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"How can we help you today, sir?"
"I don't know....I'm just not sure I want to live anymore."
When the ER nurse asked what I was there for that day in my past, I hardly knew what to say. I didn't want to die; I just didn't want to live. This life can be fleeting and with our technology-focused modern society, every day seems to fly by even faster. But when you are contemplating ending your life, well...time enters weird flux of state.
It's a place in life that many understand through experience and others try to tearfully understand when their loved ones take their lives. I can't describe it; those who have been that low before will nod when they read this because they know exactly what I mean. It is an extremely dark, lonely, and painful place to be. What people don't understand is that the thought of dying is no longer scary at that point: you look forward to because it means an end to the suffering.
I've had a lot of time to think about that period of my life. As you can imagine, it sticks with you. Everyday you wake up is a day you almost didn't have, whether that day be good or bad. There are those who see me as broken, flawed or weak because of my struggles. In my attempt to embrace a second chance at life, they see fit to prove this precious time I almost didn't have is a waste.
This past weekend I had the humbling opportunity to attend and speak at an inspirational and touching "Out of Darkness" community walk at Pleasant Grove High School. What a beautiful facility and what a beautiful day, all for a beautiful purpose. A huge congratulations to the many, many volunteers who worked tirelessly to make it happen.
It was a moving experience to see so many who came to honor the memory of those who decided to take their own lives. All across the United States, teams of volunteers give of their time and resources to organize these walks to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention as well as fund-raise for educational and supportive efforts to prevent more lose. As the AFSP's website states:
"In the United States, a person dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes, claiming more than 38,000 lives each year. It is estimated that an attempt is made every minute, with close to one million people attempting suicide annually. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. among adults 18-65, the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults, and individuals ages 65 and older account for 16 percent of all suicide deaths. This is a public health issue that does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status."
It was an amazing opportunity for me to participate because of all the wonderful people I met, but also because this is a subject that hits so very close to him since it was only years ago that I almost took my own life. Below is a copy of the speech that I gave to the event's attendees that I hope can inspire and comfort you in your own tough times. Don't give up. There is always hope.
“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
When I saw The Fellowship of the Ring movie for the first time, those words struck me like a hammer on an anvil. They were spoken to Froddo, the hobbit whose task it was to take the dreaded One Ring to Mount Doom, as encouragement by the Lady Galadriel when she gave him a small crystal phial, filled with the light of Eärendil's star. She knew that dark days lay ahead for Froddo and his companions and in an act of mercy, compassion and support she gave him light for those times when it felt like the darkness is overwhelming, that there was no other source of light.
So, why were those words so powerful for me?
For years now I have been asked by friends, family, counselors, leaders, teammates, advocates and spokespersons to write about faith and mental illness. While the two have been covered in enough written words to fill the Library of Congress, I feel that we have not seen the two discussed together enough and when it is there is far too much clinical writing and not enough first-hand accounts. So, like two awkward teenagers slow dancing for the first time under the lights, faith and mental illness are often seen touching hands, when in reality they should embrace in an intimate setting that can bring hope, light, love, peace and strength that only a strong relationship can.
Let me state right now that I am not a trained therapist nor mental health professional. What I'm going to write is merely my opinion intermixed with my faith and what I have learned through my own journey with mental illness.