I wanted to write something about suicide prevention week, and then I read what my very brave friend, Amanda, wrote and needed to share it with you… I love you twinny!
As Long as We Share Our Stories, We Are Not, and Never Will Be Alone
hold on if you feel like letting go.
hold on, it gets better than you know.
Suicide prevention is about a lot of things to me…
Mostly, it’s personal.
It’s been four years and five months since my friend and sorority sister took her own life. Her death changed my life. Every time I think about her, every time I talk about her, I always say the same thing. I wish she knew how much she changed me. I wish she knew how much I miss her. But most importantly, I wish she knew that every future day of my life is different because of her. Every time I talk about her, I want people to know the same thing. I want people to know how much losing her made me afraid for every single day of the rest of my life that I’m not doing enough to tell the people around me that I love them and that they matter.
In the years since her death, I’ve stayed up all night, more than a few times, to save lives. To be the voice on the other end of the phone. To hold a hand, when each breath seemed impossible. When the will to live and the reasons to survive weren’t easy to come by. For some friends, I was their person. I helped them to find crisis counseling. I helped them to not drive drunk. I helped them to make it to the morning. And they may not remember that today, but I do. I remember every single breath. Every single moment. The fear, the faith, the compassion, the passion, the begging, the crying. I remember how I felt in the morning, when I knew they were okay. When I could let out the breath I had invariably held throughout the night, let my guard down, and process what had just happened. In the strength and power of friendship. In the will and testament of human life. Of the fight to survive. To live again.
In all the days and all the moments that have passed since my friends death, I still have trouble talking about it without biting my bottom lip or digging my nail into my palm or crying silently.
But, today, the reasons behind those feelings are bigger.
Today, the reasons center around me, around my friends, around my family. The reasons center around the people I love with my whole heart, who are facing enormous battles each and every single day. To survive, to put one foot in front of the other, is a bigger challenge than most anything else in this world. You know? It’s crazy to think about.
This year, I’ve thought a lot about life. About how somehow in all truth, life is actually a choice. Our choice. We choose to live, because the alternative is unimaginable. In the same way we choose our order off the Starbucks menu, we choose clothes from our closet each morning, or we choose the people we engage in relationships with, we choose to live – consciously or subconsciously, every single day. It’s exhausting and overwhelming. It’s powerful and incredible. It’s different than life and death. It’s different than fate or faith. It’s choice. It’s literally allowing yourself to be the puppeteer in the play called life. It’s quite different from some of the pieces of our lives – the ways in which we don’t get to choose the families we are born into, the bodies we grow to become, or the circumstances we face.
The choice to live or die, the choice to stay alive – it’s the biggest one any of us will ever make. It seems ironic, or cruel even that we don’t get to choose some of the smaller things – like how to get healthy when we are undiagnosably and irreversibly sick, how to move forward through the grief and loss of a loved one, or how to fix something that has become permanently broken – but the biggest one of them all, the biggest choice any human being will ever make is still something that’s up to us. How is that even possible?
Every day, I think about who I am. Who I used to be and who I want to be. About the ways in which I am living my life. The ways in which I am surviving.
I think about all of the times that fighting to stay alive and wanting to stay alive has been present in the forefront of my mind. Or really, the only thing that I’ve thought about. It’s made all of the health stuff seem so much more important. Every day I’ve fought harder to feel well, every day I further contemplated the idea of ending the battle. At times, it’s been something that I have been terrified I would lose. The fight against myself. Something that I have never let my guard down against, for fear that if I stopped staring it in the face, it would sneak up behind me and pull the darkness down over my eyes.
For so long, I felt alone in this battle. I felt ashamed of my feelings. I felt like they would be harshly judged or too quickly reacted to. I felt like I couldn’t share it in truth or in honesty. But what I’ve learned, what I’m more grateful than ever to know, is that I’m not the only one. I’ve struggled. But I’m not the only one. Some days, some weeks, some months – every single ounce of energy we’ve had has gone to surviving.
Every day, we’ve fought. We’ve endured the pain and the emotions and the lack of answers because there are so many people in our lives that we aren’t done loving yet. That we aren’t ready to hurt. That we aren’t ready to leave, to end life as they know it, to say goodbye. To make them feel like we felt on that day in April, 2008. To make them worry, and stress, and fear, and regret, in the same ways I have since she died.
In my eyes, suicide isn’t about leaving. It’s not about saying goodbye. It’s about what you leave behind. It’s about the people that want to crawl into that casket with you. The people who cannot make sense of a life you’re not going to be a part of. The people who cannot move on. There are people who are not done loving you. Who are not done changing you. This might be the worst day of your life, but you probably haven’t had your best day yet. You probably haven’t finished what you were meant to do on this earth, because, well, if you had, you’d probably already be gone. That tends to be how life works.
But, in truth, the fight is hard. Every day, sometimes every moment, it’s really honestly hard to choose life. So, in a way thats impossible to explain, we’ve slowly begun to seek reasons. By telling our stories, putting our most intimate thoughts and bravest moments on paper for the world to read – it’s terrifying. But, it’s freeing too. It connects us together. It reminds us that we are not alone, in any part of our journeys. Today, we talk about suicide prevention. Today, suicide prevention comes to light with our friends and our families and our communities. Today, we know that we are not alone. Today, we know that by sharing our stories, our darkest moments, the scariest parts of our past and our present – we are helping each other. We are saving each other. And in turn, we are saving ourselves.