Once when I was in college I wanted to die so badly that I stood on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, Maine and tried to decide which car to jump in front of. There were lots of reasons I felt that way at the time and one of those reasons was my seizure medication had thrown my entire body and brain totally out of whack. At one point, I was insisting that elephants were dancing with King Kong outside the window of my off-campus housing.
But honestly? The reasons don’t matter any more. What mattered was the pain. What mattered is that I wanted to die because I thought that I hurt too much to live.
One of my friends, Eric Stamper, got me through it. He was an angel boy.
That and I felt too badly for the driver of the car.
And, yeah, I didn’t want to get paralyzed. The plan didn’t seem fool-proof enough.
And, I also thought about God and life and existence being a gift even if it is a TERRIBLY difficult gift sometimes.
But for five minutes I stood on the side of the road and hurt and thought about ending the hurt and how I could do that without hurting too many other people. I couldn’t think of a way, which is part of why I am still here.
I so rarely talk about this, but lately on social media and the internet, in friends-locked posts and in private messages and in conversations on the phone, I have seen so many people feeling the way I did when I was college student standing on Lisbon Street. I am very lucky. I have never felt that way again, but I remember the feeling. I remember it really well, too well.
And I also realized that it’s hard to talk about it even though so many people have felt that way too. But it isn’t shameful to hurt. It isn’t shameful for the pain to be too much for you to handle alone and anyone who says it is? Well, they are full of crud. Sorry. It’s true.
According to the World Health Organization, over 350 million people on Earth have depression or 5% of the population. A massive chunk of those cases are in the U.S. And two-thirds of those people never get help, or ask for it.
And depression is the leading cause of suicide. And suicide is the third most common reason that teens die.
And I like teens way too much to be cool about letting such a cause of death not go on notice. That’s right… SUICIDE and DEPRESSION! YOU ARE ON NOTICE!
I completely missed suicide prevention day and also To Write Love on Her Arms Day. But on that day, people write “love” on their arms to show that they care, they hope, they support, that they choose not to be silent.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2008 to 2010 at least 8 percent adults (18-22) had a major depression (depressive episode) in the year prior to be questioned. That’s a lot.
To Write Love on Her Arms has raised millions of dollars to try to help.
“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 also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.”
This is its vision:
The vision is that we actually believe these things…
You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters.
We live in a difficult world, a broken world. My friend Byron is very smart – he says that life is hard for most people most of the time. We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know that you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck.
We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions – moments and seasons and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know that pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real.
You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible, that God is still in the business of redemption. We’re seeing it happen. We’re seeing lives change as people get the help they need. People sitting across from a counselor for the first time. People stepping into treatment. In desperate moments, people calling a suicide hotline. We know that the first step to recovery is the hardest to take. We want to say here that it’s worth it, that your life is worth fighting for, that it’s possible to change.
Beyond treatment, we believe that community is essential, that people need other people, that we were never meant to do life alone.
The vision is that community and hope and help would replace secrets and silence.
The vision is people putting down guns and blades and bottles.
The vision is that we can reduce the suicide rate in America and around the world.
The vision is that we would learn what it means to love our friends, and that we would love ourselves enough to get the help we need.
The vision is better endings. The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships. The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love. The vision is graduation, a Super Bowl, a wedding, a child, a sunrise. The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.
The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.
The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.
The vision is hope, and hope is real.
You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.
Crud. Every time I read that I cry.
Please go write LOVE on your arm today, any day, if you feel like it. But more importantly, write LOVE on your heart. Empathy and kindness? They aren’t bad things. Love? That’s even better.
And if you’re feeling like you need help, this brings you to a links page for resources in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., Sweden, and Belgium.