Every day across the world there are thousands of people struggling with a heart breaking, gut wrenching choice. They are deciding whether they are willing to take a chance on tomorrow or if they are going to end their story here. These are men and women who feel utterly alone, crushed by hopelessness and suffocating despair. People who see a future stretching before them filled only with pain and darkness. They can no longer imagine what it felt like to enjoy life or picture a day when they might feel it again. All they know is they are too tired to keep fighting the turmoil in their minds.
These are the men and women who are contemplating suicide as we speak. We don’t really like to talk about them.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. A day when people are coming together from across the globe to give voice to an issue that remains surrounded by stigma and shrouded in shame. We are trying to bring the issue out of the darkness it hides in, and into the light.
I am writing this because one day, five years ago, I too was struggling with this impossible choice. Depression had brought me to my knees and it hurt more than I thought I could bare. I had become a shell of my former self, beaten down and broken. The thought of another day filled me with dread, I was just so exhausted with life. I wanted it all to stop, an end to the daily battle. I didn’t believe it would ever get better. And I could almost convince myself those who loved me would be better off without me.
Each night I had to decide if I would give tomorrow a chance. I was gambling the weight of my pain on what felt like the faint possibility of a brighter tomorrow.
Somehow I managed to keep making the right choice. I kept choosing tomorrow until eventually there came a day where I forgot I was making a choice.
Yet I am writing this because I know it could have turned out differently. In many ways I was lucky. I was a girl who wore her heart on her sleeve, it wasn’t hard to see something was wrong and I was able to ask for help. I had amazing friends and family who weren’t afraid to ask difficult questions and find a way through the answers. My faith in God kept me anchored to this life, with a sense that He had not let go of me yet, even though I couldn’t feel Him. I found an outlet in writing and was able to release the pain into words before it became too much. And I was ill at a time when our health service was a little less stretched and I was able to get the support I needed.
Mainly I write because my gamble on tomorrow has paid off. Yes, there were hard and painful days of recovery, where I questioned my decision. But looking back on the thousands of yesterdays I can say that it has been worth it. All the joy and the sadness, the healing and the pain, was worth getting up for. And I wouldn’t rewrite my story, even if I had my days again, as it’s made me the person I am today. I have come to be thankful for the journey and appreciate life in all it’s beauty and brokenness. The sunshine seems sweeter when you have known long dark nights.
The thing I can see now is that suicide is a certainty, where as the future is always uncertain. Suicide is the permanent solution to a temporary problem. No matter how overwhelming and all consuming the night may seem, eventually the dawn does break. Maybe it won’t be tomorrow but if you keep showing up for each tomorrow, you will reach a brighter day.
Suicide is ending a book mid chapter. It is empty chairs at kitchen tables and shock waves fracturing so many lives. It is a passing on of pain from one life to another, a spreading of the darkness. And it is hundreds of tomorrows that will never come to be, futures that are lost forever. Each life lost to suicide is one life too many.
Yet the answer is compassion rather than judgement. It is opening our ears to listen, rather than piling on our own condemnation. The answer is to arm ourselves with love and walk with those struggling as they find a way out of the darkness.
We don’t think suicide will touch our lives. We don’t believe it will steal our loved ones. We don’t imagine that we would have anything in common with those making these choices. But these are people like you and me. There will be people in our lives who have fought or are fighting this battle. Maybe you are reading this today in the midst of your own choice.
Keeping silent will not change anything. It will only increase the isolation of those struggling. Yet if the only time we speak is to report another life cut short, then we are not telling the full story. Because the truth is there are countless more people who have survived feeling this way and have found their way to brighter days. We have to tell their stories too.
It is time to break the stigma, to build our own communities which can be safe places to be broken. It’s time to talk about suicide before it’s too late. It is time to have real conversations with each other. To share our stories of pain and overcoming, to hold out hope to those who have lost sight of it. We must remember that we need each other. It’s okay to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak, it means you are carrying a burden you were never meant to carry alone.
There is always hope if you can stop and listen for it’s whisper. And if you still can’t hear it, let others speak it to you. Your story doesn’t have to end this way. There are brighter tomorrows to come, if you can keep choosing each new day. You are not alone, there are people on your side.
I believe in our tomorrows. I believe that the world needs each of us to show up and be who we were made to be. We each have a purpose that only we can fulfil. No one can be replaced.
Today may have been filled with pain. But with the morning will come a new day. Let’s keep choosing tomorrow.