I have to be honest with you…I am struggling to write this. I am scared to let you in on this secret. Worried about my kids eventually reading these words. I am sad about the insight you are about to get inside my head. I am fearing how you’ll start to look at me with pity in your eyes.
I am scared to not speak up
But more than that, I’m scared to not speak up. I am worried that you’ll continue to feel alone. I’m nervous you will think that you’re the only one. I am terrified you will think mental illness looks one way when in reality it looks another. Since I have been comforted in my afflictions, I have no choice but to try and comfort you in yours. Or at the very least, be honest.
It’s time for you to see what death by suicide leaves behind
The fear of you REALLY seeing me is worth every breath I have fought and am still fighting to take. It’s time for you to see what death by suicide leaves behind. A shell of grief. A body filled with wrenching and insurmountable pain. A therapy bill a mile long. A medical record with words like “PTSD” and “Complicated Grieving Process”. It is time for you to see that mental illness can look “put together” and “calm”.
Are you ready for the truth?
After living through my husband’s death, I struggle deeply with my own mental health. And mostly I mean not just ‘down days’ or ‘situational depression’. I have had suicidal thoughts and have struggled on and off for over a year now. Yes, even after watching my kids’ faces as their dad lay in an open casket. I have longed at times to be in that casket with him. I have prayed for death and even fantasized how peaceful it would be to finally rest.
The darkness creeps in at the most unexpected times too. Times when I think I am doing better, when the new medication is working or when I think I don’t need it. When therapy is going like clockwork. Times when the pipe dream of ever feeling better is at an all-time high. And it hits.
Like a heavy blanket enveloping my whole body. Once again, I cannot see the light through the encroaching fibers. Breathing becomes more difficult as my mouth is covered, and I can’t ask for help. My heart only feels guilt. The what-ifs drown me, and I no longer want to struggle to stay afloat.
My brain tells me this will not work.
Any of it. Living without Brian. Supporting four kids on my own. That the only way to make the pain stop is to make my heart stop. My dark thoughts tell me I am making things worse. That I wish I were never even born. My despair tells me that things are never going to get better. That this is not working. Not only is it not working, but it is unsustainable and will never work. So, what’s the point?
The darkness is so heavy that I do not want to scare you. So, I lie. It is not your fault though. It is my choice to hide what is going on. Something about keeping it from you makes me feel like I am keeping it from myself too. I am scared that if I tell you what is really happening inside my head, nothing can ever go back for either of us. Even the fear of admitting I am struggling to the brink of death will wind me up in an institution.
So, I sit in the dark.
That is the thing about darkness though, you think you can see. Have you ever sat in the darkness for so long that your eyes begin to adjust? You start to see shapes. Monsters that are not even there. The darkness can start to feel like that is all there is. You soon forget a world with light. The bright spots seem like a dream. I cannot remember life before the darkness in those times.
But in those moments of life and death, I look in my hands and see I have actually been handed a match. I have been holding it, rolling it between my worn fingers, debating about whether to even light it this entire time. You see, if I light the match, you will see me. My lying eyes, my faltering smile, my unassuming laughter, and airy personality are all just a costume I zip on.
So here I am. Lighting the match.
Letting the light show me…letting the light show you…what mental illness really looks like. What life after suicide leaves behind. How completely terrified I am that picked up where Brian left off.
But why does that have to be a bad thing?
Really, hear me out. To live on both sides of suicide is why I need to tell you the truth. It is neither selfish or weak. It literally feels like the ONLY answer. I know because I have felt it. I can understand why Brian is not here anymore but at the same time, I can’t. It is living in my own personal hell while thankful there is a heaven above me. I can tell you without a doubt that if Brian were still here, he would be shedding as much light as he could on this growing epidemic.
Lighting this match
Showing you my heart, my head, my face, is the only way. But not only are you seeing me, but I am also seeing you. I am seeing my family and friends too who have patiently been waiting for the darkness to subside the entire time. Seeing my doctors and therapists who never made me feel ashamed. I am seeing people that love me take down every brick I tried to put up as a wall. So now you see my broken and tattered mind while I see your heart for me that has been there the entire time. The light may show you my brokenness, but it shows me your goodness as well.
I need you to know that you are not alone. I need to show you that you can smile and still feel like dying on the inside. You are not “crazy” and two opposing feelings can exist. That you are NOT your negative thoughts. You are not weak by asking for help. You are not alone in the darkness. I promise you to have an entire army waiting for you. Just because you cannot see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there. That you too can light the match. Ask for help. Cry for help. Scream until someone comes running. But please, do not sit there in the abyss of darkness. It is lying to you.
I can no longer sit quietly in the dark anymore. Letting it engross me. Stealing my life as it stole Brian’s. I will light this match until it burns my fingers. Until the pain sears through my body and then I will light another one. And another one. And another one. You are not your suicidal thoughts and it is never the answer.
Please reach out for help
Please, if you are struggling with your mental health and/or suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HELLO to 741741
To read more about Krista’s story click here are a couple more articles from her.