The family member of a close friend killed himself last week. His funeral is today.
It’s been a long time since I wrote about suicide. Most of my bi-polar and depressive friends have been doing just fine on their meds or using the strategies they’ve learned in therapy so that they can quickly arrest a descent into the ominous dark spiral. I’m grateful for that. I love all of them and would be devastated if any one of them chose to take the shortcut-of-no-return, as J did.
This was a young man who had been troubled for a long, long time, though he was not without love and support and encouragement from patient, sincere, understanding family members. But… in spite of their best efforts, he began to feel helpless in the face of the events which comprised his life… and one night when that feeling overwhelmed him, he opted for permanent relief from the pain….
And so my friends, this is just the gentlest of reminders:
We can never control the circumstances of our lives. We can only control our response to those circumstances. This is true for all of us, whether we’re happy and well-adjusted or have been bashed around by the harsh, capricious nature of life in this world.
As I wrote in The Dogs WhoSaved Me, forty+ years ago I was a clinically depressed teen who had lost all reason to live. Well… save one: Rufus, the dog who taught me what loyalty and unconditional love are all about kept me from leaving before it was really time to go. Back then, if someone had told me, “Just hang on, K; in a few short years you’re going to have four incredible kids and even more grandkids and you’ll go to college and earn a master’s degree in literature and become a published author,” I would have told them they were nuts. And yet here I am with a thousand blessings to be thankful for every single day.
We cannot know, day by day, which way the path of life will turn or what obstacles will appear before us. But from this side of life I can see that there is balance in all things. For every rotten tomato life throws at us, a golden apple will fall from a tree nearby and roll onto the path at our feet. We just have to keep our eyes open, keep looking for the beauty (because believe me, it’s there, even when the dark clouds above us shut out the light for a bit and we can’t quite see it) and above all, keep making forward progress—even if it is measured in inches—so we don’t miss the good stuff. And trust me, there’s a whole lot of good stuff along the way. Sometimes we just have to hunker down in the bottom of the boat and wait until the storm passes. (Hug yourself and rock if it helps. Don’t laugh; Dr. Temple Grandin would agree with me. I did this in a figurative sense when I would sit on my bedroom floor and listen to music for hours. Better yet, hug a fur person.) Just… don’t give up and jump overboard. Your feelings are real, and I would never discount them. I’ve had them myself. I know how much it hurts. But when the pain seems unbearable, gather around you those things that you love and hang on; clear skies and a gorgeous sunrise are just a few moments away….