Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Of Darkness, Strength, and Pain

A year ago I almost killed myself. I spent four hours curled up under my bed, clicking the safety on and off of my gun while I sobbed. I'd made some choices that ended my life as I knew it, and I couldn't find a good reason to keep living. In the end, I decided to spite the object of my pain by not giving her the satisfaction knowing she'd gotten under my skin that thoroughly.

I've dated several women who've survived some truly terrible things, and the ex that I was pining over was no exception. We tried to have the classic BYU-I Do romance: engaged a month after becoming friends and married three months later, but that didn't work for us, and I chose to take all of the responsibility for that. Not everyone comes to the point of suicide like this, but the end result is the same: you make a choice to either end the pain, or live with it.

In my limited experience, the latter option has two variations: get professional help, or lie to yourself and pretend everything is fine. Lying to yourself eventually results in another long night looking down the barrel of a 9mm, so I recommend getting professional help. The hardest part of getting help is that you have to admit that something evil and disgusting and terrifying is inside you, which is harder than just ending the pain.

The "logic" behind killing yourself is absurd to most people who haven't been there, but it's perfectly clear to those who have. Think about an earth shattering event; your father dying two weeks before summer vacation, your mother getting diagnosed with cancer, your brother-in-law choosing drugs over your sister, your nephew getting thrown off an overpass by the jerk who used to sell him crack. These kinds of disasters happen without warning, and can destroy your life, unless you choose to be stronger than the pain.

I've known some impossibly strong people, and I've been trusted enough to hear a few of their stories, and I'll share one while preserving anonymity. 

One of my close friends was raped during her first semester of college. She wrongly blamed herself, and picked up cutting as a form of self-punishment. When that didn’t erase the memories, she became anorexic as a way to express her hatred for herself for surviving what was done to her. One day, she realized that every time she skipped a meal, every night she was too hungry to fall asleep, every time she opened her veins, she was giving more and more power to the monster that had violated her.

So she fought back, she redefined herself without fixating on her traumatic exprience. She started eating normally, she picked her social life back up, and she started loving her body instead of torturing it. She immersed herself in the Gospel, and chose to serve a Mission to help others through the conversion process. It’s been said that a life well lived is the best revenge, and I couldn’t agree more. What happened happened, and nothing will ever erase her scars in this life, but it’s not how she decides to define herself.

She started by ignoring the problem, then she tried to end the pain, and when that didn’t work, she ignored the problem even more. Nothing in her life turned around until she got help. It took years, but eventually she overcame the darkness that forced itself into her story.

I went through the same steps, and thought I was doing great at avoiding the darkness and the pain until I spent the night curled up with a handgun. I couldn't let my pain have that final word, so I got help. It was horrible, looking my demons in the eyes and coming to an understanding of how much darkness was inside me, but the peace and the relief I now feel is infinitely stronger than the Hell I forced myself to live through.

I now define my life by my constant choice to be strong, not by the mistakes I've made. If you're not sure you can be strong enough to keep going, get help! Turn to a trusted friend, a roommate, a psychologist, anyone who can sympathize with your pain and hold your hand as you walk out of the darkness. It'll be the most difficult choice you ever make, but there's no price that can be put on saving your own life.

Take a deep breath, and look up.

1 comment:

  1. While it's harder, finding professional help at some point is a good idea. They can help you deal with any underlying issues that you have and learn how to stay away from the dark scary place. Theoretically, if you find someone competent that works at a business run by competent individuals. Sadly that isn't always the case and when you're depressed it's hard to fight for yourself, but you have to keep trying.