My heart is heavy for teens today. I thought my teen years were rough, and they arguably were, but I think that there’s a huge increase in stress and, at the very least, the awareness of it. We are so aware now. We are so aware of the stress life holds for every person. We’ve been connected, for better or worse, to the inner turmoils that every soul experiences daily, sometimes hourly. Advances in modern psychology and the understanding of human behavior and development have forever changed the way we view each other and ourselves and we can’t outpace it. The cures are slow in coming. We understand, but we can’t combat fast enough all the ills of this life.
The concern about teenage suicide rates came to the headlines again recently with the debut of the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why.” The book by the same title was written in 2007 and caused some stirrings then as well. The story (and this is somewhat of a spoiler I guess) is that a girl sends 13 recordings to 13 different people blaming them for the negative impact they had, driving her to take her own life at the end. Critics of the book said that it glorified suicide and made it look like it was a viable, almost inevitable, option for the pain and despair she felt, while others praised the author for bringing to light the extreme darkness of suicide and the direct and indirect consequences of bullying, rape, and other issues that, far too often, go under-discussed and largely misunderstood.
Over the next 13 days (or so), I want to talk more about the events in my life that made me suicidal, hopeless, and, eventually, come to a place of peace and rest, not consistent but constant. I’ll say more on that too. I am not saying that these are surefire ways to help someone off the edge, but my hope is that it will help people listen better, ask better questions, and begin to understand the inner dark that some of us have felt so that we can bring those in that turmoil some comfort and direction. A quick overview:
1. I stopped focusing on the people who failed me.
2. I let go of shame, refusing to give it a place in my heart, and replaced shame with acceptance, working hard to believe it existed somehow.
3. I saw suicide not as cowardice, but also not as bravery. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Suicide is not heroic in these contexts, like some desperately want to make it to be. A hero’s choice causes less damage overall, not more.
4. I stopped searching for love and recognized those who already loved me or at the very least were sincerely trying to learn how to love me.
5. I made sure to tell each of those people how much I love them back, or at the very least that I was sincerely trying to learn how to love better.
6. I gave up my anger and bitterness, like a bag of bricks I never needed to carry.
7. I learned to recognize my misplaced anger and pathetic attempts to make anger actually accomplish something.
8. I also recognized how vulnerable I was to emotions and learned to filter my inputs and outputs. I learned to question every emotion I have, asking myself hard questions and pushing past instinct to deeper, actual causes.
9. I admitted my own need for drama – admitting that I actually in some ways wanted it – and stopped spinning endlessly on things I knew I couldn’t change. I admitted that I was refusing to deal because taking the steps toward dealing with them felt so much harder to do.
10. I discovered that dealing with them was, in fact, so much harder, but also so very much better than not dealing.
11. I talked. To anyone who would listen. I stopped living inside my head or burying my hurt behind drinking, sex, and good times. I started writing more. I published blogs so someone else would hear me and I could hear them.
12. I found someone who would never fail me. Or rather, He found me.
13. I finally embraced the gift of life and recognized my own God-given beauty – the image of God in me! – and the work of redemption in all things, in me, in the sins and darkness of my life, and the hope of a future without tears and pain.
These are easy to write out now. I hold out that hope for anyone who is struggling to believe any one of these things. I was there. Oh, how I was there.
But I am HERE NOW. Read that out loud if you need to. Be here now. Survive through the dark and you will see the light shine. It is not enough to accept darkness. Darkness is the absence of light, but light will change everything. The dark will NEVER overcome light. Never. The question is will you persevere to see it? The Light WILL come again. I promise.
I’ll share more of my story in the weeks to come. When I read through the plot of 13 Reasons, I couldn’t help but choke up. I get it. I really do. I get the pain and the very real struggles and fears of a broken life for such a young girl. My story started young too and in some ways goes on. But I am here now. And what a beautiful HERE it is.
Reach out. If you are someone who needs hope and help, contact someone. Contact me if you’d like. I am more than willing to talk or email with you. If you need to talk, contact suicidepreventionlifeline.org or crisistextline.org. Don’t be alone. You aren’t alone. You are so much more.