No One Would Have Guessed
Today is the first day of Suicide Prevention Month. This is so important to me because it can be so easy to pass by someone who is hurting and not even notice their pain because they hide it so well. The picture of me above is from 2014 (if I recall correctly), Christmas time. Something that everyone knows about me is that I love Christmas and it is the happiest time for me. And that's what you'd get from looking at this picture. You'd see how I was very thorough in making sure that I was dressed in accordance with the holiday, even down to a jingle bell ring on my finger out of picture. What you wouldn't see is the evidence of the tears I shed moments after having taken the pic. You wouldn't see the gripping pain that accompanied me out of the bathroom and downstairs to where my mom and sis waited. And you wouldn't guess that I wanted nothing more than to be done with life. Nope, you'd see a happy, excited and ready-for-Christmas smile. And that's all that I wanted you to see.
Often, when one thinks of suicide, the image that arises is a stereotypical scene of someone in drab colors, sitting with their head in their hands as a gun or pills rest next to them. Or something to that description. But I have found that depression and suicidal thoughts are not always written on someone's face. It's not always easy to detect.
Unfortunately, suicide runs in my family. When my mother was younger, before I was even a thought, she tried to kill herself... Thankfully, she failed. My older cousin (whom I consider my sister) expressed that she wanted to kill herself and when I found out, I was heartbroken. Fast forward to the recent past, the same year in which this picture was taken, and my sister Zoe` had a failed attempt. My world stopped when I found out and things sounded and felt distant as I went numb to everything. I will never forget what I felt in the hospital as I waited outside of her "room" while my mom stayed inside with her. Bleak. I had no idea that my sister would have tried to end her life. I knew that she was hurting but I didn't know to what extent. It can be so easy to pass off someone's threats to end their lives as a way to get attention or as being dramatic. But we shouldn't ignore those claims. If we investigate and react to their cries for help and we're wrong, then we lose nothing. But if we do nothing, we could end up losing our loved one.
If you suspect that someone you know is suicidal, say something. Be gentle but speak up either to them or a loved one or both. Suicide is not something people do to be selfish. I know for me, when I was in the blackest part of depression, I was not in a state of mind where all I could think about was myself. Honestly, the only thing that was on my mind was the anguish I felt every minute whether I was awake or asleep. All I wanted was to end the hurt. And if I was no longer alive, well, neither would the hurt be. I've taken so many pictures where behind my smiling eyes lurked the lingering desire to leave this world. And that's the scary thing, no one would have guessed.
So then how can we ascertain that our friends and family are doing alright? How can we be sure that they're mentally well? We ask. If you suspect that something may be going on under the surface, ask them. Even if you don't see any signs that suicide may be a contemplation, check in every now and then and inquire about what's going on for them. Listen to what they have to say and ask if they are having a rough time with anything. Because my sister struggled with suicide and struggles still with depression, I check in with her and ask her how she's doing even on days where she seems fine. If suicide runs in your family, take notice of your own mental health and stay on top of it. Look for signs in your own life that things are not okay and reach out to someone. If one person doesn't believe you, reach out to someone else and keep doing so until you get the help you need. When all else fails, God remains and will never fail you.
Call out to Him in your darkest moments. Speak His name because He is mighty to save. He sees where you are and is able and willing to rescue you, to show His mercy. When I was at my absolute worst and suicide was singing out to me, I let go of everything. The only thing that I could even entertain anymore was how much I wanted a permanent escape. I had let go of the plank and was being pulled under by the waters but God did not let go of me.
Friends, life can be so tough and at times, feels like a cruel joke. But things can change. God can change things and He can hold onto you when you let go of everything else. If today is a rough day for you, even if you're not suicidal right now, please reach out. 1800) 273-8255 is the national suicide hotline. If you are an immediate danger to yourself or you feel unsafe alone, call 911. Whatever you do, don't stay silent. Someone out there can not only empathize and relate but they can also provide life saving help. Reach out to a friend. Reach out to a professional. Reach out to God.
You've made it this far. Don't let go of the bar.