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Since I was a little girl I've been fascinated with finding the stories I knew were there. And if I couldn't find them, my imagination filled in the rest. I've always loved a story. Everything has one. Every house. Every road. Every creaky old chair. Every person, living or dead. And yes, I veer a little dark. Mostly because I also love contrast. Light never looks so bright as when it's offset by dark. Joy, health and love are sweeter meats when we have been well acquainted with sorrow, sickness and hate. Now that I've grown and had some stories of my own, I am on a quest to dig deeper - to share more and learn more. Let's look for the stories together.
We've all heard it. We've all felt it. Someone falls victim to suicide and the *nearly* unanimous cry is, “Why didn't they get help?!” “Why didn't they tell someone?!” Chances are really good that they tried. They tried really hard. But most people who are not at risk of suicide think that the path to it is paved with bright neon signs that say, “SUICIDE! THIS WAY!” The fact is that no matter what side of the political and religious spectrums you are, most people recoil from the subject of death, and the very idea that someone could intentionally end their own life goes against every fiber of our being. So, unless we are forced to deal with the ugly aftermath, we downplay it as much as possible, assuring ourselves that if we saw someone on that awful road, we would recognize it. But would we really? And do we really think that someone who is contemplating suicide sits there logically weighing the pros and cons before seeking advice from their friends and family? Yeah, I didn't think so. In order to recognize the real signs, we first need to get it out of our head that self-inflicted injury or death is about death. It's about pain. Think about the last time you got the norovirus or food poisoning. You felt horrible. It goes on and on and you just want it to stop. Your body contorts involuntarily. You can't think about anything else except that you just. Want. It. To. Stop. What if, instead of twenty-four hours, this state of being kept going – indefinitely. Now, let's imagine that, inexplicably, no one can tell that you have food poisoning. They walk by, try to have conversations with you, go about their business – all while you're being actively, violently ill. You can't speak except in single words and basic concepts. Some of the people who pass by are annoyed. They can't see what your feeling and they wonder why you won't speak in full sentences or aren't paying attention to what they were saying. Others think maybe something's wrong with you and that makes them uncomfortable, so they hurry by. Still others want to help, but they also kind of think – deep down – that you're being a big baby. “Chin up!” they say. “Everything's going to be ok! There was this time when I didn't feel good, so I started exercising and that helped so much! You should try it!” Meanwhile the life is draining out of you and you care less and less. You start to feel as numb as a rock. You may as well be one. A rock can't feel. The more pain you're in and the longer it lasts, the more you become singularly focused on just making it stop. It doesn't matter how. In your helpless state, what you need is someone to recognize that your silence is pain, that your cries are not dramatic, that you are not weak or without faith. You need someone to get down on the bathroom floor and hold your hair back. Because ultimately, it's little, real, meaningful gestures that can help guide hurting people off a path they don't even realize they are on. What signs do we need to be watching for? Everyone is different, so everyone is going to behave differently when they are struggling. Be vigilant when someone is not acting like themselves. They don't seem to be enjoying the things they usually enjoy. Smiles may be scarce and forced. They stay in bed or lay in bed for unusual lengths of times (don't we all want to curl up in bed when we aren't feeling well?). If they go as far as to communicate with us, we need to listen carefully. Don't dismiss self-deprecating language, even if it sounds like a joke. Know when to encourage socialization and when to recognize that it's too much. Recognize also that your own scope of aid may not be enough. Your friend may need gentle nudges towards getting professional help. And if we hear about someone who has fallen victim to suicide – let's not dead-shame. Instead, lets redouble our efforts and pay close attention to the hurting people in our lives. Let empathy wash away the fear and discomfort that so many of us have in the presence of pain. Embody comfort. Listen. Be there. Love.
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