Content warning: Discusses themes of suicide, suicide ideation, abuse, depression, bullying, and self-harm.
The author has been kept confidential for personal reasons but has offered to speak on an individual basis to anyone who could benefit from a personal conversation. If you’re interested email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you in touch.
The human brain is an amazing little thing but it is also a fragile little thing that needs to be cared for. Sadly, this isn’t something we ever touched on as I grew up. In fact, it was quite simply brushed under the rug and never brought up in conversations except with negative connotations. You know, things like – “depression is just wrong”, “anxiety? Stop blowing things out of proportion”, “suicidal thoughts? How dare you!” “Mental health issues only happen to those whose lives aren’t quite right”.
You could chalk that up to culture, or a misguided faith, or a lack of awareness, or a misunderstanding of mental health. Either way, growing up in an environment like that was never going to be helpful especially for someone going through this and never knowing where or who to turn to. What seemingly made it worse was that this spiral seemed to have been triggered by continued abuse without anyone else ever realising what was really going on. See, the thing is, when you’re inadvertently taught to distance yourself from the poor souls who go through this, you see yourself in the same light and it pushes you ever closer to the edge. Who do you turn to when you’re standing on the edge, staring at the ground dozens of feet below your own tiny feet through teary eyes ready to make that jump and end it all? Who do you turn to when you see yourself slip away before your own eyes because of addictions that gnaw at your health and stability? Who do you turn to when you just cannot breathe and there’s nothing you can do about it? Who do you turn to when a gesture like a hug or an arm of reassurance over your shoulder is a trigger? Who do you turn to when your heart feels like it could burst? Who do you turn to when your passions are now a dull grey husk? Who do you turn to when you’re too young to even fully comprehend all that’s happening? Who do you turn to when the world you live in points its fingers at you instead of extending a helping hand?
Who do you turn to when you’re standing on the edge, staring at the ground dozens of feet below your own tiny feet through teary eyes ready to make that jump and end it all?
What if this is where your story starts? Growing up, I’d always brush off talking about the past by saying something like “I don’t really remember much” not just because I just didn’t want to go there but also because it is all still so very real. I could still feel the pain, the helplessness, the shame, the hopelessness, the anger, the frustration, the anxiety, and so much more. For a time, I thought I could relegate this to the deep recesses of my mind and leave it there to rot partly because I was too young to fully understand it all myself. It’s only in my late teens and then twenties as I secretly began seeking help that a lot of these started making sense. I say secretly because I still didn’t know who to really turn to. Fortunately (and unfortunately), the internet was one of my friends. I began reading up and trying to understand just so I could deal with it and get out of it. I tried reaching out to people (often complete strangers) who might understand.
What started with physical and sexual abuse over the course of a year as a child, led me down a dark path that made me contemplate and then attempt to end it all more than once. I’ve blamed myself for not being strong enough to withstand that. I’ve hated myself to the extent that life itself lost all meaning. It left me with wounds that make me wonder if healing can ever be complete. The very environment I am in acts as a trigger. To say that a lot of this has left me with deep seated trust issues would be an understatement. Add to that a really low self-esteem, an ominous negativity, a bit of dissociation, anxiety, depression, and all you can hope for is an escape.
Then you throw yourself into one thing after another just hoping that something, just something will give you a reason to carry on.
Then you throw yourself into one thing after another just hoping that something, just something will give you a reason to carry on – academics, sports, art, and the list can be endless… But all you’re really left with is a loss of purpose, focus, and meaning. You’re left a sobbing mess when the tears just don’t stop. Then there are those days when the tears just don’t flow. You look at a reflection and don’t recognise yourself anymore. You knock on the walls just hoping to find a crack. You bang on them, just hoping that something will give. “Let me out!” It all can seem so hopeless sometimes.
A while back, just as I was beginning to find help and slowly began to develop my own understanding of what I had gone through and what I was going through, there was a time when everything just seemed to come back all at once. I remember waking up one night gagging because I couldn’t breathe. All I remember is my heart beating like it would burst, and then somehow managing to sit under the shower. The first of many attacks that just kept getting worse as the days went by. I tried to hide it when I really should have been asking for help. It got so bad that I was scared to even sleep and spent many a sleepless night. Of course, that did not help either. Sleepless night or not, I would have at least one attack a day. Eventually, it got really difficult to hide as the episodes got longer and more intense. Until one day someone noticed it and took me to see a doctor. The medication didn’t help as no one could figure out what was wrong. If only we had a better understanding that this was just a physical manifestation of something else that I was going through.
Through most, if not all, of this I always felt like I was alone. I didn’t know that there were others who had been where I was and had prevailed. I didn’t know that it was possible to stare into the abyss and still turn back. I didn’t know that this wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know that there was help to be found. I didn’t know that I could talk this through with someone who might really listen and who would extend a helping hand. I didn’t know that this was not meant to be kept locked away. I didn’t know that the longer it was bottled up, the worse it would get.
But the reason I’m able to say this today is because I did find help when I found my faith and while it is still very much an everyday struggle, I know that hope is not lost.
But the reason I’m able to say this today is because I did find help when I found my faith and while it is still very much an everyday struggle, I know that hope is not lost. I know that I can call out and be heard. I know that Love is reaching out and there is always a helping hand. I know that the Source of Life is calling out with a loving reassurance of “I want you to be alive” every single day. I know that there are people who have been where I have been and can empathise with every little detail because while the world (and those of us in it) may be broken, we can still build each other up. We can stare into the void and turn back in peace. The darkness has not overcome us because the Light shines through.
To say that life is “perfect” (can it ever be?) would be a lie. This is part of who I am. This is part of my life and is an ongoing battle. Some days are worse than others. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to shut those voices out and to remember that there is ALWAYS a light at the end of the tunnel.
No matter what it is like, there is always a helping hand to be grasped. The Light will shine through.
To those who haven’t experienced this. I’d urge you to look around. Listen to those around you. Try and understand, and educate yourselves because this is real. You never know when you’ll be in a position to help, and when you are, you can change a life. At the very least, don’t trivialise it. Don’t think of someone as too young or too old to go through this. Don’t write it off as an exaggeration. Don’t mock it as a phase. It may not be real for you, but it is all too real for those of us who live with this.
To anyone else who may relate to this even a little, you’ve had to see a dark side of this life that no one really should have to. But know this – you are NEVER alone. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’ve stared into the abyss. I’ve jumped but I’m still here telling you this. So, I know what it’s like. We may not always bear external scars but the scars we do bear are very real and you know what? The fact that you’re reading this right now proves that you’re that much stronger because of them, not inspite of them. No matter what it’s like, there is always a helping hand to be grasped. The Light will shine through.
It’s holding on, though the road’s long and seeing light in the darkest things and when you stare at your reflection finally knowing who it is, I know that you’ll thank God you did.
I want you to be alive
I want you to be alive
You don’t gotta die
Now lemme tell you why
It’s the very first breath
When your head’s been drowning underwater
And it’s the lightness in the air
When you’re there
Chest to chest with a lover
It’s holding on, though the road’s long
And seeing light in the darkest things
And when you stare at your reflection
Finally knowing who it is
I know that you’ll thank God you did