Before anything: if, right now, you’re having any suicidal thoughts, I’d advise you read this article, and follow it carefully. I want you to live, and I want you to want yourself to live.
I’ve been weathering a lot of “dark nights” lately, feeling like there’s no hope, no moon or stars at night…just an agitated sea. Anxieties would toss me about as words from past abusers pelted me like rain from the storm clouds in the present. Like past the event horizon of a black hole, there’s no perceivable way out: just an oppressive darkness.
It’s times like those that can quickly turn into life/death situations. It’d be choosing between suicide, and a pain that doesn’t appear to have an end.
Most people know this as an invisible struggle, though I do know some people make their pain more visible than I do/did: Some wear dark colors, dark make-up, hide behind their hair or lifestyles. Some wear long sleeves even in the summer, or somewhat conversely, low-cut shirts even in the winter. Some are often known as standoffish, abrasive, as bullies even. Some abuse alcohol, drugs, food, sex, or just don’t take care of themselves, making unhealthy decisions, living unhygienicly, living dangerously in some way or another.
Dawn Eden described it in My Peace I Give You as putting on a “false identity” to hide from the hurt. I’d add that it’s also the only way many feel they can “safely” express their hurt to avoid the stigma of being a wimp, crybaby, or as my mother often used as a most-hated insult, a victim.
In light of these things, some may understandably argue that we just want attention, to be a “spectacle”. There is, at least in my heart, a secret hope that someone can see the hurt I often feel I can’t speak out with words. I’d say, though, that it’s much more for the want of some proof of being lovable than just being a “spectacle” or causing a fuss. As it is, my life has been saved many times when I’d just recall a single statement a friend said, when he told me in one such dark moment: “But I want you to live.”
“Alright,” some may say, “but what about anger? To kill someone, whether yourself or another, must be from some anger, right? Aren’t you just trying to take revenge on the world?” This also has some truth. I personally fear anger, so my knowing this is more from what I observed from my parents carrying on their abusers’ legacies by abusing me and themselves. As I shared before, when confronted with the abuse they did to me, it was only then did they start talking about the abuse they suffered to explain away their behavior, destructive and self-destructive. It’s a powerful way to defame those abusers; I had a very strong resentment for my grandparents after that, and would at times fall into the trap of solely holding them responsible for what I suffered instead of the ones who actually abused me.
Yes, suicide and self-destruction can be seen as the ultimate revenge on the abusers, and on the world we perceive to otherwise not care about what happened to us. There are, of course, more reasons out there: to have a pain under one’s own control for once, the belief that there’s just no point for whatever reason…but I think a more obscure reason, and often the most powerful reason for me, is the genuine thought that suicide is the right thing, even virtuous thing, to do.
This comes from the messages, spoken or unspoken, from others that tell me that I’d be doing the world a favor in killing myself. I’d take things others say and do as disqualifiers for my staying alive. This could be as simple as making fun or getting impatient with me when I reach out, or saying something that in some way suggests that the blame my abusers put on me was true.
Sometimes it’s pretty meanspirited, but others, it’d an be instance where I don’t think it was so much an angry or mean thing to say as it was genuine exasperation, maybe even fear. Many times, I can (eventually) see this was the case, and can see that my distress over it has much more to do what the abuse taught me. However, it doesn’t stop the feelings, nor the thoughts, in my vulnerable moments:
“I’m too much trouble. I can’t do anything right. I’m just as much of a slutty whore and evil thing as they said I was. My living causes others to suffer. My living causes me to suffer. All these bad things that are happening to me now is proof that I’m inherently bad and broken, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what I do, or how hard I try; my life ultimately causes suffering for everyone…so it’s probably better for everyone if my life ended.”
If you or anyone you know has ever had these things going on through your/his/her head, I implore you to follow the advice a youth speaker I like to follow (Chris Stefanick) likes to say: “If your head’s like a bad neighborhood, don’t go in there alone.” Finding the right family member, the right friends, the right therapist, the right spiritual director, etc. is a hard process, but can be ultimately rewarding. In the meantime, while like many of us, these are words I can’t say for myself…I can and will say it for you:
You are loved. You do matter. If your life wasn’t supposed to happen, you wouldn’t have been conceived, right? I don’t care what your parents said or the circumstances that it happened; point is it happened. Therefore, it stands to reason that Something wants you here, that there’s something only you can do for this world, that you’re irreplaceable.
Forget everything that tells you otherwise; crumple it up and toss it over your shoulder. Do it literally if it helps – I used to write such things and watch it burn. Instead, cling to whatever is said or did in your life that tells you the truth.
If anything I said connected or helped you somehow, write it out and put it somewhere you can always see it. I did this for a collection of things people have said. It can even be from fiction, or a song: I would remember Sam’s speech from The Two Towers to a hopeless Frodo that “even darkness must pass, a new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.” I would listen to the song this journal’s title comes from, that tells me “dawn’s just a heartbeat away, hope’s just a sunrise away.”
Use this and whatever else reminds you that the dark nights will pass.
Don’t fear it. It will pass.