I can't count the number of hotel rooms I've woken up in and thought, I can't do this. Head pounding at feeling like I was at the end of my story. Generally, but not always, these thoughts were clouded by things like gin and stress and ego, which by themselves are nasty and make for a toxic combination.
But my anxiety and depression and my flavor of demons don't limit themselves to the highways. They hang out in my home, in libraries, in board rooms. They are stories that hang around, even when I swat them away. They say things like:
You're not good enough. Your best times have passed. You failed the test. You'll never really write your story.
Tricky fears. They chase me down just about anywhere, even in comfortable places where things are going well, oh so well. I used to think the fears would go away if I just was more __________ (insert adjective: resilient, nimble, successful). If I just _________ harder (insert verb: tried, wrote, worked...). The MadLibs of never-enough-ness.
I used to think my fears would be allayed by success. Or wiped out when I stepped foot in the door of a church. Not these fears. Nope.
The are not at all unique. They're about as universal and garden variety as they come. But they are mine, and the way that they got stuck in my brain and in my muscles is a story in its own right. We all have one, the story about how the fears got there, be it non-fiction or entirely made up. Sometimes our fears, and a million other factors collide (our brain chemistry, for one) and there seems that there is absolutely no hope.
I've never been completely without hope, but close. And I'm fortunate to get help. To get off the treadmill of these fears, and into therapy, and a support group, loaded with a tool box of resources. Prayer, medication, meditation. And slowly, I've have come to understand that underneath these fears is an indomitable power, one not of my own. Perfect love casts out fear. But sometimes, not before the fears have done irreparable damage.
This is World Suicide Prevention Week, and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is at a 30-year high in America. I am supporting the organization "To Write Love On Her Arms," (TWLOHA) which is raising $85,000 toward treatment and recovery -- to directly help people receive professional help. Their campaign is called "And So I Kept Living," which comes from a line written by Matt Haig an his book "Reasons To Stay Alive."
The campaign encourages people share why they kept living, sharing their stories with the hashtag #IKeptLiving and #WSPD16. My favorite line of theirs is from their site:
"When we come together for this sort of conversation, when we chose to be vulnerable with our stories and to invest in the stories of other people, we have the power to see lives change and people stay alive."
TWLOA also gives action items on its site that we can all practice:
- Ask the hard questions/know the warning signs
- Know where to find help and where to send people for help, vetted organizations (there is one for everyone on this list). I LOVE this page because they give city specific resources (and there are resources for Alabama, where I live.)
This is a story that's personal to my heart. These verbs: to "keep," to "live."
Why do I keep living? A million reasons. The gift of another day, the gift of second chances, the breath in my lungs that says damn I'm glad to have another day. The people whom I love and the people I haven't yet met who I will love. To shine a light in the darkest of places. For reasons I don't yet know yet, but that will be revealed.
I live for all the verbs. To fight. To listen. To tell.