It’s no secret that mental illness is becoming more and more common. We are being told new statistics all the time, high schools are becoming more and more active in the fight against teen anxiety and depression, and some days it seems as though everywhere you go there is some evidence of this darkness – this demon – called mental illness.
So there’s a lot of awareness, yes. But as someone who walked the road for so long and who still does in many ways… awareness does not always equal the support and the community that we need. Sometimes it does, yes. But depression in its very nature seeks to isolate you. It seeks to take away all the things you hold dear and it seeks to truly terrorize you. I’ve had to learn so much about reaching out and communicating my needs, and much of that has come just in the last few months.
It’s interesting, though. Because when you live nearly your entire life with one normal, one constant battle, one thought and demon that seeks to destroy you – the thought of wanting to end your own life – when that’s all you ever really know, what happens when one day you wake up and everything is different? Granted, mine was maybe a two month process (from realizing what needed to happen until the day it all started to make sense). But still – when you’re comparing that time frame to seven years, if not closer to fifteen years – it seems like no time at all.
So, back to the question – what happens when you wake up one day and everything is different? Well, first of all, you learn even MORE just how important it is to rest and to take care of yourself. You learn to be gentle with yourself and to appreciate that your body, for the first time in probably close to fifteen years, can finally relax and leave that constant state of hyper-vigilance behind.
Then as you begin to move forward… you realize that the phrase “nothing will ever be the same” could not ring more true. I mean, just looking at my symptoms – they haven’t gone completely away. Not even close. But it HAS been vastly different because now I feel worthy of using the coping skills that I do have. The symptoms have been here… I’ve been exhausted and experienced depression and this last weekend even started to feel a pull to some old negative coping skills… but yet, things are different – because I didn’t give in, because I’m still here. Because I let God help me through it.
And the biggest difference? Yes all of the same shit still happens. It does – that’s just life. But the biggest difference that is still present? I no longer have the desire to die.
WHAT DID MARY JUST SAY??!
Yeah… you heard me. I don’t want to die anymore. It’s crazy, because in all honesty I never thought I would be able to say that – just ask those who are closest to me. But I mean, not only can I say that… I’ve been able to say that now for almost five months. And if that’s not a miracle of God, I don’t know what is.
September is national suicide prevention month, and for the first time I have walked through this month with an entirely different perspective. For once in my life I can say and truly believe that it can and it will get better. Even looking back, knowing what I know now… I don’t know if I would ever say that to someone in exactly those words. Because it was those same words that had me bitter and angry and resigned and that would honestly leave me more and more hopeless every time I heard them.
I want to come back to the question… what happens when you wake up one day and everything is different, when for the first time in fifteen years you don’t want to die? Well, one result is that you’re now walking through life with a different kind of burden. You’re walking through life with a burden that is hard to describe and that is so hard for others to understand. For myself, I have found that since that Monday morning in May I just view the world so very differently. I mean, when you have a near death experience that lasts that long (on and off, but still), it leaves you scarred. So when I say “nothing will ever be the same”… I don’t just mean the changes that have come from realizing and being able to internalize that I am fully known AND fully loved by our God of the universe. That is a big change and that is life changing, yes.
But I will also never see people the same. I will never not hurt for someone who is hurting. I will never be able to look at my own life without getting overwhelmed with gratitude, with “what ifs”, with the “almosts”… And, coming back to a point from earlier in this post, that can leave someone incredibly isolated and lonely. It’s a different kind of loneliness, yes… I no longer want to die, and being able to say that gives me so much joy. But I am walking through each day with a different kind of burden. Life is a process, and so I will forever be working on giving this burden over to the Lord. But it still just blows my mind that I was so close so many times. I tell people all the time that more than likely, per statistics, I shouldn’t be here. Plain and simple. I should not be alive.
So tonight, I close out suicide awareness month having walked through it with a completely different perspective. I am preparing for the move out to Virginia (another post to come soon), and God in His just absolute awesomeness has orchestrated it all so that there is a community “Out of the Darkness Walk” through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Richmond in just a few weeks. But not only that… It’s on my birthday. You guys, it’s on my birthday. I get to celebrate all that God has done by bringing me out from the darkness of a life colored by suicide ON MY FREAKING BIRTHDAY.
God is good. There’s just no other way around it. Life hurts, yes. Sometimes it really sucks and even starts to hurt like hell. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t good or that He doesn’t love us.
And being able to proclaim those truths over our lives – God is good, loving, kind, so many others – in no way negates the realness of our pain or the fact that life this side of heaven is just plain hard.
All it means is that He is here… with us, in the muck, and in the pain.
What a paradox, yes. But what a beautiful, life changing, and life SAVING truth.