How I Came to Believe Life Is Worth Living
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
So much of my life has been shrouded in darkness, consumed by thoughts I couldn’t control and overwhelmed by anxiety. However, piece by piece, year by year, I kept progressing towards the very simple idea that it’s a good thing to be alive and I should celebrate that. While this story of mine isn’t filled with giant triumphs, lightning strikes or one specific moment that changed the course of my life, it is an honest take on what recovery and hope have looked like for me personally.
I haven’t cut or self-harmed in 11 years — something I celebrate. I also celebrate anybody on day one or week one, because that’s how 11 years happens — one day at a time. So let’s you and I first make one thing extremely clear; recovery happens one day at a time, which builds into weeks, months and then years. Don’t ever feel shame for being on hour one, day one, or week one. Your victory is your victory and as bad as it is to let someone else lessen that, it’s even worse to let your own brain dampen the celebration party. So, celebrate today for whatever stage you’re in.
However, at the same time for me, until six months ago, I was still begging a God I was losing faith in to take my life and end my suffering. All I could focus on was everything mental illness took from me. My record deal, the friends I left, the girlfriends I hurt, the family members I let down, and most painfully the judgment I was placing on myself. I was consumed with negative thoughts, but I didn’t want to die by suicide anymore. This was a victory for me — not winning the entire war, but still a victory. I just didn’t want to be alive in the first place.
Here’s where I would love to say I started yoga, weightlifting, met the “right person,” found Jesus, started meditating or that something culturally relevant had saved my life and gave me hope. However, even though I do go to the gym when possible, I was a pastor, I do meditate, I am married and I even read cheesy self-help books — which all left me tired with a feeling I had expended all options to no avail — I had no hope to hold onto until I met my current doctor/therapist.
It was therapy — real, legit, hard, sometimes painful therapy — that gave me hope. Yes, I take meds that do keep me stable and checked off all the aforementioned “solutions” to mental illness, but it was therapy that made me want to live again. Therapy gave me a space of peace within the war silently raging inside my head. Therapy taught me I wasn’t “crazy,” wasn’t bad, wasn’t a failure, wasn’t less than anyone else, and I was just another human. I am another human sucking down oxygen from innocent trees, who was allowed to be broken but also allowed to have hope.
If I’m honest, it feels anticlimactic not to have a big bold claim about something that made my life worth living. I’m not out saving orphans, I’m not suddenly going on tour playing music, I’m not a vegan and I’m not even back in school like I dream to be. What I’ve learned in therapy has shifted the paradigm in my head. I spent my high school years cutting myself for a myriad of reasons. I spent my early 20s having moved past the desire to self-harm only to meet the desire to have never been born in the first place. At 26, I can honestly say I want to live and therapy gave me the peace, acceptance and the ability to feel this way.
I may not wake up every day like Captain America — insert super hero of your choice here. I may feel much more like Deadpool — insert self-deprecating and begrudging hero here — but I am at least thankful to be alive. Thankful I can play guitar and sing with the audience of my faithful and energetic Blue Heeler pup. I’m thankful for the many the breaths I inhaled while writing this. Quite bluntly, I’m just thankful I believe life is worth living, because of the fruit that hard work in therapy produces.
Find your path to recovery and fight for a life worth living that you can believe in. It will probably look nothing like mine on paper but I’m rooting for you every step of the way, as are all the Worth Living Ambassadors and the mental health community at large.
You can win this war inside your head that was never asked for. You can feel hop. You can believe your life is worth living.
Here’s to you and the story you’ll tell someday about what recovery looked like in your life.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via fizkes