Today, I told my story to a group of people. I told my story too late, and missed a chance to help someone who really needed help. I know I’m not a saviour, or a miracle-worker by any means, but I didn’t even get the chance to try. I didn’t get to try, because I told my story too late.
Today was the last day of a mentorship class I’ve taken this semester – I was a mentor with 10-15 first year Psychology students. We met for our last breakout session, during which I decided to bring cake and tell my story to the students in my group.
I told them that the reason I was absent abruptly during one class earlier in the semester was due to a mental health emergency, during which I had to stay the night at a hospital. I told them that, for many years, I wasn’t sure if I would make it through and continue existing, but I did, because I am here today telling the story.
I noticed one student in particular who seemed especially moved during the telling of the story – she was nearly in tears during much of it. After we finished the breakout session, I waited until all the other members had departed, and sat down beside her to ask how she was doing.
She told me that last week, a close friend of hers took his own life, and that she wished he could have met me, and heard my story. He was someone who, for a long time, struggled immensely with his own difficulties, and had made one attempt on his own life three months ago. Things seemed to be getting better – he was more social, more active, and more interested in being around others. Then, seemingly out of nowhere… he was gone.
My heart shattered for her, and for him, and for everyone he knew. My heart shattered, because I felt partially responsible – even if that seems ridiculous. My heart shattered because, immediately after the event, I was hesitant to tell my mentees why I was absent, why I became a mentor, or why I lived to tell my story. I waited, until the very end, to share my story, hoping they would remember it as they went on with life. I know I couldn’t possibly have expected it, or known, and telling my story may have done nothing to help him, but I know now, that I will never know for sure. I am saddened to think that had I told my story, immediately after it happened, to advocate for mental health, I may have been able to touch this person’s life, and been that extra voice that caused him to try for just a little bit longer. Maybe not, and maybe things would have ended more or less the same, but now I can never know that. This world, this universe, has constant struggles and challenges, but most are ones that can be learned from, and grown from. My story, this young man’s story, ours’ are ones that, if the final decision is made and carried out, there is no coming back. Every person I hear about falling through the cracks hurts me inside. This one hurts especially because he was so very near, and the timing was so perfectly imperfect. I know this isn’t my pain, this isn’t my struggle – I did not know him – but for every life Suzie claims, I am saddened. I am at war with Suzie, presumably one of very few wars I believe is necessary and worth fighting. It is a very difficult war, because the greatest enemy lies within each individual afflicted.
I still don’t understand why I was lucky enough to survive. I know not why I was one of the lucky few to make it, thus far, through the darkest nights I faced, when so many others do not. I do know, however, that as long as I am breathing, I will continue waging this war on suicide. I will always be there, as much as I can, to share my story: to help people see that things do get better, not only anecdotally, but to serve as a living, breathing, existing, personal example of a story of a person who lived through the darkness, who lived through and saw that things got better. I am here to tell you, anyone who needs to know, that I am living proof that things got better, even though for half of my young life I didn’t think they would or could.
I am here to tell you it’s okay, and I love you. If it isn’t okay now, it will be okay. Please, please, please, try your hardest to remember how valuable you are as a person, to yourself and to others. I know we can make it through this.