“You are worth a lot. Always keep your head up!”
These were words my husband wrote to me not long after my attempt. At the time I didn’t grasp their full meaning. I thought he was wrong for thinking I was worth anything! As for him telling me to keep my head up I had no idea what he meant.
In the “Expressing Grief” post, I wrote about when a person has unexpressed grief it reflects on their body. Being the keen observer that he is, he took note of this in me. My body language screamed “shame”! I would spend most of the time looking at the floor, avoiding eye contact. I don’t remember smiling much either. That was all I could do at the time. It must’ve been hard to live with me!
I don’t think I ever sensed him giving up on me. I felt his frustration (sometimes) because I couldn’t see in me, what was obvious to him. During this time he began to write me poems, words of encouragement, and little love notes. He made sure there was a positive thought in my day because I was full of negative ones. It was clear I was only tearing myself to pieces.
This made me think of when marine mammals beach themselves and people try to help them. Sometimes they’re successful, depending on the size of the mammal, at helping them return to sea. There are times though, when the mammal(s) go right back and do it again. Scientists are dumbfounded by this behavior. Why would a creature do this to itself? It has a wide ocean to roam, food, and apparent health. It doesn’t make sense. In my last post I mentioned that a person in their right mind doesn’t want to die. I’m sure it’s the same with these creatures. We just haven’t come to understand them yet.
My husband was like those concerned people trying to help those stranded mammals, and I wasn’t budging! What else could he do but use his words to hopefully draw me out? They didn’t sink in back then, but they’re starting to now. I’m finally beginning to understand his words! It’s like he’d been watering a seed and waiting for it to sprout. My seed just needed some sunshine. Those much needed rays of light had been blocked by my layers of grief and shame.
When grief started to leave my body I began to lift my gaze off the ground. Now I look ahead. Maintaining your head up definitely sends a message of confidence to your body, and others. This is what my husband and family had been waiting for. The inner confidence that hadn’t existed in me for so long was starting to grow. My husband believed I had nothing to feel ashamed of. What had happened didn’t diminish my worth in his eyes. I therefore had no reason to hang my head in defeat. What I repeatedly failed to grasp was that I needed to deal with the toxic memories in order to start freeing myself from the guilt and shame. Our mistakes, past and present, don’t define who we are but give us a picture of what needs to be addressed and fixed. Making them is human. Learning from them and moving on, is living. Shame on the other hand, doesn’t let us move on and learn. We truly come to believe that we’re a mistake and a bad person. Having this distorted view of oneself is painful. It’s too much for anyone to bare.
I now view myself like the people on the beach with the mammals, wanting to help. Unfortunately, you can’t always physically save someone who’s decided to end their life. But if you think about it, they’ve already ended it, emotionally. How do you draw them out? With your patience and physical presence. They may not always want you around, but they need it. Offer your non judgmental love (remember they’ve already judged themselves enough!) and words: words of encouragement, love, and acceptance. Also, there’s a lot to process after surviving an attempt and routine is comforting because it adds structure where there’s chaos. It won’t take much for the person to feel overwhelmed either, so don’t push. Instead, slow down. Life is hectic enough as it is. We wouldn’t want someone who’s just had major surgery to go up and down a flight of stairs! It’s gonna take time to heal and everyone does it at their own pace, not others.
I’m so glad my husband had the strength to help me get through some of my toughest days. And there were many others who could only offer their presence, in one way or another, for a lack of not knowing what to do with me!!! There is no instruction manual for dealing with people who have attempted suicide. So the survivor and the family go about it confused, not knowing if what’s being done is enough to help. Remember, what got them there was not knowing how to ask for help and voice their pain in the first place. Learning to voice things will be a struggle, but if we control our reactions, it encourages the person to keep sharing.
An experience like this shouldn’t make anyone feel they’re unworthy of love, understanding, compassion, reassurance, forgiveness, and more LOVE. We all deserve to have these things regardless of whether we’re suffering from a mental illness or not.
Remember to keep your head up, you are worth a lot.
Love you guys ; )