“What do you have to live for?” the voice asked, suddenly snapping me out of my thoughts about the day.
Everything I’ve listed as my hobbies, my career of choice, suddenly all of it seemed completely superficial. I struggled to think of something. What gives my life meaning? Why am I still alive?
“Love,” I replied. “My family and friends. I want to have children someday. I want to make a positive difference in others’ lives.”
“So you live for other people,” the voice sneered, adding: “Pretend that they’re gone. You can’t live for them, you have to live for yourself.
“Why do you want to live?”
… … …
I had to think about this one for a minute. I was actually worried that the answer wouldn’t come. There have been times when the only thing keeping me alive has been concern for the emotional well-being of the people closest to me – or, alternatively, fear that death would trap me in my torment, instead of granting the relief I sought.
But these reasons bring no comfort. They keep me here, against my will, suffering. They are not enough.
I cannot live for others’ comfort. That just feels like a waking nightmare. I’ve had a taste of it – and spent too much of my life suffering from severe depression.
I need something for myself.
I suppose another way to frame my fear of being trapped in torment by death is that I still have hope – hope that things will get better. Hope that, if I keep at it long enough, someday I won’t need to ask myself these questions.
But hope is not enough either. Hope fades. And so does my vision of the future.
I can’t live for a future that I can’t see. I need something here – and NOW!
What is here and now and worth living for?
Suddenly, all the little things came flooding back:
the feel of the wind on my skin and in my hair
the changing seasons; sunsets; grass under bare feet
water running over my skin; surrounding me
spending time with cute loveable animals
feeling loved by other people; receiving hugs
making love – or good conversation
the joy and sense of mastery that comes from expressing myself, whether it be through music, dance, drawing, or the written word
FOOD – especially the taste of chocolate
the joy of learning something new, solving a puzzle, rising to a challenge
soaking in an amazing work of music or other art
feeling the physical presence of my own body
Knowing that it is my choice to continue to live. And I do, every moment of every day.
But a painful number of people don’t. People like me. People who really aren’t any different, in any meaningful way, from everybody else. There is no “us” and “them” when it comes to mental health. As Kiara put it so eloquently in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, “They are us.”
And that is why I am walking in the Out of the Darkness Overnight in Washington, D.C. on June 1st.
I am walking for my comrades who live each day with depression and/or other mental health issues, and struggle, and contemplate or possibly even attempt suicide.
I am walking in memory of those who have taken their own lives.
I am walking in solidarity with those who have lost a loved one or otherwise been affected by suicide, including some members of my family.
Above all, I am walking for myself, because everything we do to promote mental health and prevent suicide benefits me directly. I am walking to save my own life.
I am walking for us.