mans hands folded in prayer over his Bible

I'm a Pastor, but Faith Didn't Stop Me From Attempting Suicide

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I was 12 when my Aunt Missy killed herself.

It was the middle of summer in Alabama when a police car pulled up to our new house, which was still under construction. I remember how hot those 2×4’s were as they baked in the sun. Per the officer’s instructions, we loaded up in the minivan and drove down the hill to the fire station where my dad worked so mom could call her parents. Few people had cell phones yet, and my momma wasn’t one of them. I’ll never forget the way she screamed, “My sister!” as she dropped the grey receiver. It swung out and slammed back against the concrete wall there in the lobby of Fire Station #1.

In the immediate aftermath of her suicide, the days are blurred together in my memory. Yet, the loss left a hole in my heart that only my favorite aunt could fill.

Aunt Missy was the only person I knew with a mental illness, though no one ever called it that. I had never attended a funeral of someone who had died by before hers. For a 12-year-old, only old people, like Papaw Thompson, died, unless they were sick with some rare illness. I had never been told a brain could be ill. I’d been raised in the evangelical church and laziness was the first lie I believed. The second was I couldn’t be a Christian and still have a mental illness.

As a senior in high school, I began to understand what mental illness and Christianity looked like. I had my first panic attack at the age of 18. Ten years after that, my world came crumbling down. It was mid-September 2012 and I had been a youth pastor for a decade. In my anxious mind, my shame storm was building and I only saw one path to escape.

I came home one weekend from an out-of-town assignment and carried a sick feeling in the deepest part of my gut. I felt hopeless, wishing I could wake up from the horrid nightmare of anxiety and depression, but somehow convinced things would never get better.

I left home that Sunday night, knowing it would be the last time I would see my wife and baby boy. My son’s first birthday was the following weekend, but I wouldn’t be there to celebrate. In the moment, I wasn’t sure if I had lost it or if I was absolutely desperate. I chose to die anyway.

Preparing to die is surreal. I’m not sure how to even describe it. Imagine a dream-like nightmare. Something fantastically terrible. In some ways, I felt like a marionette, watching my hands scribe the darkest letters imaginable. I knew the choices I was making. I comprehended the secret plans I was devising, the dastardly deed that would forever mark my life. Yet, it felt like my hands worked independent of my mind.

I knew my death would hurt my family and friends. They’d be shocked and even miserable for a while, but life does go on, I thought. They would be OK without me. They would have no choice.

After three days in ICU, the doctors decided my liver wasn’t going to fail, and I had regained feeling in my legs. So I was released from ICU and immediately transferred to the psych ward. The psych ward. Me. The former worship leader. The youth pastor. The Christian radio host. The blogger. The ministry school graduate. The father. The husband. The outgoing one. The friendly one. The upbeat one. Me. I was sitting in a wheelchair, headed to the psych ward, and I stayed there for several days.

That’s when healing began.

If I had died four years ago, then I would’ve missed so many things. I would have missed a whole and healthy marriage. I would have missed my wife becoming my best friend. I would have missed the relationship I have built with my little boy: his laughter, curiosity and fierce love of his daddy. My little girl would have never been given the chance to make our family complete.

In the past four years, the power of vulnerability, courage and grace have made my life better, but it hasn’t happened in a vacuum. Transformation has come from connecting with other people through our brokenness, not in spite of it. This is exactly how I connect with faith today. Being willing to own my story and giving other people permission to own their’s is saving my life every day.

I’m thrilled about my upcoming Live Q&A on Mental Health on the Mighty’s Facebook page! Join me this Thursday, 9/22, for a 30-minute conversation around suicide prevention, faith and mental health, and what to do when prayer doesn’t “fix” your anxiety.

Also, get a copy of my new book, “From Pastor to a Psych Ward.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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The Lesson That Helped Me Keep Living Even After I Decided My Time Was Up

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It seemed like any ordinary Friday.

A mid-September, cooler in the morning, but still hot by noon, running errands, talking with friends, glad it’s Friday kind of a day.

A day that, most likely, no one would particularly remember.

And that’s exactly the kind of day it was for me.

Only it almost wasn’t.

