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To My Friend Who Attempted Suicide

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Dear friend,

To be honest, I’ve thought about what I was going to say in this letter for a while now, and I’m still not quite sure I have the right words. But that’s the thing about words: context is everything. You take them out of a context they were meant for and place them in another, and they make no sense or they change the meaning of the new context. If you do this enough times, the words become useless — displacing and relocating until the original meaning is lost. Right now, you’re probably hearing a lot of words from family and friends, some you may even be saying to yourself. Don’t take these words out of context. Your friends and family are probably telling you they love you. Don’t turn these words into an “I love you, but…”

You may be feeling a lot of feelings right along with these words: anger, sadness, shame and maybe even some guilt.

Everything you are feeling right now is valid. Every emotion you have and don’t have is valid. Some days you might be feeling everything at once, and somedays you might be feeling nothing at all — you might not know which one is worse; neither do I.

I don’t know your story. I don’t know what led you to attempt suicide. I don’t know if it was a genetic predisposition, a single event or a series of events culminating in this one cataclysmic moment in your life. Whatever happened, your past is valid. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Don’t let anybody take the pain you might be feeling away from you and assign it to themselves. You are grieving. You are hurting. They, too, may be grieving and hurting, but this is not about them. This is about you. To take the focus away from you is to invalidate the pain you are feeling. Let the emotions roll over you like waves; take them as they come, one at a time.

I’m writing this letter, I’m telling you all of this because I understand. I understand what it’s like to be on the front lines of this very real battle. I understand what it’s like to feel as though giving up is your only option. I understand because I, too, attempted suicide.

I’m still trying to pick up the pieces of my life. I’m still trying to recover. I’m still wrestling with tough feelings and intrusive thoughts that won’t go away. Sometimes I wonder why I survived when so many others do not. Maybe you’re wondering that, too. Maybe you’re wondering what you did to deserve all this pain. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, for every answer I don’t have, I have a million more questions.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned: time goes on. Time goes on, but I still live my life in terms of anniversaries. I focus on how long it’s been since the events in my past, because that way I don’t have to focus on the future. The future terrifies me simply because it’s unknown. I live in terms of anniversaries because they’re set in stone. I know what’s happened in my life, but I don’t know what’s going to. And that terrifies me.

I look to the past because it helps me gauge how far I’ve come. I’ve survived x, y and z, and today I did a, b, and c.

I don’t know where you are in your healing journey, or even if you have begun healing yet. I am going to tell you that the journey ahead of you is going to be long and hard. I tell you this not to scare you, but to remind you that you are a survivor. You are strong. You can do this. And you need to have faith in something — I don’t know if it’s God, or if you wonder if God’s abandoned you. I wondered that too for a long time. Sometimes I still do.

Sometimes the only thing I can believe in is gravity. I have faith that the ground will stay firm beneath my feet, holding me up when I am too weak to stand.

Believe in something. It’s the only way you’re going to get through this.

I’m not going to say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, because to do so would be to deny the truth that sometimes this pain doesn’t go away. I’m also not going to tell you to stay here because there are people who love you. If love were enough, the world would be different.

I’m telling you depression will come in cycles — high tides and low tides. Some days it’ll feel like you’re floating on air, like you’re weightless, you can do anything. Some days, it’ll feel like your chest is collapsing because the weight of the world is too much to bear. Have faith this too shall pass.

Some days it might seem like you’re living at the South Pole, where the sun doesn’t rise for months at a time. But even there, there are months where the sun doesn’t set. Have faith that in the darkest times, there will be light again. If you ever need to be reminded of this, look outside during the darkest night. Sometimes the only way to see stars is to have darkness.

I am telling you to stay here because right now, you are walking through a valley. But when you start climbing up the other side, when you reach the top of the mountain, the view is so beautiful.

I’m telling you to live for the little things. Find what makes you happy and do it. Read, write, dance in the rain, pet every animal you come across, listen to music, eat that cupcake, go see that movie. Sometimes we are so focused on the road ahead of us, we forget to live in the moment. Sometimes we are so focused on the here and now, we forget that it’s not forever.

I don’t know if this letter has helped or hurt or really if it’s made any sense at all. But I’m going to end with this personal story:

The summer after my freshman year of college, I went to Guatemala with a group of students. One day we went to a multi-story mall. A smaller group of students and I, while exploring, went to one of the upper levels of the parking garage. As I went and stood next to the barrier and looked around and over to the ground, I thought I was going to feel the urge to jump. I always had before, which is why I tend to avoid heights. But in that moment, as the sun was beginning to set and the horizon was turning to hazy dusk, I felt this sense of calm and peace rush over me. If only for a moment. That’s how I know I’m beginning to heal.

A few days later, we were serving dinner in the Guatemala City dump. A teammate and I climbed onto the top of the bus and looked around. As I looked over the dilapidated, rundown metal shanties in front of me, I caught sight of the mountains in the distance. In that moment, I was reminded beauty and brokenness can live right alongside each other. Out of brokenness comes beauty.

You are beautiful.

Getty image by Polar_lights

Originally published: November 4, 2019
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