Friday, January 10, 2020

So Incredibly Loved

Yesterday was a hard day. This past holiday season was difficult. Last fall was really shitty. Most of 2019 was beyond heartbreaking. And, I won't even bother backtracking from there.

Here is an understatement: I'm tired.

I am tired of grief and loss. I am tired of trying to figure out how to lift my head and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I am tired of the impact that eating disorders and PTSD and mental illness have had on my life. I am tired of trying to protect people from my illnesses, and I am tired of failing at that spectacularly.

The past few months, I have been consumed by the mistakes I've made in my life. In particular, I've been desolate over mistakes that I've made more recently. As people sometimes do when they are struggling - I have lashed out at the people who were the closest to me.

Struggling in friendships always returns me to the same agony. It seems a ridiculous leap, but I end up questioning whether I am responsible for the death of people I love. The mix between interpersonal conflict, PTSD, and my own suicidality, is profound for me. I should be wearing a t-shirt that has the words "Handle With Care" printed across the front.   

So, lately I have been plagued by memories of John. Of the morning he died. Of losing a person I loved, unexpectedly and overnight. What could I have done? Surely there is something I could have done. What did I do? I am certain that I did something to start a ball rolling that stopped only with his loss.

Two days ago, I was talking to my doctor, yet again, about my certainty that I am responsible for John's death.

"Did he leave a note? Did he say that he blamed you?" my doctor asked.

"No. I was the last person he talked to. And then he sent me a text. He told me that I was an incredible person, and that he would always love me."

"Well, don't you think that if he blamed you, he would have told you?"

"I don't know. Maybe he didn't blame me. I still blame myself. I'm definitely not 'incredible' and I sure don't deserve to be loved." I said. And for me, two days ago there were no truer words than those.

So yesterday, I wanted to give up. I didn't just feel tired, I felt weak.

And then, the mail arrived.

My life has been saved over and over again by people who love me. More often than not, I haven't known how to save myself. Even now, there is a small core group of people who are making sure, every day, that I am safe. Over and over again they tell me that I am loved no matter what. That I am forgiven no matter what. And most importantly, that love and forgiveness are the cornerstones of life itself.

It's been very difficult for me to take in. There are people I've hurt and people I'm desperate to have forgive me. But whenever I step back and detach from the pain of those unresolved resentments, I land back in the place of being responsible for the death of someone I loved so much. How can I be forgiven by someone who is gone forever?

Today in the mail, I received a little blue box. It was cardboard and there was nothing written on the front. Just a mystery box with an anchor printed on the lid. It was not something I was expecting, and whoever sent it did so anonymously.

I was alone in the kitchen when I opened the box, yet I still I found myself looking around. That cliched search for an explanation. As I removed things from the box, I began to hold my breath. Every item in the box was geared toward reminding me that life was worth it. That even in the worst of times, holding on almost always means that there is more beauty in store. There were bracelets and buttons and stickers and more. There were things I could wear, things I could put on my books or binders or walls. Two wonderful posters too. You Are Not Weak, one of the posters read. There was even a deck of cards, each one printed with a different 'Reason to Live.'

And there was a long letter in the box. One paragraph in that letter stood out above the rest:

"You and I have not met, and we may never meet. I do not know the specifics of your character, of your flaws in their entire complexity, of the mettle you possess and may have already lost, or of the scars of life experience that have torn into the youth of your face. Though I long for it, I do not know your specific beauty and I have not witnessed the ugliness that has brought you to this place."

A stranger sent this to me? I couldn't fathom this fact. Someone who didn't even know me? A stranger sent me this box full of hope and love? Of course I began to think that I did not deserve this type of support, but then I read the last line of the letter.

"You deserve this intervention. You deserve to have people work hard to save you."

I would tell you that this is what brought me to tears, but I was in shock. I was overwhelmed with the timing of this box's arrival. I received it on a day when, once again, I was finding it very difficult to imagine how it is I will live through my struggles.

After I pulled all of the items out of the box, there was just one thing left. A post-it. Like the rest, it was not signed. But when I read it - that is when I cried.

I cried because I know, I must keep working on forgiving myself for having lost someone to suicide. I cried because wherever John is, he wants me to forgive myself too.

I don't know the people who sent this to me, but I am so incredibly thankful that they did. Because of this box, I was reminded that there are friends and family who need me to hold on. And just like I am always hoping for peace and healing for all who are struggling with mental illness, I was reminded there are strangers who want all those same things for me too.

And if I were to somehow manage to dismiss those facts, this one thing remains: There is an angel up there who knew exactly what to say so that I would know that he is pulling for me as well.

*** I can't express enough gratitude to 'Find Your Anchor', a non-profit that works toward suicide prevention through grassroots efforts to pass on the message that every individual deserves to stay alive. Speaking from personal experience - I can tell you that their work is important, needed, and has the potential to save lives. Click on their logo below, to learn more or to donate to this amazing cause.