It was almost a day that would have been remembered by my sweet family and friends forever…

It was the day I had planned to end my life.

I know, I know. How could I? How could I possibly think such a thing, let alone plan for it?

How could I, a mother of six and wife to a loving, caring husband of almost 20 years, plan something so horrible? Something that would wound and scar them for the rest of their lives? How could I possibly “be so selfish?”

Two words: mental illness.

I have lived with mental illness my entire life. I have lived through tumultuous highs and lows since I was a little girl, but five years ago I finally had a name for it: bipolar disorder. I thought that having a diagnosis would mean life would finally get easier. I could finally get stabilized on the right kind of med and live a “normal life.” It would mean I could get rid of the incredible shame I felt for being so intense and unpredictable, and no one would ever know of the horrible things that went through my mind. I would not need to depend on anyone to care for me or check on me. Having a diagnosis would change all of that.

It gave me hope.

And so began my endless search to find “hope” in what I thought would be a cure. I bounced from med to med, from this kind of treatment to that one, seeing new therapists and doctors when the old ones didn’t meet my expectations.

But 22 psychiatric meds, 14 natural supplements, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), neurofeedback, three psychiatrists, and multiple therapists later… all I had gained was 80 pounds and a hopelessness that led me to make my final plans.

I have attempted to end my life five times in the past 16 years, but this time was different.

This time there wasn’t a surge of adrenaline and desperation propelling me to drive my car into on-coming traffic or take an entire bottle of sleeping pills.

This time I was calm. I was extremely depressed, of course, but I was eerily calm. One day I just made up my mind and started making plans in my head. This time there would be no attempt. It would just be “complete.”

I picked the date. A day close enough for me to be able to make it to, and yet far enough away so that I could “fake it” just enough to make it work. A day that was not a birthday of any of my close family or friends. I even purposely chose for it to be during Suicide Prevention Month. Yes, I realize the horrible irony there.

I planned where I would go and what I would do and how I would spend my last moments. I even began letters to my husband and children. I wanted them to know how very much I loved them and to share my dreams of who I hoped they would grow up to be someday. I wanted my husband to know how much I wanted to celebrate our 20th anniversary with him, but that it just wasn’t possible.

And as ironic as this may sound, more than anything I wanted them to know that I did not want to leave them. I did not want to die!

No, I did not want to leave them reeling with the sudden loss of their mother/wife, but in that moment, I felt that there was literally nothing left for me to do. I was in so much pain. It was unbearable. I could not see a glimmer of hope or light — darkness was surrounding me, and I did not want to drag my family through it any longer. I was convinced that because they had suffered alongside me for so long, they would eventually be better off starting a new life without me in it. I knew it would devastate them, and yet in my darkness, I truly believed that suicide was the only sure way to be “cured” of this illness.

So I made my plan. I would end my life on that September day.

Nothing would stop me this time.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans…

In a way that I truly cannot explain, I believe that God “interfered” with my plan. Little things kept happening. I would be in the middle of a suicidal thought, and a friend I hadn’t heard from in ages would send me a text at exactly that moment saying she was praying for me. Or I would be crafting one of my letters, and my husband would come bring me chocolate cake in bed and tell me with tears in his eyes how much he loves me. One friend came and sat on my bed and sang to me for almost an hour while I cried and cried. And even on an incredibly horrible day when I had broken out in a rash after starting a new med and declared myself done, I got an email out of the blue from someone wanting to donate to our nonprofit organization, Break the Silence.

This was a prestigious leader who was thanking me for speaking up to break the silence in the church about mental illness. And here I was planning my death!

From texts and emails to suicide prevention resources showing up in my mailbox to something as silly as a fortune cookie, I could not stop these little encouragements from happening.

I have always believed that God has had a plan for my life since the beginning of time. I was just convinced that my time was up. I had done what I needed to do.

But apparently that wasn’t His plan.

I believe He used seemingly random people at seemingly random times to very gently let me know that my life had value and I still had a purpose. I had a story that was being written, and it wasn’t time to close the book just yet.

I now know that it wasn’t just “random.” I see now that people need other people. We cannot go through this life alone. I needed those people to show up, and they may need me one day, too.

