This is going to be a very personal reflection and I am a little hesitant in sharing it. It is not the safe thing to do, but I feel compelled to share it for better or worse. This is a lesson I don’t want to forget. It is a lesson about seeing life from a different perspectives. A painful one. It is about the human struggle to be whole and the fight to be happy and fully alive. I hope that these words can help someone who is either going through hell, or has to watch someone go through hell. If you stumble upon these words, I hope they serve you well. I hope they can become a little reminder to how beautiful and meaningful life truly is.
My heart breaks for a friend of mine whose son took his own life this week. Words cannot really express the the pain he must be feeling and the pain which his son must have felt for many years.
My friend and I had a very candid discussion recently and I told him how courageous he was for not denying his son’s suicide as many parents are apt to do. I told him what a service he was doing to anyone who was fighting depression and suicidal thoughts, by being so open about his son’s personal struggles.
I don’t know if the stigma of mental illness will ever go away, if all we do is whisper nice things behind each other’s backs, smile like everything will be fine, and tell those who are suffering that we will pray for them.
It is not that people don’t need prayers, but we also need to see each other as we truly are, broken though we may be. We owe each other the truth of who we are. That is the only way we can rely on each other when and if the time comes to need each other.
My friend is an amazing man and a truly loving and courageous father.
We spoke candidly about his son’s struggles a few days ago and he painfully wondered out loud how to makes sense of it all. I am not sure why or how the thought came to my mind. It was not mine. It came from somewhere else, and I shared with him. I told him that I believe his son was a great fighter. A warrior.
The world looks at people with mental illness and suicidal thoughts as weak and broken. I look at them as courageous warriors.
I see them as individuals who are doing everything they know how to live and find a meaning in their lives. They seem stuck in an existential vacuum, as Viktor Frankl calls it, and society doesn’t help much with its many demands and expectations. It gets us to be obedient. Naively obedient. It promises us and sells us on easy and bountiful riches and than does little to help us when we discover that some of us are not so benevolent and choose to horde much everything. Not that life can’t be meaningful despite them, but it is certainly not easier. Our way of life, and of pretending to be who we are not, often breaks the spirit of many young people, who cannot safely pass to the other side of hope.
My friend’s son was a hero. Plain and simple. He fought a ten round fight, and got knocked out early. It didn’t have to be that way, but it was. I choose to see his fight to live. I choose to honour the spirit that kept him fighting for so many months. I choose to see the life and goodness of all people.
This is a message applicable to everyone, not just those struggling with mental illness.
We are brave warriors and we need to see each other as such.
We are good mothers and fathers. We are good sons and daughters. We are good colleagues and friends. We live our lives in quiet and unrecognizable ways. We are many wonderful things to many wonderful people.
So make sure you are seeing yourself I the right light. Make sure you don’t see your ups and downs through someone else’s eyes. Be humble to see and accept yourself through God’s eyes. Be seen through a divine microscope.
Everything else doesn’t matter.
It’s white noise.
Nothing but meaningless whispers and gossip.
Hear the struggle, not the final bell.
See the life lived, not the end.
Become the courageous warrior you are and remind others of the courageous warrior in them.
Don’t ever close the door and lock it from the inside.
Leave a little room for hope because there is a crack in everything, as Leonard Cohen says, and that’s how the light will get in.
Cover photo generously provided by photographer Dimitry Ratushny via unsplash.com