A friend reached out this morning for advice; A dear friend of hers lost his battle last night.
What do you say when someone takes their own life? she asked.
It could have been me.
My friend and I talked briefly about her friend. I had never met him; I didn’t know him. But at the same time, when I heard news of his suicide, I felt like I knew him all too well. The minute he took his own life I was connected to him in a profound way.
I am connected to all of the beautiful souls whose lives have ended at the hands of the demons that live inside of them.
We are connected because I know their demons, I have the same ones. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re body is occupied by someone else. I know what it’s like to feel yourself drowning; like you are swallowing water when everyone around you is breathing air. I have seen the world through the same black fog and walked through the same sticky quicksand. I know what it’s like to be tortured by such deep emotional pain that suicide feels like the only option. I know. I really do. I’ve been there.
I used to think pain isolated me. That experiencing deep emotional pain made be different from you, less than you. I hid my pain because I was afraid you would think I was weak. I was afraid my darkness made me ugly. I was afraid that if anyone knew the kind of thoughts I had, the thoughts that told me I was worthless and didn’t deserve to live, they would treat me like I didn’t deserve to live.
I didn’t talk about my pain until it was almost too late. I didn’t tell anyone I wanted to die until I almost did. But something magical happened when I woke up after trying to die: hope was born. Hope opened the door for me to talk about my pain. And when I started to talk about my pain, I began to see your pain. I saw that it was the same pain. My eyes were no longer blinded by fear. They were instead opened to the reality of us existing together in a world full of pain. Pain that connects me to you in the most profound way.
It was never the pain that isolated me, it was my fear. Once hope entered in and gave me back my will to live, fear loosened its grip. And when I started to let go of my fear, I began to see the beauty that lives beneath the pain. The beauty that exists in a deep, intimate connection with another human being who shares the same pain.
My darkness no longer isolates me. My feelings of worthlessness and shame, the thoughts that tell me I don’t deserve to live, that the world would be a better place without me, no longer make me feel alone. They don’t isolate me because I share them. I talk about them. I use them to build a bridge between myself and every other human being who has ever felt that way. Our darkness allows us to connect and that connection sparks a light within us that rids the darkness.
I’m always sad when I hear news of one of us dying. It could have been me. But it’s a great reminder of why I need to continue talking about suicide and sharing my pain.
Some ask why I’m so open about my past and sometimes present struggles with suicide ideation.
“Aren’t you scared of what people think? Aren’t you scared they will judge?”
No, I’m no longer afraid of what others think. Other people’s opinions don’t scare me, but my own brain still does. Sometimes, my mind still plays tricks on me. Sometimes, my depression lies to me and tells me that death is a way to escape the pain. Sometimes, when the pain gets bad enough, death still feels like an option.
Days when I feel like the world would be a better place without me in it, I talk about suicide to ensure I don’t kill myself. I can’t always trust my thinking. Years of poor decisions and bad judgment have taught me not to trust my own thinking. My head is a dangerous place. Thoughts stuck inside my head turn into dangerous thoughts. And my life can’t afford dangerous thoughts. My life is too fragile.
I’m not scared to talk about suicide anymore, I’m scared to stay silent. Silence is what fuels my depression. Silence turns thoughts into obsessions and obsessions lead to actions. Silence is the deadliest weapon of all. Silence kills. I know my silence will kill me. And I don’t want to die.
Even on days when I think I want to die, I don’t want to die. My brain still lies to me. My mind still plays tricks on me. I want the pain to end but I know death isn’t the answer. So I talk about it to find other answers.
And I talk about it so others who are scared to talk about it know that they are not alone. We are never alone, despite how lonely we feel.
My pain doesn’t make me different from you. It doesn’t make me less than you. My darkness isn’t ugly. It’s a beautiful bridge that connects me to you. And connecting through pain is the most powerful, trans-formative connection I’ve ever experienced.
*A version of this article first appeared on The Mighty.
*Image credit: Stock Photo Secrets