Suicide: Community’s Puzzle
Open, close, open, close. I sat in a back hallway with a pair of scissors in my hands—I wanted to use them; knew I shouldn’t. My primary support, Alli, was busy. Open, close. I needed someone, someone to take the scissors out of my hands. I knew I needed someone. So I texted Lauren, who lived in a different dorm. To my surprise and relief, she came. Leaning up against the dull, white wall, she took the scissors from my hands. My head fell against her shoulder, and she rubbed my hair, letting my tears fall without question.
It’s an idealistic picture, that moment. But our friendship was not solely made up of pretty pictures, and there were times that she needed to do homework and couldn’t come. Sometimes I needed a different perspective: Alli’s playfulness or Gabe’s philosophy, the other Allie’s practical eyes to come alongside of Lauren’s compassionate wisdom. Time passed and friendships moved. They grew—I grew. People failed me. I failed them. Others stepped in. Together, people held me through years and moments with silent support and active response.
I imagine you feel alone. Like no one understands you. No one wants you. I’ve been there; am sometimes. Yet alone is what we were not meant for. There are people who do see your value and who very much want you alive, and keeping your pain a secret only isolates you. Alone leaves us hiding in silent desperation.
Hiding is part of death—Adam and Eve isolated themselves, hiding from God, covered in shame. It was the shame that did it. Shame pushes us away from anyone who might love us because, like Adam and Eve, we sense that something isn’t acceptable. Shame drives us towards death, but our community would feel a devastating loss.
In times when I felt alone, it seemed no one cared, not even God. Walks became a version of running away. But there were also times when my friends knew, and didn’t desert me. Most of the worst nights I still withdrew to my Gethsemane—sidewalks or back havens on a college campus—but unlike Jesus, praying hearts followed me, begging God to bring me safety, peace . . . hope.
We all need an umbrella of people who love us and want the best for us, no matter the stage of life. We need safe and significant relationships, some of which relate to our intimate stories. The types of the relationships will vary from mentor or teacher, to counselor, to church, to family and friends.
Struggling through this life we all need counselors. There’s a difference between people who are trained in seeing life’s shadows and those loyal people who aren’t trained, but love you just because they do. We need both. We don’t only seek out friends when we’re sick, we find a doctor.
A counselor, while often not a doctor, has spent years studying, training, preparing to help people like you and me. Just because we pay doesn’t mean they don’t truly care about us.
While therapists don’t always understand what clients are trying to say or are feeling—they’re humans too, with their own lens of the world—most care deeply. They know how to respond to depression and anxiety. They know the symptoms and can dig deep for the true ailments. They are someone whom you can relate to, feel connected with, can help in ways the untrained just can’t.
A therapist or counselor doesn’t have to be your first stop. My first experience with a therapist was not good and staying there for months helped nothing. Find someone you feel comfortable with, someone you can eventually trust. Someone with whom the risk of performing or hiding is lessened. It’s ok to start small; don’t feel like you have to spill your guts in your first session—even if they ask for that on the paperwork. If you click, you click—stay with them! But if you don’t click, it’s okay to look somewhere else. There is someone out there who can help you.
But counselors are often only there once a week. We need them, but they are not enough. Are problems rarely fit our own schedules, let alone any one else’s. We need friends too. Friends who live in the everyday of our lives.
There will be those moments we asked for help, but walked away more empty. Yet I hope God helps you find someone who will let you ask them, “Pray for me. I’m scared. I’m angry. I don’t want to be alive…”
Encourage and accept their boundaries—remember that they too have struggles and a life to attend to—each of us has to carry one another’s burden’s, even while bearing our own (see Galatians 6:2). “No,” was not just a word of rejection from my friends. It was sometimes a word of love—for when people say no, they will be able to truly say “yes” at a later time.
I pray God will give you people like he gave me, somebodies who will love you through his strength. And if you are alone, I pray God’s love will engulf you—all of you—with peace and hope —Jennifer Hunter
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline