You, with the knife in your hand:

Please stop. Just for a moment. Read. You are not alone. Someday the sneers will turn to cheers as you bring others deep into your life, as you reveal your struggles. I know you can't be brave right now. I know how badly life can hurt. But maybe, just maybe, after reading my story, you can cry instead of die. 


{this is written for Suicide Prevention Week and may contain triggers}

Amy stands deep out in the icy surf of Lake Superior, her heart overflowing with joy as her muscles remember body surfing in the Atlantic Ocean so many times before. She spots the big waves and beckons her siblings to prepare. We are stared at - partly because we didn't plan ahead and the kids are in the lake fully dressed. Partly because no one here has ever seen kids body surf like this.


They are carefree and oblivious to the stares. They are looking out into the deep blue for the next rideable wave. This is what I want for them - so intense is their search for joy, beauty, truth, light, justice, compassion, mercy, grace, adventure, and wisdom that their eyes never waver from the path ahead.

My mother and father taught me this. There are memories of being comfortable being different: reading a college economics textbook in 5th grade that I brought everywhere with me; wearing a quirky hat collection all through high school; pouring my heart into art and poetry and music until I was in a different world myself - a world I was happy in.


Somewhere along the way, someone taught me to be self-conscious. I remember the whispered insults - "awkward", "too big for your britches", "lesbo", "weirdo", "too smart for your own good", "curious George", "giant", "you look like a boy", "nasal voice", "odd", "you don't play well with others". The paramount sneer on the playground, the stage, the backyards, the bike rides, the 4-H meetings, ball games, homeschooler playdates: "You'll never fit in; who do you think you are, anyway? Better than us?"


If only they'd known that the exact opposite was true: I was afraid I would never be good enough. For four long years, I hid completely. How many of us didn't in middle school? I became as quiet as a church mouse in groups. I continued being a leader only because my mother trained me to be. I pretended to be dumb, but random facts kept leaping off my tongue before I could haul them back in. I was an outsider, a lurker, always on the periphery and never in the circle. Many, many others share this piece of my story.

I've often wondered why I've been dogged by depression and suicidal thoughts since I was 10. Why did so many others weather bullying better than I? It wasn't until recently that I began to understand. Injuries make you vulnerable, especially to further injury. And I had a wounded soul.


It wasn't just words that had wounded me. It was derisive torment of a physical and psychological nature. I will never forget the twisted grin on my abuser's face when I experienced the most pain, the most shame, defeat and blood and filth coating my tongue. This. It started me out on poor footing, it started me out bandaged and bloodied, it started me out believing that angry and evil words directed at me meant physical torment was only moments away. I remember the visceral reaction I had to the taunts of others after her - tightening of all my muscles, the surge of fear in my stomach, the cold sweat, the dry mouth, the clammy palms, the sudden separation of body and mind as I drifted off into the sky to distance myself from the pain to come.


And with the surge of pain in those years came the suicidal thoughts. They trace their history all the way back to my childhood. It wasn't that I wanted to be dead. It wasn't that I wanted to leave the people I loved. It wasn't that I wanted to experience more pain at my own hand.

I just wanted - want- the pain of life, the inescapable pain, to be over and done.


When I was 10, I didn't complete it by protective grace alone.
And when I woke up, I couldn't try again because of my parents, my brothers.


When I was 17, I didn't do it because I held onto hope that college would be different.


The attempts that did come were usually alcohol-soaked. Occasionally stone cold sober, but out of body, my mind careening through the black hole of open space without substance to control it's flight.

When I was 21, I didn't complete it because a friend saved me.

When I was 28, I didn't do it because cancer and hopelessness wasn't reason enough.

When I was 30, I didn't do it because I looked into my children's eyes.

When I was 31, I didn't complete it because there was a holy cacophany of friends and loved ones shouting from the rooftops that I was loved, I was enough, I was desperately needed. Their voices drowned out the jeers of others for a short while.

Now, at 34, sometimes it's my counselor's voice echoing in the chambers of the mind, "You can't do this to your babies." Sometimes it's the verses quoted by friends. Sometimes it's a note from my Papa and sometimes it's my mother's voice on the phone. Sometimes it's the hope of a different life that fits my skin. Sometimes it's simply resolve. Sometimes it is knowing it is wrong. Sometimes it's out of pure defiance: I won't let you finish me, I won't let your words drive me to be someone I'm not.

