I told no one of my plans. I did not cry out for help from anyone. No Facebook post giving some ambiguous or thinly-veiled cry for attention. Looking at me from the outside, I seemed to be a shy, quiet, yet hard-working graduate student who got along well with everyone. No one saw me as the young lady who used an eating disorder, alcoholism, and self-harm to battle the demons of shame and shattering child abuse I suffered from growing up.
It was not a rash decision. It simply seemed like a very logical choice to end my life that was a shamble, a disappointment, and had no real, meaningful connection to anyone or anything else. Despair told me there was nothing to keep trying for. I woke up in the emergency room, spent time in ICU, and then more time in a mental hospital.
Life after that was not all lovely. It was not easy. There would be more days and years of deep pain, more battles with my eating disorder, alcohol, treatment centers, and many other mental health needs. Yet, something kept urging me on to find freedom. Something gave me a twinge of hope. It was spirituality.
We all long to know and feel we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It is well-researched that people who lead the most meaningful and fulfilled lives have a level of spirituality with hope and purpose. Spirituality infuses vitality into our being. In Brene Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfections, she shares her research showing that without exception, spirituality is the foundation and common factor among those with high levels of resiliency who overcome adversity. These individuals can "transform trauma into Wholehearted thriving." (p. 63)I thought I was thinking clearly that day. I felt that it made perfect sense to end my life, which is the sad and crazy thing about suicide.
I could not see beyond my perceived failings. I could not see that I was part of something bigger than myself. I could not see that God had so many plans for me that entailed life, love, and even happiness. I had to learn that overcoming despair is a spiritual journey. I do not have all the answers to quell the rising number of people today seeing suicide as a solution. I do not have the perfect words to say to someone hurting with a pain that I truly do understand. I would not begin to say there is an easy fix. I know from experience there is not. I can say that growing spirituality in my life is what has made a difference for me. I am not talking about religion. I am talking about becoming and knowing you are part of something grander than yourself.
My spirituality is a personal relationship with God. It has taken me years to understand what that really and honestly means. Each person's spiritual journey will be different. My journey has had many people along the way hold me as I searched for my sense of belonging. Spirituality allows us to truly connect with others who also see that sense is made in our lives when we know there is more to our existence than our myopic vision of ourselves. Today I am a very long way from that day suicide seemed like the only answer. There have been many tears shed on my journey between that day and today. My life now has a depth of meaning and purpose. I live with a sense of amazement and gratitude to God for everything that my life was and is now. I know I am loved and part of a plan more incredible and more vast than I could have ever imagined. I believe spirituality is a part of each of our beings. It has made a difference in my life by walking me back from a headspace where I thought suicide was my only option. Maybe it can make a difference in someone else's life. That is my prayer as we contemplate ways to offer help during suicide prevention month—Anonymous and now loving life.