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Being a human being allows us to experience a varied spectrum of emotions throughout our lives.
During certain times we may be forced to an extreme end of the spectrum.
Perhaps a death in family slingshots us to the “negative” end where we experience overwhelming amounts of depression and grief. Or maybe it’s a mental illness that sneaks in and pulls us further and further into the abyss.
Since my sister Elizabeth’s death in 2013, I have wavered to extreme ends of this colorful spectrum. I’ve plunged into earth-shattering grief but also been lifted to tearful euphoria by consciously experiencing being alive.
Sometimes the pain of grief sweeps into my heart like a furious, relentless fire burning across a dry forest incinerating everything in sight. The intensity is so severe that I become desperate for an escape, desperate for relief.
But what I’ve come to realise is that these moments of darkness and pain show me a place where so many people live day in and day out. They show me a place concealed behind masks, drenched in shame and guilt. A place that is literally killing people.
It’s been estimated that, around the world, two people kill themselves every minute. My sister was one of those people.
When I am overwhelmed in sadness or grief, I feel like I can see a glimpse of the world she lived in. A world that she tried to explain to me but one I could never quite grasp. I remember one time she asked me if, like her, I ever had trouble falling asleep. No, I told her, once my head hits the pillow I pretty much fall asleep instantly. “Wow,” she said, “I would give anything to have a mind that clean.”
This idea of a clean mind has always stayed with me. I understand now what she meant by that. Sometimes I meet people whose mind I perceive to be clean, others who I can sense are very much not. Of course, this is all just my perception—some people have masks so thick you can never really tell what is behind them. But I can certainly sense when my own mind has started to fill up with filth and plaque. The days feel darker and my spirit sinks low. Some days it gets so bad that I truly can understand, if even for a glimpse, why anyone would consider suicide.
I don’t know the answer for the millions of people around the world who are living in hell and genuinely want to kill themselves. I wish I did. I wish the path to finding a life worth living was direct and prescriptive and straightforward. But unfortunately, it’s not. There is no such thing as a single path. What may work for one person may not work for the other. Our paths to recovery are messy and wavering and as unique as we are.
All I can say is that when you are fighting for a reason to stay alive, try to remember that nothing can ever stay like this. This pain you are experiencing will soon be a memory, a painful story you share with someone you feel safe around. Maybe you’ve been fighting this battle for some time, perhaps even years, decades.
But you don’t know what the future holds. Just because life has been horrible for the past few years doesn’t mean it will continue to be.
You will need to work harder than the rest of us to find your way out of this place, but trust me when I say there are so many people out there willing to help you. There are so many treatment options available.
There are reasons to stay alive, even if you can’t see them right now.
Death is going to always be an option, it’s always there. But death is also permanent. There is no second chance, there is no coming back. The life you have right now, right in front of you, is your only shot. Give it everything you’ve got, even if it means spending it finding the cure to this pain you have wedged inside your soul.
Here a few things that make me want to stay alive—maybe one thing on this list could strike a chord with you. Or maybe it will help you find the tiniest bit of hope that could save your life.
- The magical feeling of falling in love with someone who helps you become a better version of yourself. Someone who is helping you evolve further (if you have not found it yet, it’s worth the wait).
- Exploring a new country and the feeling of losing yourself. Instead of being stuck in your inner narrative, you are forced to be in the moment; nothing of your past and who you believe yourself to be matters. All that matters is whether or not you can safely cross a chaotic street that follows absolutely no road rules, or whether you can communicate a message to someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you. The layers of the old self are forced to drop away as a new “you” is born in every single moment.
- Taking a day off work for yourself to replenish (getting a massage, painting, walking, swimming, reading, cooking, watching Netflix).
- Squeezing the very most of out of weekends by planning little mini getaways.
- Your favorite meal home-cooked by someone you love.
- To feel what it would be like to get better. To get proper psychological help, to find the right type of therapy that resonates with you.
- Being in the presence of an adorable dog who looks at you with pure, unconditional love and non-judgmental acceptance.
- Talking to a child who reminds you of the way you once saw the world. Who, just by being themselves, reminds you to take life less seriously, play a little bit more, explore, fail, and have fun. Suddenly the world looks just a little bit more beautiful and less scary than before.
- Being cosy inside while watching a thunderous rainstorm rattle the trees and drench the streets. You remain protected and warm, watching from the window as streams of water rush down the panes of glass and lightning flashes across the night sky. As the thunder roars, you are humbled by nature who, just like you, explodes with emotions of rage and sadness. But you know that soon she will recover, and you remain patient because you know the sun will always come again.
- Getting to wear your favorite outfit and feeling confident in your skin.
- That feeling of accomplishment as your heart beats hard after hiking a long, arduous mountain trail and looking out at the magnificent view before you.
- Swimming in the ocean, feeling your body lift with the swell of a wave.
- Not knowing where you will be tomorrow, or a year, or 10 years from now. Life is full of surprises and so many amazing, weird, exciting, interesting things can happen. We can only see the future from where we are now, through our current lens. Our imagination cannot imagine what it’s never experienced, so always have a small bit of hope saved in your mind. Keep it like a small fire, burning in the back of your mind—you never know when you’ll need it.
- The feeling of being validated, seen, and understood.
- Being the person who allows someone else to feel understood, seen, and validated.
- A delicious cup of home-brewed coffee.
- Sitting by a fireplace either with a glass of wine or a mug of tea, listening to the crackling fire.
- Witnessing a sunset that leaves you speechless, or being awake for a sunrise that calms your spirit and energises your heart.
- When you’re at a bar and a band starts playing your favorite song and everyone in the bar, including you, starts singing along in unison.
- Road trips with your favorite song playing at max volume.
- Seeing old friends and reminiscing about the old days, when you were just kids trying to figure out the world.
- Dancing. Letting your weary soul move to the music in whichever way it feels like.
- The satisfaction in finally gaining the trust of a cat and hearing it purr on your lap.
- A sincere compliment from a stranger, completely out of the blue.
- Amazing books that are being written right now by authors you don’t even know about yet.
- Your favorite songs that are about to be released that you will love so much you will listen to on repeat.
- What the future will look like: who will cure cancer, how this new generation of children will tackle climate change, what living on Mars will be like.
- Seeing families expand and meeting fresh new humans.
- The possibility of being a mother/father/aunt/uncle one day.
- Laughing with someone to the point of tears.
- The first day of snow. When autumn sticks around longer than its due date and wet, dead leaves wait patiently for a fresh sheet of snow to cover them. When the snow finally arrives, it feels like magic. Suddenly you see sprinkles of white floating down from above, filling up the ground like blots of white paint. It continues and continues, until it fills the city like a soft white blanket, taking away all the noise with it. When you go outside at night, it feels like it’s just you and your breath. You pull off your mitten and reach your hand out, watching as a snowflake melts on the palm of your hand.
- Helping the next person who feels the same way as you do.
- Ultimately, knowing that your story and the pain you are in can be the very thing that can save someone else’s life. And that is enough to make it worth living.