Here I am. All 34 years of me, all the history of dark plans and nighttime soul riots, all the desperate prayers, all the bottles of pills and high places I've stood on the edge of, all the razors and all of the scars. I am begging you to find a reason not to. I know you have reasons not to - everyone does. Because each of us - however bent and bruised - we have a purpose. There is someone, somewhere, who will weep for decades if you take your own life. Maybe that person is still in your future. Will you give that up to stop the pain?

Hug someone.
Pick up the phone.
Go for a run.
Let yourself scream.
Be angry.
Be sad.
Be sorry.
Be brave.
Write it out.
Draw a picture.
Send an email.
Call a counselor.
Drive to a friend's house.
Take a cold shower.
Go look at the sky and ask your questions.
Tweet or Facebook for help and encouragement.
Say a prayer.
Ask for prayer.
Listen to some music.
Make a playlist that says what you can't.
Tell a relative.
Do something you love even if you don't feel like it.
Look at an old photo album.
Believe it will get better.

Don't hide.
Don't use substances to numb out.
Don't pretend you're fine.
Don't think you're alone.
Don't believe this is best for everyone.
Don't listen to the lies swirling through your brain.
Don't do it today - make a plan to wait 24 hours - then another 24.
Don't keep your weapons.
Don't be silent about your plans.
Don't be afraid of going to the hospital.
Don't be scared to take a break.
Don't try to wait it out alone.
Don't hold it in, bottle it up, or push it away.
Don't grin and bear it.

If I am the only person you know who can speak to those dark places inside of you, then write to me at gmthul@yahoo.com. Tell me your story. Beg for help. I will listen, I will bleed with you, I will speak truth. 

Don't end your story with a noose, a bloody bathroom, a shattered form at the bottom of a cliff. Don't spend your last hours vomiting and gasping for breath. Don't lose the last precious moments of the only life you have to a coma or a crash. Don't let your loved one or your friend see the sight of your choice - they will never recover. Do you want a closed casket funeral that leaves all who you leave with no sense of closure? Do you want them to always wonder what they could've done differently? Wishing they had somehow saved you?

One true thing, a reason I know from experience: there will come a day when you thank God you didn't go through with it. Even if there are more attempts after that day, it will come again - the day you're glad you're alive. And again. And again.

There will come a day when the pain will fade a little. There will come a day when the beauty of life is greater than the torture of it. There will come a day when you look back at all you would have foregone, and call your own life - your broken, battered, tear-soaked life - good.


This brilliant light is brighter than we would've known,
Without our darkness to prove it so.
Still, we can’t help but to examine it,
To add our question marks to periods.
At the foot of our bed, we found an envelope…

“You are enough.”
These little words, somehow they’re changing us.
“You are enough.”
So we let our shadows fall away like dust.

When we grew up,
Our shadows grew up too.
But they’re just old ghosts
That we grow attached to.
The tragic flaw is that they hide the truth.

That you’re enough.
I promise you’re enough.



____________________________________________________

This week the world focused on suicide prevention in an international campaign to raise awareness. By far the most beautiful and gut-wrenching piece written was posted on A Deeper Story by attempt survivor Luke Harms. His simple title, "Your Story is Worth Finishing", settled deeply into my hungry soul. Perhaps because the story of this life of mine is so important to me. Perhaps because I want all the suffering and struggling and fighting tooth and nail to mean something in the end - to lift someone else up, let them know they aren't alone, or to show the capacity of the human spirit for courage and love?

I thought I was going to stay away from Suicide Prevention Week. I avoided social media on the 10th, Suicide Prevention Day itself, and didn't follow any links to the statistics, the infographics, the blog posts, the trending Twitter hashtag. Because I am still very much in the fight for my life. Because the scars of the last mistake are barely healed. Because I didn't feel brave, strong, or stupid enough to expose myself to triggers when I am still fragile. But Luke's title grabbed me, and I read, tears streaming, and I thought, I cannot let this year pass. I cannot be silent on this topic. I hope this reaches the eyes of someone who needs it. Please pass it on to those who are struggling.