September 10 was Suicide Prevention Day. Sadly, I didn’t get it finished and posted on time.
His name was Tim, Tim of the floppy hair and floppy pajama bottoms that made his legs look all the skinnier.
Tim, a Carpe Diem boy, jumping on and over furniture as he recited Jim Morrison’s mantras and Shakespearean soliloquies. Tim, the one man Cirque du Soliel show, flipping over and flipping off, oratorian to a star-struck audience of one.
Tim of the animated features: eyes that widened and contracted as he traced the height of me, head that nodded, dragging his floppy hair along for the ride, and mouth that was the sloe gins of slow grins, spreading not just acceptance, but approval and intoxication, when I declined a joint.
Tim of the one kiss. One single night; one single kiss. A kiss in the shadows against a friend’s house, a kiss that lasted forever. Tim of the kitty-cat tongue and kitty-cat teeth. Bit my ear and whispered, “This is how it’s done,” while I melted into a sixteen-year-old puddle, lapping at his feet.
I didn’t learn what “it” was nor did I learn “how it’s done” that night.
But about year later, I learned what it was like to lose someone that I loved from afar.
This boy, this beautiful boy who had awakened in me a trembling passion for Morrison and kissing, for Shakespeare and choice, this boy who had, in a split second, given me more reason to say no to drugs than a thousand television ads with frying eggs ever had, this beautiful boy committed suicide.
He shot himself.
I didn’t know how to process it. He had just transferred to my school, had a girlfriend, and I saw him for moments between classes for a very short period of time.
Rumor had it that he had also left a note behind blaming his girlfriend.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of attending a suicide awareness event hosted by a local group called CAYA RACE. I lit a candle for Tim and listened to stories.
Standing in the community didn’t matter. Sexual orientation and race didn’t matter. Those who showed up were as diverse a group as I’d ever seen in south Mississippi. And they all had stories.
Some were stories of people who had, despite their best efforts, managed to succeed at living. They spoke of bullying, of depression, of angelic friends who, in the last possible moments, pulled them from the ledge of their bad decisions.
Some were stories from loved ones. Those left behind, wondering the why, what, and who of it all.
All of them were heroes. There were those who stood up, spoke out, and became the friend they needed when they were in the dark. A mother spoke of her daughter’s best friend who had taken her own life, and how it transformed herself and her daughter into a superhero duo who would answer the call, twenty-four and seven, for anyone who needed to talk. They would go to the caller and sit with them to make sure they were safe until someone else could take over.
Of course, superhero is not what she called herself and her daughter.
But I do.
I’ve written about how courage looks like different things to different people, and but it is exactly the same for everyone: a single step over that line of fear that divides the safe from the unsafe.
Even Captain Hammer says “Everyone’s a hero in their own way; everyone’s got villains they must face.” (We’ll ignore the part where he says not-that-heroic way because, well, it is Captain Hammer).
I didn’t mean to speak at the Suicide Awareness event. I just did. Bumbling on crutches through the sand, I stood and spoke, my words all a jumble. I spoke of Tim, but I also spoke of myself, and that was something I did not expect.
Here’s the part where I stand, just a little more maskless than I was before.
I have attempted suicide. Twice. I’ve wished for death to take me more times than I have fingers and toes. In the past. I had told God that “If You love me, you’d take me,” and when I woke, took my breathing for proof that either there wasn’t a God or that He didn’t love me.
I’d listen to the Trevor Project’s promises of “It Gets Better” and I hated them for lying. Because, somehow, I was beyond the point of it ever getting better.
I am here to tell you that the Trevor Project’s promise is NOT a lie. It DOES get better.
What depression does is create a sense of tunnel vision where nothing is visible beyond the immediate pain. People talk of the selfishness of suicide, but I think they’re missing the mark. Those who attempt it aren’t selfish so much as they are blind. Depression steals vision from those who suffer from it just as it steals hope.
And now that I’ve firmly established myself in my forties, and living a far more challenging life than I could even imagine for myself, I am here to say that no matter the circumstances, life can get better. It will get better.
For all its pitfalls and prizes, life is just too damn interesting to let go of. I want to see it through–too much lies ahead of me that is still undone. Too many people and places and adventures left to see. Too many stories left to tell.
There are bad moments. There will be bad moments. There are bad days. There will be bad days.
But there are also glorious moments, when you see or hear exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, or when you succeed at something in a way that exceeds all expectations. There will be many glorious moments. There are magnificent days, when you reconnect with a “long-lost” friend, or see the perfect sunset, or be given a boon that you never saw coming. There will be many magnificent days.
You are in this place at this time because you have a purpose to serve. Whether you believe in God or a universal “big picture” or simply the natural world, each person has a part to play otherwise he or she wouldn’t be here.
Find that purpose.
Breathe deep. A bad moment is just a moment, and a bad day is just 24 hours. They may stretch on for what seems to be forever, but nothing earth-bound lasts forever.
Breathe through it.
Keep breathing. Imagine the walls of a tunnel chipping away with each breath until you can smash them with the tap of a single finger.
It will happen.
The walls will crumble and tumble, and you will have regained your vision and your hope.
Depression lies, tells you hope and vision are gone forever.
They are not. They’re just tucked away in your pocket for safekeeping. Breathe and reach into your pocket. You’ll find them again. If for some reason you can’t find them in your pocket, reach out. There are many people and organizations out there that are holding your hope and vision for you until you can carry it again. Find them. They are waiting for you to welcome you back into life again.
There are only two things you must do: keep breathing and hold onto the tiniest bit of hope that you will find the right resource. If one doesn’t work, seek out another.
You will find it again if you just hold on a little longer.
Turn to Mr. Koyczan and listen to his Instructions for a Bad Day.
Call the suicide hotline or find them online.
1 (800) 273-8255 www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
If you are out there, somewhere on a continent other than North America, reach out.
They are waiting for you.
Hold on. Just a little longer.
(Featured Image: http://aeirmid.deviantart.com/journal/New-Contest-A-Candle-in-the-Darkness-462480705)