As I sit here in silence, just moments after Joe Biden has delivered his Inauguration speech, I’m struck by what this week means for me personally. You see, Monday was the nine year anniversary of my suicide attempt. January 23rd will be the one year anniversary of my freedom ride. It’s a big week, by anyone’s reckoning.
Generally, I try to write up something about suicide and mental health and reaching out in the darkness for this week, but I’ve been having a hard time forming it in my mind this year. Not that suicide is any less serious or that it’s any less important to reach for a hand when you’re in trouble, but just… I don’t know. It’s been a wild ride and there are so many more things I want to say than I think I have the capacity or the words for.
But also, Uncle Joe had a lot of things to say about unity and hope, and maybe that’s the real point here. Maybe that’s what ties this week together.
A Lot of Anniversaries
I’m not generally one to celebrate every little date on the calendar, but there are some days that are burned on my soul. Two of them live in this same week (three, now, I guess, if you wanna count the Inauguration). They were both days when I was experiencing the depths of desperation. Apparently I’m a bit dramatic, or maybe I just make a lot of mistakes… I’m not sure which.
Nine years ago, I tried to take my own life. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not ashamed of it, and since then, I’ve spent my time trying to help keep others from ending up in that same place. It ultimately was due to a bad reaction to antidepressants, which I had just started (there’s a warning label now for that sort of thing), but I will never forget how out of control of my own mind I felt.
I will never forget how so many people reached out to catch me in my darkest hour.
I will always owe those people my very life. It could have gone a lot worse than it did.
This is why my door is always open for anyone who finds themselves stumbling in the dark. I’m far from a professional, but I can listen, and I will nudge you toward the light. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to help.
Saturday is another big one for me, though, and one I’ve not talked about before. January 23 was the day I fled my marriage with nothing more than four dogs and a few bags of clothing. Like with my suicide attempt, I am forever in debt to a whole lot of people who helped me in that desperate moment. From the friends who are family that saw me to shelter to the judge who issued a three year protection order so I could get myself back to a place of peace and security.
These are all debts that can never be repaid, you understand. They’re the kind you take to the grave. But at the same time, they come from the simple kindnesses we owe one another as people. When someone is in despair, we give them a hand. When someone fears for their safety, we give them shelter. It’s how we should behave as people, regardless of our beliefs.
Uncle Joe and the Hopey Changey Bits
Today as I listened to Uncle Joe deliver one of the most down-to-Earth and heart-felt speeches I’ve heard in some time from a politician, I was reminded of both of these huge acts of kindness. And of the sheer number of people it took to help move me from the darkness into the light on both occasions.
What we have ahead of us, as a nation, isn’t really any different. We’re still fighting a pandemic, we’re trying very hard to learn to trust one another again after four years of living in a world turned upside down. We’re traumatized, we’re battered, we’re so, so tired. And that’s really just the sort of surface level of the situation.
But what I heard today was a call for unity. A call for us to stand together. To help one another. To remember who we are as a family of people. That we’re all important and that we all matter to one another. Uncle Joe reminded us that when we don’t pull together, we pull apart.
And I don’t know about you, but there was no better message I could hear today, the day wedged solidly between two violent personal anniversaries. I am a broken person; we are a broken nation – but we can all heal and see the light again.
Everything is possible when we work together to elevate those who have the least and need the most help.
Today I have hope for America. And I have hope for myself. And I have hope for you. And I have hope for everyone. It’s a welcome feeling.