I parked my car in the lot and made my way into his office, down the hallway and past the bay of elevators, taking a left turn and then another right through the double doors. My anxiousness bubbled to the surface as I knocked quietly on his door and with welcoming words from behind it, I heard him say, "come in". I was met with a gentle smile and a kind gesture to take my seat. And so it began each and every visit. I would take my place, shyly and with hesitation, in a chair directly across from him; the end-table sitting close next to me with a box of Kleenex I would surely need. This is the place - with his desk and his computer and the window looking out over another adjacent building - where my tattered heart would break open piece by piece, and together, we would work on healing an empty shell.
Mental health is like a pot of boiling water. We keep the sturdy lid on at first, but as the water starts to boil and the lid begins to rattle, we know it's time to allow the water to breathe again. And it doesn't matter to what lengths we go to hold the lid in place because regardless, the water will eventually boil over.
My mental health hit an all-time low in 2010 when I struggled with a decision to end own my life. I remember that day as clear and as vivid as you might remember the beautiful and precious birth of your children. I can tell you in the most miniscule of details what I was wearing that day, even down to the earrings hanging from my ears. It was a cold and dreary Friday in February, a day that would ultimately change the trajectory of my entire life.
I don't exactly know where to begin in describing what someone goes through when they make the decision that they no longer want to exist in this world, except to say that it's like placing your hand on that boiling pot of water and experiencing so much pain that your first and only reflex is to remove it as quickly as you can. The feeling of desperation is so intense and the darkness is so encompassing, it's as if the walls are rapidly closing in around you.
I often hear people say that an attempt to end a life is a selfish one, and while I now have a new and different perspective, I also take extreme offense to that judgment. Because in my situation, that couldn't be further from the truth. The very reason I personally considered such an outcome was to save myself from pain, yes, of course, but more importantly, to save my family from pain. I couldn't begin to imagine how I had failed them. So wouldn't it just be easier, I thought, for them to deal with my passing than for them to deal with what I had done? Wasn't that the best option?
In a world where you must choose the lesser of two evils, how, exactly, do you choose?
My sister drove me to the hospital that night; my mom in the passenger seat and my husband next to me in the back, as I buried my head deep into his shoulder. Over and over again I sobbed and cried out, I don't want to be here anymore.
It was true.
Brutal for me to speak; quite possibly even harder for them to hear.
My days spent in the therapist's office were torturous and jarring, but also beautiful and revealing and life-giving. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, new life was on the horizon. I would enter those doors with my confidence laid out flat on the floor, but I would walk out with hope in my step. I was given the gift of knowing that regardless of what state I was in, I was accepted and loved. My life was both valuable and valued, something to be held with fragile hands and always, always worth saving. Friends ~ there is no circumstance on earth where that is not true. I also learned that tragedy can equate to opportunity, but it was up to me, and only me, to determine what that new opportunity looked like.
Those of us who often find the world too difficult to bear must remember that the lid of life doesn't actually do what we think it does. It doesn't, in fact, protect us from feeling what we don't want to feel. We can't create our own space of hiding for fear of how much it might hurt to be all in. Because in reality, all in is a thing of pure beauty. A miracle to behold.
It means - here I am. I am scared. And I am bound to fail.
But love me anyway.