Only a few days before my plan was to be carried out, I saw just enough light to tell myself that I would hold off. I would see what happened and keep it all in my head just in case. No one would have to know.

But I couldn’t do it.

So I sat my husband down and told him everything.

Every last detail.

And through tears, he held me as we thought about how different that day could have been. And we were both incredibly grateful.

For these past five years, I have resented my diagnosis. I have hated the stigma that comes with having a mental illness and have felt I am an incredible burden to my family and friends. But this experience has taught me something I have never been able to see before:

Mental illness is a life-long journey, and it is not just one-sided.

While, yes, I may need people surrounding me with love, support, meals and prayers during my journey, I can also bring something to the table.

Instead of hiding in shame and resenting my story, I can begin to speak up and share what I’ve been through. I can bring the message of hope to those who feel hopeless — because I have been there many times myself. I can be real and authentic and help to stop the stigma.

Because on a seemingly ordinary day, I had planned to end my life, but a few random people brought me a flicker of hope… And so, I kept living.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

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The Case Against Saying 'Suicide Is a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem'

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I have worked in suicide prevention and suicide grief support for a little more than a decade, and for the past year and a half, I’ve scanned hundreds of articles on this tragic subject. In the course of my encounters with what is said and written in communities across the country and on the internet, I have been subjected about a thousand times to the declaration “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” and I cannot hear it one more time without crying out: Please stop saying that!

I know it must seem like a clever and even a helpful thing to say (or else why would people have kept saying it, right up to the point where it has become nothing less than a cliche but with the power, I’m afraid, of an axiom). The declaration seems clever, I suppose, because it has the pleasant sing-song rhythm of an advertising jingle, like “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause a Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” And it seems helpful because, of course, it is true: Indeed, suicide is a permanent solution.

But here’s why I argue that we should stop saying it:

The statement violates the age-old principle that what we communicate ought to be designed specifically with a focus on the audience for whom the particular communication is intended. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” might strike someone who is not suicidal as a clever statement, and it might be a helpful thing to hear from the point of view of someone who already believes (or is likely to be convinced) that his or her problem is temporary. But the audience for this anti-suicide ditty is, of course, people who are suicidal.

As Edwin Shneidman points out in his Ten Commonalities of Suicide, “The common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution.” So emphasizing to a suicidal person that suicide is a permananet solution is as likely to be unhelpful — or even harmful or dangerous — as it is to be helpful.

The problem a suicidal person is trying to solve, according to Shneidman, is how to escape from psychache, which Shneidman defines as “intolerable emotion, unbearable pain, unacceptable anguish … [that] cannot be abated by means that were previously successful” (emphasis added). In other words, from the point of view of someone who is earnestly considering killing himself or herself, the pain from which suicide would provide escape is not temporary.

Even though the perception that the pain is permanent is not accurate, the strategy of trying to convince a suicidal person that his or her pain is temporary is as likely to be counter-productive as it is to be productive.

For one thing, a suicidal person might be irrational regarding the subject of whether his or her pain is permanent or temporary. Irrational might not be the right word for it, but what lies at the core of many suicidal people’s dilemma is that the usual cognitive tools we rely on — such as reason or logic — are not available to them in their battle with their dark, self-destructive thoughts. So relying on a logical explanation of the nature of their pain to “convince” them of something could be ill-advised both because it might be fruitless and it might be seen as argumentative (“Your pain is temporary.” “No it’s not.” “Yes it is.”)

In addition, saying, “Look, your pain is only temporary,” might minimize or negate the importance or validity of the person’s feelings, sending the message that he or she is wrong about the nature or value of the pain. It also might be taken as judgmental or condescending (the speaker knows what pain is really like, but the suicidal person is mistaken about it). Finally, it might oversimplify the ultimate solutions to the underlying problems that are causing the person’s pain, for the jingle suggests, in part, that if a person would merely believe that his or her problem is temporary, then all would be well.

