This week is Suicide Prevention week. If you or a loved one are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please visit AFSP for more information regarding suicide, the symptoms, how to help, and how to cope if a loved one has completed the act. Know you are not alone in your struggle and there is hope, there is help, and above all else, you are loved.
Yesterday, my Twitter feed burst at the seams with tweets about @TreyPennington. I had no idea who this man was but quickly learned he had quite a following on Twitter and was well-loved.
Trey is no longer with us. According to reports, he took his own life in a church parking lot in Greenville, South Carolina at some point yesterday morning. Despite his connections both online and off, he felt alone.
When depression or severe mental illness strikes it can be hard to do something as simple as “reach out.” Yes, we urge people to think of mental illness as if it were a broken leg in order to encourage them to seek help. Thing is, it’s not that simple when you’re truly lost in the depths of darkness. The dark will swallow you whole before you have a chance to realize what is going on in your mind. For many, the darkness is a good friend. It becomes a safe place, a haven, a comforting world. In the midnight black we are blissfully numb. Nothing hurts. The pain is behind us. But it’s also in front of us because we know all too well how much it will hurt to leave our numb bubble. We convince ourselves, mistakenly, staying in the numb bubble is our only choice. But to stay in the bubble seals our fate. It grants us an audience with Death.
Those who survive suicide often speak of the decision to commit the act as one of the most peaceful decisions they ever made. To decide to end one’s life is the ultimate act of letting go. We are letting go of everything inside of us. Of everything around us. Of the very essence of being. We let go. I know this because I have entertained suicidal ideations several times throughout my life. In college after both of my grandfathers died just 19 days apart. After the birth of my first daughter. After the birth of my second daughter and her subsequent NICU stay. I did not have a plan after the birth of my second daughter. But I acted after my grandfathers’ deaths. I waded into a lake in the middle of a thunderstorm. Prayed for a lightning strike. Dunked myself under the water with the intention of drowning myself. After the birth of my first daughter I drove to a nearby lake and sat on a deck willing myself to slip under the water. Kids from a family reunion at the same park kept coming down and standing right next to me. Those kids saved my life.
I’ve participated in suicide interventions on Twitter. I’ve seen people hurting and jumped right in, determined to keep them alive. A cousin of mine completed suicide. It’s not something with which I am at all unfamiliar. Suicide hurts. It’s also preventable. But sometimes it’s not. The number one reaction to suicide is “I wish I could have done more.” Sometimes though, you can’t. Sometimes you do all you can do and it’s still not enough. Sometimes you reach out and reach out but unless the person to whom you are reaching is willing to hear you and willing to reach back, there’s nothing left to do.
I’m not saying to give up on trying to save people. Don’t ever let that go. Always hold on tightly. Jump into the fray and let them know they are loved. What I’m saying is we need to talk more about suicide. Discuss mental illness without judging. Not fear receiving anything other than the standard “I’m fine” response to “How are you doing today?” Be okay with hearing someone say “You know what? I’m not okay. I hurt and I need to talk about it.” Be selfless enough to stop and listen compassionately. Be brave enough to say “Yes. I hurt. Help me.” Find the strength to survive. Fight the pain. Revel in life, in both the good and the bad. If we all shut down and stop caring the world will become a very cold place.
Today, take the time to do as Twitter has been advising in the wake of this tragic loss. Take the time to ask someone how they’re doing. Don’t accept “Fine.” as an answer. Don’t pretend to be okay if you’re not. Open the door to your heart. Let someone in. We may not be able to fix others but we sure as hell can love them.
Love someone today. Let someone love you today. Especially if you’re stuck in a dark scary bubble. Let love in and let it free you.