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 totally out of whack. But honestly? The reasons don’t matter any more. What mattered was the pain. What mattered was 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.
His non-judgmental kindness saved me. Plus, I felt too badly for the driver of the car that would hit me. It seemed unfair to them.
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 that Maine road and hurt and thought about ending the hurt.
I don’t usually talk about this, but lately on Twitter and Facebook, in friends-locked posts, and in private messages and in conversations on the phone, I have seen and listened to so many people who are feeling the way I did when I stood on Lisbon Street.
I am very lucky. I have never felt that way again, but I remember the feeling.
And I also realize 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.
Over 21 million people on Earth have depression. A massive chunk of those cases are in the U.S. A massive chunk of those people are veterans and active members of the military.
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 like that old Steve Colbert skit.
Take out BLACK HOLE and put DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE THERE.
And for veterans? There are about 17 veterans who commit suicide every twenty-four hours.
Thus, the post today, Veteran’s Day. In two more days it is TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS DAY. People are writing love on their arms to show that they care, they hope, they support, that they chose not to be silent.
From the website
“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 their 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.To Write Love on Her Arms.
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.Final two lines of the vision statement
You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.
Crud. Every time I read that I cry.
But you may feel alone. You aren’t. I want your story to go on and on. Like mine is. The world is better with you in it.
Please go write LOVE on your arm. No, not I LIKE YOU VERY MUCH AND WE SHOULD START SEEING EACH OTHER.
Write the word LOVE.
Love is what matters in this world. Love is about knocking down walls, not building them up. Love is about help and empathy and kindness. The Eric Stampers of this world.
I write goofy things on Twitter and Facebook every morning featuring my dogs or the kittens. It isn’t always easy, but I do it because every once and a while those tiny words help other people. That’s so much better than being an internationally bestselling novelist or even having been published. That tiny moment where I get to connect with other people? That’s the whole world to me. You deserve that, too.
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IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!
My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!
It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.
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