September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day so thought I would take an opportunity to write a blog which might make people feel uncomfortable. Obviously it’s not my intention to do so but I honestly believe we need to be talking about it.
A friend reached out this week for advice. A dear friend of hers died by suicide.
“What do you say when someone takes their own life?” she asked.
It could have been me.
My friend and I talked briefly about her friend. This is a girl I met whilst in Hospital last year and the person who had taken their lives was in her support group. I had never met him; I did not know him except for when I would see him walk to breakfast. But at the same time when I heard about his suicide, I felt like I knew him all too well. The minute he took his own life I was connected to him in a profound way.
We are connected because I know his demons. I believe mine are the same. I can imagine what he might have felt: like your body is occupied by someone else. Like you are drowning. Like you are swallowing water when everyone around you is breathing in air. I have seen the world through the same black fog and walked through the same sticky quicksand. I know. I have been there.
I used to think pain isolated me. That experiencing deep emotional pain made me different from you, less than you. I hid my pain because I was afraid you would think I was weak. I was afraid my darkness made me ugly. I was afraid if people knew the kind of thoughts I had, the thoughts that told me I was worthless and didn’t deserve to be alive, they would treat me like I didn’t deserve to live.
I did not talk about my pain until it was almost too late. I stumbled across CB that evening and met this woman who would go on to love and coach me back to life.
That evening and the days that followed - hope was born. Hope opened the door for me to talk about my pain. And when I started to talk about my pain, I began to see there was similar pain in others. My eyes were no longer blinded by fear. They were instead opened to people who’ve felt like me, connecting us in the most profound way.
It was never the pain that isolated me, it was my fear. Once hope entered in and gave me back my will to live, fear loosened its grip. And when I started to let go of my fear, I began to see the beauty that lives beneath the pain.
My darkness no longer isolates me. My feelings of worthlessness and shame, the thoughts that tell me I don’t deserve to live, that the world would be a better place without me, no longer make me feel alone. They don’t isolate me because I share them. I talk about them when they raise their ugly head. I use them to build a bridge between myself and others who have felt the same. My darkness allowed me to connect, and that connection sparks a light within us that moves the darkness on.
And whenever someone dies in such a tragic way, it’s a great reminder of why I need to continue talking about suicide and sharing my pain.
When I found myself in hospital last year, a lady in my support group asked me if I’m scared to open up about my past and sometimes present struggles with suicide ideation. “Aren’t you scared of what people think? Aren’t you scared they will judge?”
No. I’m not scared to talk about suicide — I’m more scared to stay silent. Silence is what fuels the thoughts. Silence turns thoughts into obsessions and obsessions can lead to actions. Silence is the deadliest weapon of all. Silence kills. I know my silence would kill me, and I don’t want it to.
I talk about it so others who are scared to talk about it know they are not alone. We are never alone, despite how lonely we feel.
My pain doesn’t make me different from you. It doesn’t make me less than you. My darkness isn’t ugly. It’s a beautiful bridge that connects me to you. And connecting through pain is the most powerful, transformative connection I’ve ever experienced.