June 21, 2016

An Open Letter to anyone Contemplating whether Life is Worth Living.

Life will never be the same without you.

You may be thinking that your family and friends will eventually move on or that they will be better off without you, but I am here to tell you that quite the opposite is true.

Sure, eventually they will move on with life; they will have no choice for their own good but to pick up and move on—but their life will never be the same. There will always be a piece of them missing. They will be left feeling a void, a lonely emptiness that cannot be filled by anyone else but you. They will have countless unanswerable questions to face for days, months and years to come.

I know this, because on February 3rd 2016, my family’s lives were changed forever. We are now traveling a road we never believed nor wanted to ever have to travel. Being left to grieve the catastrophic afterlife of our loved one’s death is my reason for sharing this with you.

It’s unfortunate enough that everyday there are people fighting for their lives, fighting to cure their illness, fighting to hang on and if given the chance they would choose life. Unfortunately I realise for many that doesn’t always feel like an option and I believe that needs to change.

Whatever you are feeling right now or whatever dark days you are amidst, know that deep down you are not the burden that you may think you are.

You are not a failure.

You are not worthless.

You are not a monster.

You are not a lost soul.

You are incredibly important. You are needed. You are wanted. You are deeply loved.

You are healing.

Having traveled my share of roads to what felt like nowhere, I know how dreadful life can feel sometimes, but what I also know now is everything that has ever happened to us has happened for a reason. Every hardship and triumph all happen to make us stronger, to guide us into the person we are meant to become. Sometimes life throws us curve balls to test us along the way, taking us one step further or one step closer, depending on which direction we choose.

Losing a loved one to suicide has brought with it an indescribable amount of emotions that change in speed varying from high to low intensity in one moment to the next.

Although I do not know what it feels like to want to die, I know what it feels like to not want to live anymore. The thought of dying actually terrifies me, yet the thought of not living anymore has at times provided me with some level of comfort, almost like a weight had been lifted. Reflecting back now, I can see that that weight had only just settled, it had not been lifted.

Also that “comfort” for me was actually blocking me from allowing my inner struggles to come to the surface. Keeping them below somehow just felt safer. Feeling like my loved ones would be better off without me because I felt worthless wasn’t actually a real feeling that could be validated outside of my own inner thoughts. Sometimes we experience feelings that aren’t real.

We may think they’re real because they feel that way, but it’s important to remember that feelings aren’t facts. Just because you feel something doesn’t mean that that feeling accurately represents your truth.

Sometimes how we feel prevents us from moving forward. We might have times where we might feel numb or sad or we might feel scared and unsure why—or maybe we just feel lost because we feel a certain way but really we’re just unaware that our current state isn’t the true essence of our desires.

So imagine you’re in control of your body, your whole physical existence and everything deep within you—all good, all bad, you’re in control—you are now in the driver’s seat driving your own bus. Just because you feel numb or sad or scared, lost or angry or confused doesn’t mean this is where it all lies; it just means on the other side of that is so much more. 

Imagine thinking about what the exact opposite of those feelings might be: Alive, happy, brave, secure, confident.

Having lived through many years of abuse and addiction and feeling like I had failed miserably in life, there were many times when I felt as though I couldn’t breathe; I literally thought I was dying and sometimes dying felt like the only plausible cause. Multiple ECG scans confirming that I was not having a heart attack but that I was suffering from anxiety and panic disorder left me feeling confused. I could have dealt with a heart attack or at least made sense of it, but anxiety and panic—what’s that?

They gave me a paper bag to blow into that day, which basically left me feeling misunderstood and honestly a bit crazy. And although I didn’t leave the hospital that day feeling like I had an answer, I am able to see now how things started to shift gradually for me over time. Eventually I was medicated but all the while I somehow just felt like it was only masking how I was really feeling. Through this awareness I then began to educate myself on this diagnosis.

However I’m not just talking about a diagnosis here, I’m talking about life with anxiety and panic, depression and isolation, neglect and regret, guilt and remorse—suffering helplessly or intentionally. Whatever the case may be to you and your life—own it, don’t be ashamed. I can assure you, you are not alone.

Ultimately we can and should learn to not only tolerate our unique differences but to embrace them. When I was feeling trapped inside of what felt like my own abyss, I was focusing on what didn’t feel good or what wasn’t working, rather than trying to fit into my own self I was trying to fit into everyone else’s.

Through many years of trial and error I still make mistakes, but it’s through these that I’m able to learn and grow. Life is worth celebrating; even if that just means you were able to get out of bed this morning—sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe.

Place your hand over your heart. When you feel like giving up, remember the reasons you’ve held on for so long. Look at how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.

Perhaps one of the most difficult battles we typically face within ourselves is the battle between what we think we know and what we feel. Sometimes we just get stuck on what isn’t working. But imagine if we put all of that energy into what could work, until what could, becomes what is.

Giving up on life doesn’t end the chances of it getting any worse; it eliminates the possibility of it ever getting any better.


In Loving Memory:

There are so many things I wish I had of said but I didn’t because unfortunately, I took life for granted.

I never imagined—I even doubted—life would ever exist without you. But that’s my hard lesson and the guilt that I’m left to live with now. Yet likely only a fraction of the guilt you were breathing and living every day; I can only imagine how suffocating that must have felt.

I wish we could go back so that I could have told you that this time shall pass. These feelings that you were feeling were only temporary and that this time for you wasn’t your defining moment.

We will always remember you for the good that you brought into our lives; you brought much love and light, and laughter. Not a day goes by that your presence is not missed. You made our family, family—through your strengths and your challenges, all of it made you, you: we never loved you any less. I wish we had come together as we did in your honour, but for you in your darkest days to show you just how much light you provided to ours.


Author: Jaime Bottomley

Images: Flickr/Jem Yoshioka  ;   Unsplash/Volkan Olmez

Editors: Erin Lawson

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