad you wrote it.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      It’s amazing what little lights can sometimes penetrate even the deepest darkness.

  18. Melody Hanson September 12, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    Thank you. I’ve been there too.

    Courage and peace, friend.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      And to you, sister.

  19. Alyssa September 12, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    What life-saving words. So glad that your story is still being written. I hope your words find a way into the hands of those who need it most.

    • Luke September 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

      I’m glad too, and I’m hoping that they do. Thanks, Alyssa.

  20. D.L. Mayfield September 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Heavens, thank you for writing.
    Luke, I feel very strongly like you were given the ability to write for a reason. I don’t like writing out super-spiritual sentences often, but there it is. I think you have a call on your life to speak truth to people that are closed up to most others. i think you were meant to say this message (and many more) to people that would slam the door in my face.

    I think God has made you for an entire life-time of disarming people, in so many ways.

    • Luke September 16, 2013 at 8:01 am #

      Thanks for this, DL. These words are life. Thanks for writing them down.

  21. Kelly Greer September 13, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Thank you for this honest write about real life pain and real life worth. We have lost a son to suicide turned homicide turned imprisonment turned suicide. It was tragic and he was just like you describe here, outstanding athlete, student, son, brother, but he was suffering from mental illness. His life was worth so much more than the illness stole from him and those that love him. Thank you being real to a real world that hurts and needs to know they are not alone, and that they matter more than they can even begin to imagine. God bless you and keep you in his grace. Thank the Lord for your baby.
    Hugs,
    Kelly

    • Luke September 16, 2013 at 7:56 am #

      I am so sorry for your loss, Kelly. I’ve unfortunately been in your position as well, the one left behind, and it’s never easy. Grace and peace to you.

  22. Kris Camealy September 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Painful-beautiful write, my friend. Thank you for bravely sharing your story, that others might read it and find HOPE. God bless you!

  23. Dea September 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Just thank you Luke…for courage to tell and live your story, and for being available to others. Only those who have been there really understand.

  24. Genevieve Thul September 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Luke, I am in the darkest days of my life and the turn of phrase in your story here that really caught me is the continuing story, even maybe someday regaining the expectant curiosity about how my life will turn out. Perhaps that drives us to develop hope.

  25. Amber September 13, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Tears, Luke. Just tears. I needed to hear this today and I so appreciate your brave heart.

  26. katie September 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    hi my names Katie i just wanted to say thank you for writing this I’ve been dealing with suicide even since i can remember and your story really hit home you will never know what it means to me to know that you care thank you and i hope one day i’m strong like you but until that day ill be holding on to the small thread holding me here

    • Luke September 16, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      Katie, you may not even realize it, but you already are “strong like me.” You’re still here. You’re still writing your story. You’re still holding on in spite of everything that you’ve been through. Even speaking up here takes courage. You are strong. You are brave.

      I don’t know the specifics of your story, but I know what it feels like to only have a small thread left. Hold on tight. Don’t let go. Find someone to talk to. A friend, a family member, a member of the clergy, a doctor – just talk to someone. You’re not alone, and you don’t have to do this alone.

      • katie September 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

        thanks but i dont feel very strong right now. I really like telling people my story so email me if you want to hear a little bit of it. and im trying to find someone so far all my friends are to busy or dont want to here it. But thanks for the kind words :)

  27. Lori September 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Luke,

    Thank you Luke. You have a powerful and persuasive voice. I am almost 50 and have been dealing with depression since age 15. I didn’t seek help until after the birth of my second daughter and the doctor diagnosed “blues” turned into panic attacks and agoraphobia. It’s been a struggle find the balance of “helps” out there. The disconnect is very real and the alternate ego is also very persuasive. I frequently question God on why. He uses many people to answer. Today he used you. Thank you.
    Lori

  28. Jackie November 22, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I clicked on a link for warrior myths because I have friends whose lives have been damaged by their military service. Then I read this and found myself reading all of your stuff posted here. And I found myself crying when I read your pancake stories and realized the grace of a mom able to sleep in because there’s a dad in the kitchen with his little guys making pancakes. For making the brave choice of doing the hard work of healing…thank you! For willing to be transparent in your pain…may you be truly blessed! Those of you who walk before us in openness are true healers of our wounded hearts!

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