“I can’t write what I actually want to write,” was the first thing I thought when deciding to join in Utah's Teen Firearm Suicide Initiative.
The initiative is promoting a very important part of suicide prevention: securing guns and ammo so they aren't used impulsively in a moment of extreme stress or difficulty. I wholeheartedly support this movement, because sometimes all that is needed to help someone regain the courage to live is a little time.
Suicide is a real issue. It's a hard one talk about. It's complex. I never know how discussing something I am not personally dealing with will come off to others or whether or not it will be helpful. But someone's voice isn't irrelevant just because it has a different perspective. Everyone is in one way another effected by suicide. So I will attempt to share my perspective—speaking only for myself—and hope it will help someone.
When something is bothering me, I have a tendency to try to conceal it. I like to deal with things on my own. Lately, I've been trying to be more thoughtful about when and how I do this. Of course there is a balance to all things, but I was keeping too many things to myself when there are people close to me who could help.
As many of you know, I recently got engaged. I bring this up because being in my first (and last!) relationship ever taught me some new things about myself. First, I keep more to myself than I should. Second, I didn’t even know how much I did this. Third, my fiancé can see right through it. Justin has become the person who knows me so incredibly well that he can see past any sort of facade I create and knows when something is up. Because of this, it has, in a way, forced me to address things that bother me, instead of letting them build up inside.
It’s honestly so bizarre and jarring that someone I didn't know existed just seven months ago, now knows me better than anyone (besides my mother…and God…but that’s beside the point). It’s such an adjustment for me. I’m constantly surprised by how well he reads me. But it has been such a relief. The weight on my shoulders feels so much lighter. Why? I think it’s because addressing an issue directly—instead of merely knowing it exists—is the only way to learn and grow. And, in most cases, it makes problems easier to manage. And because I can't hide them, I have someone with whom to rejoice in the good moments and bear the burden in the sad moments (in addition to my mother…and God…)
The issue of suicide is a similar. We live in a day where there is a concerted effort into making sure everyone is aware of suicide: what it is; possible causes; common symptoms; consequences; prevention methods; etc. All those things are awesome and needed. We acknowledge it and are aware of it’s existence.
But, what do we do then? How do we move forward form here, because in spite of all our awareness, this is still an issue.
I do not know what we do. I wish I had all the answers.
Being very close to someone who deals with suicidal thoughts, attempts, and severe mental struggles, it’s confusing when I am told, “If people are just more aware, these things won't happen.” I can try my absolute best to help, to get to know the person, to listen to him, to befriend her, to be there. I can offer my love and assistance. But if the person struggling chooses not to accept the help or to conceal intentions, I can’t force him/her to do (or not do) anything. While I believe in being thoughtful and in trying to be a good influence on others, I can only be that: an influence. Doing your best to be a positive influence is paramount. You cannot, however, make choices for others. Good or bad. If you can’t make those choices, you aren't responsible for them.
If God could come down and reveal to me exactly what mental illness is and how to most effectively help someone, I would sign up this instant! But, that hasn’t happened. (I’ll keep you updated if anything changes.) This is something were all going to have to work through together, with the best information we have.
I'd like to share some personal information that has formed my thoughts on suicide. Something I’ve never completely addressed publicly before is that I’ve been struggling with some severe physical health issues the past three or so years. Perhaps I'll address them in more detail at some point, suffice it to say they are ailments I will likely have to deal with my whole life. Chronic illness sucks. It can take a toll on you physically as well as mentally. That is a part of my life now.
I’m not saying my physical illness is the same a mental illness. Rather, that we all have of parts of us that are weaker than others, our Achilles heel, if you will. My body, is one of them. For others, it might be their brain. At first glance, that can sound disheartening, but if we look around it’s how we are all made. We are imperfect, we have weaknesses, and that’s okay. It’s what we do with them that matters. My point is, my illness can’t be fixed, it can only be controlled by what I eat and how I take care of my health. Perhaps you deal with a problem that cannot be fixed or erased. That is okay! It isn’t our job to perfect. Do we try our best? Certainly. And when we fall short, that’s where God comes in, we can’t do that alone.
Don’t think that a life with imperfection, struggle, and trails is tarnished, because the greater your trails the greater your chance for growth and joy. Why give up because something in your ife isn’t perfect? We haven’t failed by being imperfect. Imperfection means you are alive, you are a unique human being put on this planet to be a puzzle peace in God's hands. We have different jagged edges that connect us, give us traction, and make us unique. All the pieces are different and all are needed. Your struggles gives you the ability to help others as no one else can. My struggles, heartache, pain, do the same. Calluses and scars may not be pretty or perfect, but they are purposeful. They help us to carry on even when we have resistance.
I don’t know the answers. I don’t know that we will ever find them in this life. But I can tell you that every life is worth living. Someone else's inability to see your purpose—even your own ability to see your purpose—does not change God’s view of you. An opinion cannot change the fact that you are worth more than you can even fathom. Hey, our Heavenly Parents are perfect, and they think the absolute world of you. You’ve got a light shining ahead of you, don’t forget that!