I woke up this morning to a text from a close friend. "We are coming into town. My son took his own life last night."
I had reached for the phone to turn off my alarm which was set early so I could do some morning writing. But I had not planned to write about this.
When I read my friend's words, a familiar taste came into the back of my throat, and I tapped into an immense sadness I had not felt for several years.
Three years ago I contemplated taking my own life. The circumstances then matter less than the thoughts I believed about why that made sense. As a result, I lost my passion for food, and with that an easy thirty five pounds. What remained was a dark web of thoughts and a ravenous appetite for death.
I found relief in watching things burn and reading Rilke's Book of Hours. So night after night, while Alex tucked the kids in for bed, I sat outside in front of the fire pit and wrestled with God, the words in front of me, and life.
But when I lean over the chasm of myself--
my God is dark
and like a web: a hundred roots
This is the ferment I grow out of.
Not the encouraging words of my husband, or tight hugs from my kids could pull me away from the grasp of unrelenting pain. I watched embers glow and rise into the night air, and threw out countless prayers for deliverance up with them.
I desperately needed an answer, so I decided to write a letter from my future self. I needed to know what good, if any, would come from this. I wanted to hear from her that I would be stronger and that this would all serve a purpose greater than I could imagine.
So I dug dip and accessed my imagination. I put pen to paper and told myself that the journey might take awhile. That it would be hard and dogged, but that I would emerge transformed. As I wrote, those thoughts slowly started to take shape, and I gripped onto them as I started the long ascent out of darkness.
I know now that the past has no hold over me. I do not have to lug it around behind me and allow thoughts about it to haunt the present moment. But what I learned during that season was that the mind is a powerful tool. It can be incredibly destructive, or it can be our greatest ally.
Sometimes the possibility of relief is the only choice we can consider. But if we are able to see it, there is a light somewhere in a far corner that we can make brighter, if we only give it a second thought.