Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse (c)2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
Trigger warning: If you are currently struggling with suicidal thinking, the following post may include some triggers. If you are considering suicide, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
The scene: A small room intended for about fifteen people, and a crowd of twenty-five or more scrambling for chairs. One can hear repeatedly amid the squeezing, “Excuse me,” and “Is anyone sitting here?”
Most are strangers to each other, and everyone is alone. Chatting voices expose individuals lost in self-absorption. “I’m headed for rehab.” “I just got back.” “I’m going to lose my job if I miss any more work.”
The silent ones stare at the floor.
A single therapist manages to find space at the front of the room and calls everyone to quiet. He apologizes for the unusually crowded conditions, mentioning it is a tough time of year for many people. It is February 2011.
One by one, people offer a number between 1-5, rating the power of their suicidal thinking on this day. For some, saying it aloud gives them the strength to endure. To others, the system forces them to consider safety despite impulsive thoughts otherwise. Most rate their suicidal thoughts low; a few with higher numbers are challenged to offer specific plans for staying safe; one is sent to the hospital.
On this day, I said, “4” which is in the danger zone. I promised to focus on art over the next 24 hours and to call for help if my already powerful thoughts became overwhelming.
Then a woman spoke. “A thought is just a thought. I guess we do not have to act on it.”
It was so simple and yet profound to a brain wrapped up in confusion and raging mood swings. A thought is just a thought. Did she mean I have control after all?
Years later, I remain grateful for this woman who shared out of her own pain, what she was discovering. She likely knew it would be a lightbulb moment for me and others in the room.
Some readers of this blog post may find her statement obvious, a lesson for juveniles. If that is you, please look deeper. Have you never been, or have you forgotten where the world is narrow and dark, and one is accompanied only by overbearing emotional pain? There, in the fragility of a severe major depressive episode, random thoughts carry weight and authority.
Remembering that a thought, even a suicidal one, can be tamed, is freeing.
Imagine standing alone in a dark, empty alley. All you hear is the roar of a fierce and hungry lion, his voice bouncing off brick walls and filling the air. Then you see him, crouching, preparing to eat you alive. Your only exit is to climb the wall behind you which is laced with electric barbed wire.
That is a tiny bit of how it feels to be suicidal. One does not see hope, only a means to the lesser of two evils. The question becomes, “Will I stay and allow the lion (life) to tear me to bits as slowly and tortuously as it wishes? Or will I climb the wall and escape via a quick death?”
To hear at that point that the lion does not have claws or teeth, or its ultimate threat may not exist, can be life-saving. He is, after all, only a thought.
If you are considering suicide, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Remember on your way, that your thoughts do not own you. You have the power to manage them.
Take it from me please, there is hope. You can stay alive and thrive. That is a thought backed by truth.