When author Eva Pohler invited me to be part of Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. My regular readers and friends know that suicide prevention is a cause close to my heart. I support organizations like To Write Love on Her Arms that help people choose not to end their lives.
But there are some intensely personal reasons for me to believe in this cause. At three different points in my life, I have seriously considered checking out early. Once was during my high school years, when I was struggling with an eating disorder. The second time was when I was in my early thirties and was facing an incredibly painful personal crisis. And the third time was in the past few years.
I want to say upfront that I am a woman of faith, and that faith has sustained me more than once. I credit my relationship with God and El’s grace with having saved me. But I’m all too aware that the church has not always been understanding and compassionate about mental and emotional struggles. Too often, women and men who needed the most help have been stigmatized as weak, shunned or ridiculed. The very place and people to whom we should want to turn have betrayed us.
It wasn’t the church that made me turn away from the dark. It wasn’t a doctor, although I believe strongly in therapy and counseling. It wasn’t my friends or my family, although they all loved me and hurt for me.
For each of us, where we find the small thread to which we cling is different. Where the light shines through can be varied. For me, the why was different each time. But ultimately, somehow, at the crucial point, hope broke through, and it was bright enough, even if it was only for a moment, to keep me on this side. And when hope came, it spoke to me through a book–a different one every time.
Suicide wasn’t unheard of in my family. I lost an uncle, a cousin and several other extended family to the dark. I remember my father often saying that suicide was a permanent solution to temporary problems, but for those of us who struggle, the problems don’t feel temporary. They feel huge and permanent and insurmountable. It doesn’t feel as though there’s life on the other side.
I remember reading something that changed my life and the way I looked at things. The gist of it was that we can’t always trust how we feel. While I know I should listen to my emotions and tune into them, consider what they might mean, I can’t make decisions based solely on how I feel, because those feelings aren’t reliable. They can be influenced by things like hormones and misunderstandings and whether or not I’ve eaten today.
That realization was a game-changer for me. I don’t mean it should be for everyone, but for me–it made a difference.
A few years ago, I wrote a quartet of books within my series Love in a Small Town. Although each book stands alone, there was an overarching storyline in these four books: the story of Jenna Sutton, who’d attempted suicide in the aftermath of a devastating rebuff. Jenna’s tale was very personal, especially as her story was seen through the eyes of her family, friends and others in her small town. I hope that these books help others, too, who might need to know they are not alone.
If you are on the precipice of making a choice right now . . . if you are choosing whether or not to stay . . . please hold onto these truths:
You are important.
Your story isn’t over.
Hope is real.
You are not alone.
You are not alone.
You are not alone.
If you need someone to talk to and you don’t want to call a suicide hotline (which is a wonderful resource, by the way), please know that you can message me on Facebook or email me, and I will be there for you.
That’s a promise, and it’s not just for you. Knowing there are people who are counting on me helps me, too, when I’m making one of those decisions.
I’ll stay . . . if you do.
Much love, now and always . . .