For those of you who are not aware, this Thursday, September 10th, was Suicide Awareness Day. Before I write anything of my own, I would like to share with you all a quote from TWLOHA, a non-profit organization dedicated to “presenting hope and finding help”. The original story of TWLOHA offers both of the following quotes:
“Don Miller says we’re called to hold our hands against the wounds of a broken world, to stop the bleeding. I agree so greatly.”
“We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.”
As I rewrite these words, I am reminded of a more innocent me. I am reminded of a me who believed I would save the world. I am reminded of a me who believed that in order to save the world, I must bury my struggle and hide my pain. I am reminded of the expectations I put on myself long ago: that I am required to hold my head high, even in the presence of my kryptonite. See, I am still struggling with these unachievable expectations I placed on myself as a kid. And, for the first time in my life, I am learning to accept the fact that I will only ever be able to save the world if I am able to save myself.
I have known my fair share of pain. I have known the process of coming to terms with being very gay in a very straight world. I have known the struggle of not feeling like I have a home in my own body. I have felt inadequate for my size. I have watched as my lovely aunt lay in a coma, and I have known the fear that she wouldn’t wake up. I have known the sheer joy that accompanied watching her defy the odds. I have known the pain of hearing the news that a man that inspired me so greatly committed suicide; I have spent a hopeless amount of nights battling to convince myself it wasn’t my fault, and that there wasn’t more I could have done. I have known heartbreak and loss. I have watched as people who promised to love me forever decide forever ended too soon. I have broken the heart of someone who I promised I would be different than everyone else. I have battled depression, anxiety, and self harm. I have had to come to terms with my scars. I have had to learn to accept them as a part of my story. I have come to fear goodbyes. I have come to know death, and most recently death has taken away my best friend, my grandfather.
I have come to know these experiences, and so many more. If you ask me, I can chronologically relate them back to you as if they happened yesterday. They have shaped me into the human being that I am today. But unrealistic expectations placed on myself have made it impossible for me to ever grieve. To ever come to terms with this pain. Therefore, not only have I known them, I still know them.
At 19 years old, I am realizing that I never learned to grieve; I only ever learned to push down my hurt so that I could bring joy to everyone else. My pain was never something I was willing to claim as my own. I so greatly feared the world thinking less of me because of my struggles, or thinking that I couldn’t save them if they knew I was still learning to save myself, that I shoved my hurt into the deepest, darkest corners of my being.
I am here to tell you, and I am here to tell myself, that our pain does not make us weak. Our struggles are nothing to be ashamed of. The process of breaking and rebuilding is so deeply human and beautiful, yet as a society we are so penitent of it. EMBRACE YOUR BROKEN. Embrace your scars. Embrace the battles you have lived, and the pain you have felt, and the struggles you have known. I am learning not to hide my hurt from the world, and I hope you learn to do so with me. I hope together we can learn to embrace our human. And I hope in doing so, we find the strength we need to carry on. I hope we find hope; I want us to wake up every morning, and realize how strong we are for making it to today. I want us to be excited to write the next chapter of our story. We should be so excited to write our story. Our pain and joy should fill the pages harmoniously as though one cannot exist without the other. We should find light even in our darkest of pages, because our darkest night ended in a sunrise that painted the entire sky. Sorrow, misery, desolation, heartbreak… THESE ARE NOT THINGS TO BE ASHAMED OF. Be proud of being human, and all of the wide array of emotions and experiences that encompasses it. Understand that the human experience is different for us all, but all of our experiences are important.
So fill your pages. Write your story. Let your love, your joy, your sorrow, and your struggle bleed from the page. Just don’t stop writing. Your story is so important to me, to your family, your friends, and to this entire world. I want you to remember that you are a character in more people’s stories than you will ever imagine. In some people’s story you will be the pride and joy of their world. In some people’s story you will be the love of their life. In some people’s story you will be the best friend. In some people’s story you will be the hero. And in some stories, you will be the individual they passed on the sidewalk who smiled their way. You will be the person who held the door open for them. You are so important to so many stories, because you have touched so many more lives than you will ever realize. So keep writing with me. Keep writing, because your story deserves to be heard.
I am here to tell us both that it will get better; but, we can’t forget to be our own superhero. Our pain does not make us any less capable to be somebody else’s joy. We are not weak for saving ourselves, and we are not weak for our human experience. We are all of our best days, all of our worst days, and every day in between. We are so much more than we give ourselves credit. So keep writing with me. Keep fighting with me.
I am proud to say that I am actively taking steps to be my own hero. I am battling severe depression, anxiety, and still learning to come to terms with grief and loss. I am admitting that I am not perfect. I am admitting that I am still struggling. I am admitting that I am human. But, I am embracing that struggle. I am seeing a fantastic counselor, and I am taking steps every day to get better. I am not weak for this, and I hope that one day we end the stigma associated with mental health and suicide. I hope my vulnerability fosters a conversation. Let that conversation be the spark we need to create a world where nobody is ashamed of their humanity.
Please keep writing my friends. You are so damn important.
Until next time and with love,