Note: I had received a letter from a friend about her brother who committed suicide. People who know me, know that I am generally an up-beat person, nothing really gets me down, and delight in life. But, as with many younger people, there is confusion, pain, sometimes drugs, and the only way out appears to be suicide. No, there are many alternatives and there is help. This is so vital to remember, how extraordinary life is, and if you are at the point… get help. Call. Reach out!
My Story at the age of 19
I tried to commit suicide when I was 19 years old, something I had attempted a few times before by overdosing on various kinds of pills. Now, there is a sense of shame that I was in so much pain and I felt so helpless that I attempted to end my life. I was isolated and under a great deal of emotional stress and I did not know how to cope with it. Somehow, at the young age of nineteen, it seemed as if I had reached the end of the line. My chronic drinking hadn’t resolved the problems and so I tried to kill myself. The damage wasn’t critical, but severe enough to send me to a psychiatric hospital for a week. The scars on the skin have diminished, but the pain of that moment is still vivid after all these years.
For anyone who is contemplating suicide, there really are alternatives. There is hope for you. Reach out. Call and talk to a friend. Talk to anyone. Pick up a phone, and ask for help. Someone is there who can help you; even a stranger, because life is filled with angels in all of their guises. Today’s crisis – a broken heart, a disappointment, a failure–this is life! Life is filled with all kinds of disappointment. Nevertheless, I can assure you, this will pass, no matter how difficult it feels right now, no matter how shameful or embarrassing it may seem. Time truly does heal.
The medical establishment tells us that our spiritual pain –loss, grief, or disappointment — is an emotional affliction that can often be cured with pharmaceuticals. While those pharmaceuticals are stirring the pot in our brains, our spiritual ailments are still simmering and raging. But it is rarely about the chemicals in our brains; it is much more likely to be about the spiritual malaise that festers deep in our souls–the absence of love and care, the loneliness we might feel in a sea of people, the isolation that exists in a world of instant connectivity, or any of the simple fears that leave us captive and imprisoned in our own personal terror.
There is a sense of shame in our moments of madness and loneliness, but none connected to physical illness. If you break a leg, everyone sends you flowers and cards, but if your spirit is broken, if you feel crazy and isolated, people shun you and, in extreme cases, make fun of you. On the other hand, if you’re feeling depressed, they dismiss it by telling you, “Don’t worry. Everyone gets a little blue now and then. You’ll get over it.” I was alarmed when I recently saw a friend of mine at the store wearing a plastic band-aid across her lips. She looked at me, terrified, and put her finger to her lips as if to shush me. Then she very quietly slipped past me. I recognized her pain. It was the same as mine–the pain of being utterly alone and isolated.
I have made this long journey away from suicide and while the option to end the emotional pain sometimes still calls to me, it is very distant. Why leave this paradise and the simple pleasures of being alive: breathing, eating good fresh bread, drinking clean water, watching the flight of birds in the early morning and the dance of a breeze across the pond. When life is overwhelming and I feel like I should walk around with a band-aid over my lips, I will instead rip it off. I will breathe deeply, allowing the sweet fragrances of life to fill my senses, and my famished spirit will feast again.
Today, some forty five years after my suicide attempt, I paused to consider how immensely blessed my life has been. I’ve been privileged to help others; to write poems, stories, and plays; and to create art. I’ve traveled all over the world. At nineteen, on the edge of suicide, I had no way of knowing that my life would be so extraordinary. Since then, there have been times of loneliness that have nearly overwhelmed me, but I’ve found other ways to cope and rise above the adversity.
I’ve never seen a tragedy or sadness in life that time could not heal. I have seen much sorrow, but I have been blessed in life by the kindness and love of so many people.
For those who are contemplating suicide–Stop. Pick up a phone and ask for help. Reach out to anyone, even a stranger (who might be an angel in disguise). Please remember life is extraordinary and very worthwhile.