Perhaps I think too much about this sort of thing, for in fact, I could write an entire post, as well, on the use of the phrase completed suicide. The field “invented” the phrase, so the story goes, to replace successful suicide because successful is a positive term describing a negative event (we don’t want to characterize a suicide attempt as being “successful” when someone dies and as “failed” when someone lives). But if the wordsuccessful has positive connotations, isn’t it starkly obvious that the word completed has them, too, just as much or even more so? We don’t say “completed heart attack” or “completed automobile accident,” we say “fatal,” and that’s what we ought to say with suicide, as in suicide fatality or either fatal or non-fatal sucide attempt.

It is true generally of all communication, but it is absolutely vital when it comes to messages about suicide that we think before we speak.

This post originally appeared on Suicide Prevention News & Comment in 2010.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

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That 'GMA' Incident Gives Us the Chance to Share Why We Have #SuicideOnTheBrain

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During National Suicide Prevention Week, a large group of American Foundation for
Suicide Prevention employees and volunteers (including myself) had a rather disappointing experience as we stood outside the studios of “Good Morning America.”

“It’s the top of our morning show,” we were told as representatives of the show angled us out of the camera’s view. “We don’t want suicide on the brain.” If you haven’t read the incredible piece by our VP of Research yet, you should. This experience has given us the opportunity to create an important dialogue around the hashtag #SuicideOnTheBrain.

In 2006, I was a 13 year-old eighth grader when my classmate and friend Malaya died by suicide. Only three months after Malaya was gone, my fellow students and I graduated from middle school. As we approached the big day, our teachers rejected every mention of Malaya in the yearbook and the graduation proceedings. Dismayed and grieving, we took the microphone during the ceremony and demanded a moment of silence. At that point, it seemed like it was us vs. our teachers at a time when we should’ve come together. For years, I was angry with our teachers for denying us the memorial Malaya deserved.

But here’s the thing: it wasn’t their fault. They were terrified and experiencing their own grief because they hadn’t been prepared to deal with losing a student to suicide. More than a decade later, it isn’t GMA’s fault either. 

I remember before the topic of suicide ever entered my immediate reality, I said many insensitive things about mental health that I would never say now. I’ve heard the same from many of my colleagues and friends in the suicide prevention world. It takes personal experience — or hearing about it from others — to teach us how to talk about this serious subject.

The general public is not educated about suicide. I remember having health education in elementary school… but no one mentioned suicide until it was too late. We don’t always talk about mental health in the same way we do about physical health. Often, we don’t talk about mental health and suicide until something terrible has happened.

We need to tell more stories of hope and healing. People who haven’t been touched by suicide need to hear about our experiences and learn the warning signs and the resources available so they can save lives. They also need to learn the facts about suicide, so there can be a greater understanding of how widespread this issue is.

We need these stories because acting as though no one has #SuicideOnTheBrain makes those who are thinking about suicide and those who are grieving a suicide loss feel like they must be alone in this world. Suicide can be isolating. The truth is millions have #SuicideOnTheBrain, and if we come together we can change hearts and minds.

Standing in the rope line outside of “Good Morning America,” it was disappointing to be reminded that people still don’t understand how big an issue mental health is. But I have been excited to see how fired up people have gotten about it. Just a few years ago, we would’ve been resigned to the understanding that suicide is swept under the rug. Now that public opinion is undeniably changing, we are surprised and angered by this kind of silencing. Rather than pointing fingers, it feels good to use this as a teaching moment.

So let’s turn our anger into action and education. Use the hashtag #SuicideOnTheBrain to share your own story of hope, facts about suicide, and resources that are available to those who have been affected. Together, we can #StopSuicide!

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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A Letter to 'Good Morning America,' From a Suicide Loss Survivor

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It has taken me a while to sit down and write this letter. Yesterday, when I first read this piece by Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman, I was deeply upset and outraged. It was difficult to find the right words to articulate my thoughts in a manner that could be heard and, I hope, be part of a greater dialogue of understanding.

On Sept. 8, 2016 The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention showed up in force outside of the “Good Morning America” studio in recognition of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In a sea of blue shirts that read, “Be the Voice #StopSuicide” they stood ready to bring the message of suicide prevention to the millions of viewers who tune in to your show every day. They came on a mission of hope, ready to offer thoughtful resources, insights and support to those who might need it. They came to shed a bright light on an issue that is most often shrouded in darkness and fear.

