Well, this certainly isn’t the topic that has been rattling around in my head for the past week or so. It is, however, a subject with which I have become rather unfortunately familiar. Still learning about, but definitely familiar.
When I was younger, I used to get so angry with people when they would say “Life is hard!” as a way of explaining the choices (mostly poor) that people make sometimes. “It isn’t hard!” I would argue, “Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be! It’s the stupid things you do, the choices you make, the people you surround yourself with, that make life hard. Goddammit, people just need to be smarter, and don’t allow things to get them down!” (For some reason, ironically, I recall saying something very similar to these very words, while sobbing on the phone to my mother. Hmm…) Anyway, I would proclaim this, and things such as this, with the absolute conviction that all twenty somethings, with very little actual life experience, possess. I mean, it FELT like I was right, totally.
Fast forward a bit, to my early thirties. By that time, I had definitely had some harrowing experiences in life, I was early in my recovery (Well, when have I NOT been early in recovery?) from drugs, and, as had usually been the case for me, life was going pretty darn well. I was clean, I had a great boyfriend, a bank account, a job, great friends. I still wore single digit jeans. Life was looking up in a major way. I remember that a woman I knew only casually- VERY casually- had relapsed, and couldn’t seem to get clean again, after having been in a twelve step program for many, many years. It had just gotten out that she had killed herself, and I believe that one of her young daughters had found her body, and I was very angry about this. I recall telling my then-boyfriend how selfish I thought this person was, to have ruined so many lives by ending her own- I said “You know, once you have kids, suicide is not really an option anymore. It’s off the table, man.” And again, I said this with the conviction of one who really believes their words to be the obvious truth, having never experienced true, gut wrenching, despair, even then.
I will never forget the words he said in response to my outrage. “Courtney- try to imagine how much pain she was in, to think that was the very best option.” Oh. Oh, wow. I don’t remember if I argued with him, or what I said after that, but I have never forgotten what he said. Imagine the amount of pain someone must be experiencing, to believe that death, uncertain and unknowable as it is, is a better option than this. Better than breathing this air, and kissing your babies, better than watching the sunrise, and laughing with friends, and reminiscing with your brother at Thanksgiving about your childhood. That must be some kind of pain, man.
Lets move forward through my life a little farther, now, to my mid-thirties. On the outside, I have everything a person could want. I have two beautiful daughters, a person to love, an amazing career, a home in one of the most beautiful places in the world. What the world sees of me is what I want them to- a bubbly, pretty, outgoing woman. I laugh a lot, and make other people laugh a lot. I am always (in the public eye, anyway) friendly and engaging. There is NO WAY you could have guessed, unless you knew me very well, the kind of agony I was in. My life was a nightmare, from where I sat. I could barely fumble through work without breaking down. I was totally strung out, again, and in fear of being found out every single day, and of losing it all. I was broke, and miserable, disgusted with myself. My relationship was in shambles, my bills were out of control, and nothing seemed bearable anymore. My older daughter was out of control, in trouble all the time, and my little daughter preferred her traitorous father (not hard to see why, looking back) over me. I cried so much every day that no one even noticed anymore. It got to the point where I rarely left my bedroom, let alone my house. I felt like my life was completely out of control (it was) and the worst part was that I knew the only one who could save me was me. This terrified me. Because I wasn’t sure I could do it, nor that I wanted to.
For the first time in my whole life, I looked around me, and I thought-“You know, it would probably be for the best if I just wasn’t here anymore. I am terrible for everyone I encounter. My family would be so much happier if they didn’t have to deal with me.” And I BELIEVED this to be true.
That is what despair is, my friend. True despair is the voice in your head telling you to give up, already. That you are so much trouble, and you are so damaged, that the people who love you desperately would be far better off without you around. It makes you believe that things will never be any better than they are right at this moment, and it makes you believe that all the happiness you remember was a lie. It shrouds the light so that it cannot get to you, and it shrouds the truth, that you are so loved, and so necessary, to the people in your life. So loved that almost any of them, from your lover to the neighbor across the street who’s last name you don’t know, would talk you down from the ledge you are standing on, if only they knew. But sometimes they just don’t know how close you are to the edge. I am so glad I made it down okay.
i found out last night that a friend of mine from high school didn’t make it down okay.This beautiful girl, who I will always remember as seventeen, with the biggest blue eyes-bigger than mine, even- and I thought she was so pretty, And she was. She was still very, very pretty. She was having a hard time of it, over the past few years- though I had no idea how hard, We chatted on Facebook occasionally, but it’s been a while. Yesterday, at the urging of a friend we have in common, I sent her a message- “Hey, you. I was thinking about you, wondering how you are. Hope all is well.” I noticed that her last post was Friday, and it said something about her intentions being good, and her heart pure. It was one of those posts we put up when we want to say something to someone without saying it to them directly. I don’t know who she meant it for. I do know, however, that she died that day. That for her, the pain was too great. My heart goes out to her, and to her children, and family, all the ones who loved her. Who would have gladly done anything to keep this from happening.
I have learned along the way that life IS hard, and it gets harder the older you get, because you grow tired of the struggle, tired of being hurt. Tired of carrying around the damn burden of who you are, and all the things you have done, the ways you have been. But I have also learned that it all comes back around, over and over and over, enough times for me to be sure- the light does get in, eventually. The joy returns, again and again, and the pain recedes. That is how it goes.
Don’t ever give up. Find one shred of hope, however small, and hang on to it, because it will get better. I promise you, it will. If the voice in your head is telling you that the world would be better off without you and all your misery, you tell someone, and you let them tell you that it is a lie. Because it is a lie. Please wait it out. Please.
That’s all I have for today. Rest in peace, my beautiful friend.