I was so young but wanted to leave. Already weary. No fight in me.
Is that how you feel? Weary? So incredibly tired of the battle that is against you?
I have hated myself. Wished I could be different. Compared myself to others, always lacking. Always.
I knew that I was weak. That I didn’t have it in me to push through.
Didn’t believe life would ever be better. Easier.
Can you relate at all to that?
I tried you know, to leave. And it didn’t work.
And life did not immediately get better. Yet joy came. Not right away. It was hard work to live.
Yet joy came.
I have laid in bed trembling, so filled with fear and anxiety. Brain swirling with dark and scary thoughts. With hopelessness.
I wondered what the point was. I wondered what lay in wait around the next corner.
Every phone call made me panic.
My body ached, my soul hurt. My mind would not rest.
Do you understand any of this? I bet it makes sense to you. At least some of it.
But with time I learned to trust. To love myself. To forgive myself for just being me.
I learned to laugh without hesitation, to offer compassion and kindness. To myself.
To rise above. Slowly. Often falling. But steady.
And joy came. It took years of practice, years of small steps toward wholeness.
I have pushed and fought and strove to prove my worth. To prove that I have a right to be.
Perfectionism ruled me, an unforgiving taskmaster. She would not let me sleep. No mercy for less than the best.
Don’t even try if you can’t do it perfectly, she’d sneer.
I spilled rage onto others and all over myself.
Who the hell did I think I was? Why couldn’t I get it right?
How come everyone else manages life but you can’t get it together? Or keep it together?
And I listened to her for so long. She willed me to give up. Or to live under a heavy, oppressive blanket of shame and not good enough. Unheard. Unloved.
But I want you to hear me – I BURIED SHAME. And joy came.
Not without tears and painful vulnerability and learning to face head on the very emotions that I tried so hard to escape.
Yet joy came.
I am the mom who cannot keep big bottles of Tylenol or leftover medications in her home.
Who lives with anxiety that one day one of her own will find them. And use them.
I watch for signs and symptoms, praying and desperately hoping that they will not follow in my footsteps.
That they will not turn to addiction or disorder
as I did to numb away the pain.
I am the daughter who learned that her own mama wanted to die. That she fought for life like I fought for mine.
I guess I did have fight in me after all. It looked like faltering steps, back and forth. Back and forth.
And I am asking you to fight with just one step today. Just one.
Because joy will come. Not tomorrow and probably not the next day.
Yet joy will come.
And you will laugh again and mean it.
You will love and be loved. You can learn to love yourself.
You will learn to feel again. Fear. Pleasure. Anger. Hope. Disappointment. Peace. Joy.
You will learn how to breathe.
You will step out from under shame and perfectionism. Unworthiness.
And this darkness is a part of your story but not the fullness of it. There is more yet unwritten. A beautiful story.
Can you take one step?
Ask for help; let someone carry you. Make a decision to live; let someone know. Scream if you have to; let your voice be heard.
But don’t give up. You are not alone – you are part of many. And we ache for you but also call you to choose life today because joy will come!
Joy will come.
NOW WHAT: at first glance it seems we’ve come far in advocating for mental health and compassion and support for mental illness, about removing the stigma and shame attached to telling to the truth about where we’re at. But we’re not even close to done yet. Our health care systems are sorely lacking and the truth is, people are still deeply afraid to tell the truth. One step each of us can take is to examine our beliefs and judgments, and to practice talking honestly with our circle of impact about mental health/illness (including with our children!!!). We can practice listening well and remembering we have much to learn, we can refrain from offering unsolicited advice or simplistic answers, and we can practice asking for help when we need it and holding others up when they do. This is the kind of person I want to be.
*This blog post is published in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day 2016