And so I kept living

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And So I Kept Living

Tomorrow, Sept. 10, 2016, is World Suicide Prevention Day, and this week has been dedicated as National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States.

Before I dive into my why, let me tell you a little bit about the what.

Mental health is something people don’t always like to talk about, so let’s start the conversation by talking about one of my favorite organizations: TWLOHA.

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and invest directly into treatment and recovery.

TWLOHA’s campaign for National Suicide Prevention Week, or NSPW, this year is called “And So I Kept Living.” Some previous campaigns have been titled “We’ll See You Tomorrow” (2015),  “No One Else Can Play Your Part” (2014), and “You Cannot Be Replaced” (2013). Each year’s message brings hope for those struggling and a conversation starter for the stigma fighters.

This year’s campaign title was inspired the words of Matt Haig in his book Reasons to Stay Alive. Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of TWLOHA, shared Matt’s words behind the inspiration:

Early in Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt shares the story of the day he nearly died. He paints the scene, the edge of a cliff just steps outside the door of a rented villa in Ibiza. Here it is in Matt’s words:

“I stood there for a while. Summoning the courage to die, and then summoning the courage to live. To be. Not to be. Right there, death was so close. An ounce more terror, and the scales would have tipped. There may be a universe in which I took that step, but it isn’t this one.

I had a mother and a father and a sister and a girlfriend. That was four people right there who loved me. I wished like mad, in that moment, that I had no one at all. Not a single soul. Love was trapping me here. And they didn’t know what it was like, what my head was like. Maybe if they were in my head for 10 minutes they’d be like, ‘Oh, okay, yes, actually. You should jump. There is no way you should feel this amount of pain. Run and jump and close your eyes and just do it. I mean, if you were on fire I could put a blanket around you, but the flames are invisible. There is nothing we can do. So jump. Or give me a gun and I’ll shoot you. Euthanasia.’ But that was not how it worked. If you are depressed, your pain is invisible.

Also, if I’m honest, I was scared. What if I didn’t die? What if I was just paralyzed, and I was trapped, motionless, in that state, forever?

I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough.

Those reasons can stem from the past—the people who raised us, maybe, or friends or lovers—or from the future—the possibilities we would be switching off.

And so I kept living.”

You may not be able to relate to Matt’s words, or maybe they hit too close to home – either way, I believe that we can all relate to love and loss; we understand both pain and joy. Some of us have been haunted by shadows in life, and others have served as the light on those heavy days.

Your story is important, and you are a part of a bigger story.

I have seen the shadows. I have held my best friend as she cries. The question “is it worth it” has weighed down moments where each breath, each blink, each heartbeat counts more and more. But I have also been there for the “yes” at the end of the question. I have been there for redemption, for hope turned real – for the celebrations and the anniversaries and the I made it. I have been there for the sunrise. And so I kept living.

There was a sister I never got to know. People have been stolen too soon. Strangers have made my heart yearn for what could have been. I watch as those close to me begin to slip away. But the world still blooms. Nephews are born. Vows create new families. Birthdays bring opportunities to say “I am happy you are born – I am happy you’re alive.” Relationships grow stronger and with more appreciation. Loved ones are cherished. We take time to share stories. We listen. And so I kept living.

Friends have come and gone. Heartbreaks haunt my dreams. Betrayal builds walls and loneliness turns to isolation. But the phone calls come back. You hold my hand in the car when a song makes me cry. You promise to love me – always. We work it out. And sometimes we don’t, but we become stronger people. Community turns to family. And so I kept living.

For my mother, my father, my brother. Grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. For friends. For best friends – for mellons. My cat, my future puppy and all the dogs I have yet to pet. Netflix binges and books that make me cry. Blanket forts and all the wine. For ice cream cake and surprise candles. For quiet moments. The sun and the trees and the stars. The mountains we climb – on adventures and in our minds. For thank you notes and hand-written letters and warm cups of coffee. Pictures and paintings and friendship posters. For concerts and the moments between the silence and the sound. Honest communication, catharsis and vulnerability. For collecting rocks. Saying you need help – for knowing you’re not alone. For new year’s kisses and the promise of better days to come. For I love you.

Embracing my light and not ignoring my dark.

For people – for me – for stories.

The hope to be surprised.

And so, I kept living.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2016 TWLOHA card

TWLOHA mantra - suicide prevention

To donate to To Write Love On Her Arms’s World Suicide Prevention Campaign, visit this link.

One Response to “And so I kept living

  • So true, thank you for your wonderful way with words, Tory! Julie Watson

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