And then, in a deeply disheartening and disturbing turn of events, they were asked to move out of the camera’s view and told, “It’s the top of our morning show. We don’t want suicide on the brain.”

In my mind, that decision by your show was not only woefully misguided and callous, it was a missed opportunity to help save lives.

I know a little something about missed opportunities. On April 20, 2015 at the age of 72, my father died by suicide. I often wonder about the missed opportunities my family and I might have had to save him. I don’t share this from a place of guilt anymore, rather from a deep regret I did not know enough to recognize the signs that my father might be suicidal. If I had known then, what I know now, there is a chance I might have been able to respond differently. There is a chance my father might still be here today. The missed opportunities are now part of my story, and every day I strive to share what I have learned in the aftermath of my father’s death.

Yes, I may have missed the opportunity to save my father’s life, but in his memory perhaps I can help to save the life of another precious soul and spare another family from the pain mine has endured. So I tell my truth. My painful journey began in a Whole Foods market where I received the call that my father had died by suicide. Mine, by the way, is a story that went viral after I wrote an open letter to the strangers in that store who comforted and cared for me in the immediate aftermath of that devastating call. If they had responded the way your show did, by deciding that it was simply too early on a Monday morning to deal with “suicide on the brain,” the darkest moment in my life might have also been one in which I felt the most alone. Thankfully, that was not the case.

And when my story went viral, I heard from hundreds of survivors of suicide loss. Once again, strangers reached out to me, reassuring me that one day healing would come, one day I would be happy again. They reminded me I am far from alone on this journey. As I became stronger, I sought to do the same for others who were newer to their loss and whose wounds were fresh and raw. From the deep roots of our shared sorrow, we gave one another faith and hope. “Suicide on the brain” in our community of survivors means we understand intimately what the other is feeling, and we want to be a beacon of light and a source of support for one another. That shared sense of knowing binds us together, though we are strangers in every other way.

For many of us, it also means we want to learn from what we have endured. We have lost those we love in the most senseless of ways. We want to give their death some meaning.

I have educated myself about the prevalence of suicide in our nation and what can be done to turn the tide on what is now the 10th leading cause of death. Much of what I have learned and the support I have received began with the very organization you asked to step out of the camera’s view, lest their shirts and their message upset those who had tuned in to your show. I have raised money for this organization, participating in their Out of the Darkness Walks, supporting their efforts to reduce suicide 20 percent by 2025. I have lobbied on Capitol Hill with them to bring the message of suicide prevention to our country’s leaders. This is an organization that embodies hope. “Suicide on the brain” for this group of people means devoting every day to contemplating how we can do better and help those who are deep in the depths of despair. It is about motivation to open minds and hearts so that lives can be saved. Ignorance may be bliss for some, but knowledge is power and power can be used to break down the very walls of shame, stigma and silence that your show chose to feed into last Thursday morning.

Missed opportunities are hard to live with, especially when we know we won’t ever get another chance to make things right. I may have missed the opportunity to save my father, but I sure won’t waste the opportunity to imbue his death with purpose and allow his legacy to be one of life and of hope.

The representatives of your show said they didn’t “want suicide on the brain” at the top of your morning show. If the estimates are that someone in this country dies by suicide every 12.3 minutes, then in the span of your two-hour show approximately 10 people will have been lost to suicide. Their loved ones represent one of the largest mental health casualties of this largely preventable form of death.

On Sept. 8th, just two days before World Suicide Prevention Day, your show missed an opportunity to talk about suicide with the very people devoted to stopping it. But you get another chance, another opportunity to make it right. It isn’t enough to visit this issue only in the aftermath of another celebrity death. It’s time to talk openly and honestly every day and to stop relegating those of us who have lived experience, or who have lost someone we care about, to the periphery, far outside of the camera’s view. We deserve better than that. And we will keep raising our voices for as long as it takes.

You owe this community of survivors, advocates and messengers of hope a sincere apology. And to truly make this right, you owe us a place in front of the camera and a platform from which to speak. Let us say the word suicide, let us put it on the brains of those who tune in to watch your show. Let us empower, educate and share a message of hope. The shirts we wear say, “Be The Voice #StopSuicide” so let our voices be heard. Because the truth is, it might just save the life of some of those very same viewers that you sought to hide us from.

