In my line of work and because I am who I am I have spoken to a lot of teenagers who have expressed difficulty wanting to stay alive.
I believe that suicide is a choice that people are entitled to make. I hate that. I have been there, I understand the feelings, and the depth of them. It is hard to describe how it feels to be there. Part of you functions normally but behind that is this suppressive and overwhelming darkness suffocating you and so the machinations of preparation run behind the normal. Even that doesn’t do it justice.
I am really grateful that I decided to fight for my life. That too, was a choice. And a difficult one in some respects. I didn’t know if things would get better. I didn’t know how they might get better. I just knew that dying wasn’t an option because it would impact on too many others, and I didn’t believe that I had that right. I could make my own choices but I couldn’t choose for others.
My life did get better. And for the most part, it has stayed better. Ninety five percent of the time I am happy, blissfully happy and content and fulfilled, living my life with passion. The other five percent, well, that’s the reality of my life choices as a teacher, a series of later in life attempts at motherhood, and the smallest residual of my childhood.
It takes work. And I am glad that I put the effort in. When I start sliding into the abyss these days I start, with fury, my gratitude journal. No fail, every time, I fix myself.
But those first few steps back in 2008 weren’t as easy or as successful.
The first step was just deciding I needed to stay alive. After I said that to myself, I had no choice but to start living. My sister and I organized a few days away at the Hunter Valley. I guess that was the second step even though it occurred concurrently with the third step, talking about how I felt.
Probably the hardest step. People often blame themselves for not seeing or acting on signs. Allaying their guilt is hard. But talking about it is essential. It reminded me that I had a support network. And as I have always said, our emotions are better out than in.
Inside they swirl around and only have each other to feed from, which makes them bloated and distorted, unrecognizable in their magnification of reality. Dealing with distortion is never easy; there are no rules. Getting them out makes them slightly more manageable. If not through voice then through writing or music or physical activity. Some way, they need to come out. It is vital.
Then came gratitude. The fourth step. Every night, what did I have to be grateful for from that day. At least three things. And at first, this was hard. Really hard. Many nights I was repeating items from the last entry. Within a few weeks though, the list started growing and I didn’t even have to think about it. I was starting to see the beauty in everything around me. The darkness started to lift. It had no choice. It couldn’t thrive in light.
The lotus emerged. 😜
And the last significant step before maintenance was goal setting. What did I want to achieve in the short term, the mid term, the long term. Goals provided me with something to work towards and a purpose to keep breathing. My life wasn’t just existing. I started to live. I started to travel again. I developed my soccer career. I started my Masters and started writing again. I started my IVF journey. I started developing my career in teaching, pushing myself further. I committed to my friends.
I started to smile.
From deep inside.
And I started to belly laugh.
My love for life returned.
And so, many times have I spoken to teens who feel very overwhelmed and very suffocated. I can’t make their choices for them, and I can’t guarantee that the pain will pass, and I can’t save their lives. That is on them.
But I can listen. And I can share my story. And I can believe that their life is valuable beyond measure. And I can ‘pray’ that they see the light amidst the dark. And I can love them.
Ultimately though, the choice is theirs.
And that sucks.