Every time I try to write it, my head gets full of echoes of syllables that fell off of lips and shattered into words until I’m not even sure what to say anymore.
But I am full to the brink, and I cannot do anything but bring this sorrow where I have always brought the brokeness of life. To the paper, and the curves of these gentle forceful letters.
Over the past few weeks I’ve watched several sets of teenage lips form the following statements:
“I am ready to die.”
“I feel like I’m wasting this body.”
“If I was gone, I wonder if anybody would even know or care.”
“I just don’t feel like I’ve got a purpose anymore.”
And more, more words strung together into sentences that broke my heart into pieces.
And I am just a girl, a twenty-something girl, that does not have the words to fix or heal or make sense of any of this for someone else.
So I do not think I said anything helpful to these people, these precious souls in need of some hope and some healing. I moved them, and walked them to where they needed to go, and left them with people who have letters behind their names which mean that they are prepared to do a thing like this.
And I have never felt so helpless.
That feeling of absolute inability to offer any kind of ladder up from the pit has made me do a lot of thinking. It’s made me consider what I wish I had been able to pull up from my chest and push into out-loud words for them.
Because I do know the weight of depression. I wore it like a winter coat for far too many summers. I do know the hand of hopelessness. I held it like it was lifting me for many drowning days. I know the depth and breadth of the ocean of despair, because I swam in it and breathed in its salty air, and I learned to be a mermaid crying bitter tears.
And it was not any kind of beautiful or lovely, and these metaphors I’ve strung together do not truly hold it right.
Stripped of all the niceties, I have wondered if life was truly worth living.
I have wondered if I was truly worth the effort of being alive.
And I can now tell you, after years of learning to believe that my beating heart is something worth protecting, that the value of a single human person is more than the expanse of stars stretched across a midnight sky.
On the other side of that ephemeral coin is that the absence of one person reaches more deeply than any trench in any ocean where the force of the sun is not enough to press down and reach the fathoms of the blackness.
Since the days when I measured the value of my own life in the palm of my hand and found it somehow wanting, I have seen loss, and I have grieved people, and now I understand.
Life is about so much more than the days when we feel worthless, or empty, or broken. Because those days will come. Life is about the ripples we make, the waves we create in this ever-changing watery landscape. It’s about you, what you will learn and how you will grow, and what you will do in the world around you, and the million beautiful things you can see even on days when you feel nothing.
At sixteen, you can’t imagine the things you will do yet. You don’t know the feeling of switching that tassel over to the other side and walking across a stage and feeling the weight of pride on your tiny shoulders wrapped in sweaty polyester.
At eighteen, you don’t yet know what it’s like to go off, to carve your own path into the wilderness of a new town, a new job, a new school, a new anything, and how your brittle arms will begin to feel a little bit like wings.
At twenty, you could never understand the joy you feel as you hold the little hand of the new life made by your high school best friend, the wonder that will fill you as you peer into those little eyes, full of promise and hope and new things, and know that she has a life ahead of her. You don’t know what it is yet to believe in something better for the future that you see in the tiny whorls on a tiny forefinger connected to a tiny little hand filled with grasp reflexes and days unplanned.
There’s more. A thousand beautiful moments that you can’t believe in yet, and I understand. I have been there, in a place of not knowing if things would ever get better. I used to regret my time in that empty place, but now I cannot help but thank God for it, because I can tell you with every kind of confidence:
This will not last. Look out across the desert lands of your life. Look hard. Feel the dirt with your hands. This is the beginning of everything you will ever know, and I promise that this dirt is not purposeless. It is the foundation of all of the wildflowers that your life is going to grow. And it will be more beautiful than anything you’ve ever seen. You will bloom into what you never thought you could be.
I know this may sound cliche and awful and like a bunch of pretty words that mean nothing next to the reality of the brokeness of this world. But I believe them. I believe with my every breath that the face that used to know only the weight of tears will one day be pressed against the sunset and those very cheeks will hold only light and the wonder of being will be pressed against the pores of a fragile human life. I have known it for myself. And I wish I could go back and lift up the chins of those precious babies who confided in me and speak them into their sweet spirits.
But this is the best I can do.
So here it is, with lots of love and heartache and prayers knitted in.
I ask that you would please keep the young people of this generation in your prayers. They are dealing with a whole new kind of struggle, enhanced by constant access to technology and all kind of outside influences that many of us (myself included) did not have to deal with during those tender adolescent years.
THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE CAN BE REACHED TOLL FREE, 24 HOURS A DAY, TO ANYONE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS OR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS AT 1-800-273-8255. YOU’LL BE CONNECTED WITH A SKILLED, TRAINED COUNSELOR AT A CRISIS CENTER WHO CAN HELP YOU FIND A REASON TO KEEP LIVING. PLEASE CALL NOW IF YOU ARE IN NEED.