Thursday, September 22, 2016

Put It In Its Place

Regular readers of Frequently Interrupted will already know that the subjects of suicide prevention and suicide awareness are near and dear to my heart. I am a survivor, I have lost loved ones, and I have struggled with these and related issues for most of my life. It matters to me in a way that is difficult to fully express. It may be difficult to understand if you haven’t been through it. I couldn’t say, but I know that I will never put down that flag. I will never stop supporting this cause because it matters. In many cases, it is very literally a matter of life and death.

Toward that end, I promote the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on a regular basis (1-800-273-8255), and often promote stories I get from them and affiliated organizations to help raise awareness and to just help. September being Suicide Prevention Month, all of this is obviously in overdrive. One of the stories I recently promoted had a small exchange in the comments that got me to thinking, and I wanted to share that with you. It may be something else that helps. I won’t give names, because they’re not mine to give, but, if you’re reading this, thank you for your thoughts and thank you for speaking up.

One person commented that a loved one had committed suicide, and spoke of how difficult a subject this is accordingly, and the next person answered, with sympathy and understanding, “It never goes away if you have lost someone like this. You have to learn to put it in its place and go on with your life.” I read those two sentences several times and knew that I had to say something, not least of which being simply, “Thank you.”

It doesn’t go away. That’s a fact. It is sometimes an unfortunate fact, probably more often than not, but I’ll tell you a secret: It is occasionally, rarely - oh so very rarely - a fortunate fact. There are days when I look at some of the memories I have, and wish I didn’t have them. For those particular memories, I will always wish I didn’t have the specific reason to have them, but the memories themselves … Sometimes they’re worth having. Everything in life is a teacher. Everything, without exception. Some lessons are hard, and some teachers have to be just as hard. All of the lessons we have learned, and the lessons we are still learning, combine to make each of us the person we are today.

I know who I am, and I know where I am. I would like to think that I could have reached this point by a different road, and it’s certainly possible, but I also know what road I did come by. I know what turns I made, and I know where some of the turns I didn’t take were heading. There are probably alternate routes that would still have led here, but there were also routes that led nowhere. I learned things at different points along the way that saved my life. That is not an exaggeration. Maybe I could have found other ways, but the way I found worked.

Part of why it worked was because it taught me to put things like this in its place. One of the struggles with depression, and one that frequently leads to suicide, is that things don’t stay in their place. They bounce around, they get in each other’s way, and they cause the kind of mess that usually gets announced in the morning traffic report, complete with flashing lights and warnings to use alternate routes. Generally speaking, a person who commits suicide doesn’t want to die; they just can’t see an option anymore. Everything that is causing pain has jumped front and center, and is blocking out everything else.

What gets forgotten sometimes is that the same can be true for the survivors. Losing someone you love is devastating, under almost any circumstance. Under the circumstance of suicide? That’s a hole that can’t be described. It’s almost always at least something of a surprise, and then you beat yourself up wondering how you missed it, what you could have done differently, how much of this is your fault, and how much you could have changed. The questions pile up like stones in an avalanche, and, before you know it, the self-doubt and recriminations have taken up your entire world. Things can get as out of place for you as they were for the person you lost.

You have to put it in its place. It’s place is still with you, and it always will be, but it can’t be all of you. This loss can’t be all you have and all you see and all you know. That road leads to someone else having to ask the same questions. You have to put it in its place and go on with your life.

These things aren’t easy. Just knowing the proper place can be a challenge, and you’re going to make mistakes. Even once you have found that place and done what you needed to do, accidents happen. Something gets knocked over and rolls under the couch, and you sort of forget about it until you’re cleaning one day and there it is. The reminder makes it fresh and new as the first day, but it’s not the first day. You know that because you’ve already learned this. You’ve learned that you can go on, and so you do. You pick it up, you feel what you need to feel, you remember what you need to remember, and you put it back in its place and you go on with your life. Accidents happen, but they’re not your life.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs to talk, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, day or night, seven days a week. They can help you put things in place, and they can help you go on with your life. It might be hard today, but it’s worth living. You are not alone, and there is help.

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