Sincerely,

Deborah Greene

This piece was originally published on Reflecting Out Loud.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

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How My Father’s Suicide Taught Me to ‘Just Be’

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Nine months ago, I stood at my father’s burial trying to gather my thoughts before speaking about his life to family and friends. It was particularly difficult because I had arrived at a day I had been trying to prevent and had feared, for a long time. My dad had ended his life. Then, as I was standing there searching for the words, I remembered an article I had read only seven days prior. It was about ways to help yourself feel safe in an insane world. So I began by sharing what I had learned:

That “anxiety needs the future” and “depression needs the past.”

My dad struggled deeply from both of these things: His fear and lack of control over all that lay ahead, and his regret over the things he couldn’t go back and change. He struggled from an unhealthy relationship with time. He lost his footing in the here-and-now. It made him struggle, as all too many of us do, with the age-old Shakespearean dilemma, “To be, or not to be.”

Though it’s still difficult for me to admit it, this very question had begun to plague my mind just six months before my father died, during my own first battle with anxiety. So as I stood there with my father about to be lowered into the ground with many knowing eyes upon me, I shared an answer the article had given: to “be present.” It was an answer that spoke to my heart. So I told them, in that moment, and as hard a moment as it was, I was grateful to be with them.

Ever since that day, I have been thinking a lot about being present. I’ve been thinking about being centered, being grounded. In short, I’ve been thinking about being. I began wondering why it was so difficult to come up with a concrete meaning for what was perhaps the most basic verb in the English language, without consulting the online search-engine gods. I worried whether I forgotten what it was to just “be.”

Eventually, I turned to Google, and this is what it had to say:

Be /bē/ (verb.):

  1. exist.
  2. occupy a position in space.
  3. stay in the same condition.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, I’m not so sure to be honest. After all, the word “be” is actually most commonly used in its fourth meaning: “possess the state, quality or nature specified.” This is when “be” is followed by other words rather than a period. Other, sometimes aspirational, words used by and for us humans like “smart,” “healthy,” “hardworking,” “good-looking” or “athletic.” The list goes on and on.

After some thinking on the subject, I began to wonder if the pressure of focusing on the many things we know we are supposed to “be” but sometimes fall short of (or believe we fall short of) diminishes our ability to more simply be. “To be” in the traditional, unembellished sense is to be comfortable in our own skin, to be one with ourselves and our surroundings, to be at peace (i.e. definitions 1-3 above).

I guess my question really is have we as a society forgotten how to just be?

Ironically, I think it’s when we constantly try to “be” too many things at once (or perhaps one astronomical thing) we entirely forget how to exist with any amount of calmness and composure in the present moment. When stressed beyond our normal capacity, our minds scatter and it can feel like we aren’t even inhabiting our own body. We can end up spiraling out of control and losing our sense of place, time and self. We land somewhere dark, frightening and terrible. It’s then, when we get to the bottom of that downward spiral, that we think it might be better simply “not to be.” Because at that point, the thought of being anything at all has become unbearable.

I know it all too well. I’ve been there once for a horrific, acute six-week stint, and I hope never to be brought back again. So, in the spirit of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I thought I’d share how I go about keeping anxiety and depression at bay. Yes, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about just being. More than that, I’ve been putting it into practice. I’ve learned how to quiet my mind and focus on the present moment. I meditate, breathe and practice yoga. Building from that, I write, read, run and do all the things I’ve always enjoyed.

Here’s what’s different: I’m newly practicing mindfulness and gratitude all the while. I’m ensuring my brain is present where my body is. I’m making the effort to focus and mentally expand upon on all the simple things that keep me going. It’s through this present-tense state of mind that I find my rhythm, my sense of calm and my appreciation for all that is.

Now, to be honest, it doesn’t always come easy (even for a mentally healthy, happy, neurotransmitter-balanced brain). In fact, it truly takes constant effort. If, God forbid, there is to be a future struggle in store for me, then I also know better how to take it back to the basics. I know how to close my eyes, to find myself and to be. To truly just be.

Perhaps that is part of our answer.

This post originally appeared on The Washington Post.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

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