It’s National Suicide Prevention week. Notice that it is Prevention week, as opposed to Awareness week. We have long been aware of this, but awareness is not enough. Knowing something is a problem does not solve the problem.
We all have to do our part this week, and every other week, to help those who feel alone and lost and like they don’t belong here anymore find a reason to stay alive. I am in a fortunate position… So to say. I can tell people who want to leave that it will get better if they stick around, and I can tell them that from personal experience.
During my time in the hospital this past spring, I was given a journal. I wrote a lot in this journal, but the most important thing I wrote was the following poem:
The room is white,
It is sterile, and I am thanking god I am still in my street clothes.
The nurse is pleasant,
She does her best to make this place seem safe,
But this is not safety.
Not in my mind, not right now.
She tells me they will take my clothes,
That it is a precaution to encourage patients not to run.
Suddenly I feel more like a prisoner than a 20 year old on the brink of goodbye.
I came here voluntarily… Ish.
Why would I run?
She tells me she has to take my vitals,
I look across the room and see a face who desperately wants me to live.
I let her put the cuff on my arm,
The clip on my finger.
The machine kicks on.
The cuff squeezes my arm, and I feel a pulse I believed to be long gone.
The thing about wanting to die is you often forget what it’s like to feel alive.
I begin to focus on my breath,
It becomes a beautiful thing I realize I had taken advantage of.
I think of everyone who I know who has gone from this earth,
By choice or without a say,
I wonder if this is them begging me to hold on.
I begin to believe it is.
The nurse finishes up, and I thank her for taking care of me.
I know at this point the social worker will not release me as easily as last time.
This is not a partial psych situation.
It is my second time in the course of two months.
I realize I will be hospitalized.
They will want to monitor me,
They will want to make sure I keep striving to feel my pulse.
I can not blame them.
I do not know when I will leave this place,
But that is a much more comforting uncertainty than the one I was facing before.
I begin to understand now that uncertainty is inevitable,
I will not go on in this life without it,
I begin to understand now that is okay.
I am in a gown now,
A gown that is designed to encourage me not to run.
I do not want to run.
I will live in this place until they let me go,
Then I will live in whatever place life has in store for me.
But I will live.
From this moment on I will live.
This new room is white.
The one I will be placed in will likely be white.
But when I leave this place there will be color.
The blues of the sky and my mother’s smile,
The yellow of the sun and my father’s embrace,
The soft hues of orange of the sunset and my sister’s laugh…
There will be colors, and I will remember to appreciate them.
There will be my pulse, and I will remember to search for it when the darker colors creep in.
There will be good, there will be bad.
There will be every feeling in between because this world is not black and white.
But most importantly there will be me,
And I will think back to the white room,
And I will remember how incredible it is to feel alive.
I often find these words when I am feeling alone, and when I find them I am reminded of how scary it was to feel as hopeless as I did… The reality is that I was nowhere near alone in those feelings.
So I ask one simple task of every single one of you:
Be a light when you are able to be a light. Do not assume someone is immune to thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness. Do not assume a smile means everything is okay… You would be amazed the things we are capable of hiding as human beings. Treat the world and each other with love and respect and kindness. Never underestimate the power of your kindness. Offer a hand when you can offer a hand, a hug when you can offer a hug, an ear when you can offer an ear. And when you can’t, do not be afraid to ask for those things.
We are all interconnected in this world. That means we all need you here. You are a vital part of this life. If you ever stop believing that, please ask for help. It is not a weakness to ask for help, it is the most beautiful form of strength that exists in this world.
You are a survivor. You have made it this far, and we are here to help you make it the rest of the way. Please don’t let your journey end before it is over. Please keep holding on.
This week, and every week, surround one another with love. Help each other find hope when all hope seems lost. Help each other through this.
Keep fighting my friends.