By Chaz White
Caution: This post discusses suicide and self-harm but from a hopeful stance.
So much of my life has been shrouded in darkness, consumed by thoughts I couldn’t control and overwhelmed by anxiety. However, piece by piece, year by year, I kept progressing towards the very simple idea that it’s a good thing to be alive and that I should celebrate that. While this story of mine isn’t filled with giant triumphs, lighting strikes, or one specific moment that changed the course of my life. It is an honest take on what recovery and hope have looked like for me personally.
I haven’t cut or self- harmed in 11 years which I celebrate. I also celebrate anybody on day one or week one because that’s how 11 years happens. One day at a time. So let’s, you and I, first make one thing extremely clear. Recovery happens one day at a time which builds into weeks, months, and then years. Don’t ever feel shame for being on hour one, day one, or week one. Your victory is your victory and as bad as it is to let someone else lessen that, it’s even worse to let your own brain dampen the celebration party, so celebrate today for whatever stage you’re in!
However, at the same time for me, until six months ago, I was still begging a God I was losing faith in to take my life and end my suffering. All I could focus on was everything mental illness took from me. My record deal, the friends I left, the girl friends I hurt, the family members I let down, and most painfully the judgement I was placing on myself. I was consumed with negative thoughts but I didn’t want to commit suicide anymore (this was a victory for me! Not winning the entire war, but still a victory!). I just didn’t want to be alive in the first place.
Here’s where I would love to say that I started yoga/weightlifting/met the “right person”/Jesus/started meditating/or something culturally relevant had saved my life and gave me hope! However, even though I do go to the gym (when possible), I was a pastor, I do meditate, I am married, and I even read cheesy self- help books which all left me tired with a feeling that I had expended all options to no avail. I had no hope to hold onto until I met my current doc/therapist.
It was therapy, real, legit, hard, sometimes painful, therapy that gave me hope. Yes I take meds that do keep me stable and checked off all the aforementioned “solutions” to mental illness but it was therapy made me want to live again. Therapy gave me a space of peace within the war silently raging inside my head. Therapy taught me I wasn’t crazy, wasn’t bad, wasn’t a failure, wasn’t less than anyone else, and that I was just another human. Another human sucking down oxygen from innocent trees that was allowed to be broken but also allowed to have hope.
If I’m honest, it feels anticlimactic not to have a big bold claim about something that made my life worth living. I’m not out saving orphans, I’m not suddenly going on tour playing music, I’m not a vegan yogi, I’m not even back in school like I dream to be but what I’ve learned in therapy has shifted the paradigm in my head. I spent my high school years cutting myself for a myriad of reasons. I spent my early twenties having moved past the desire to self-harm only to meet the desire to have never been born in the first place. At 26, I can honestly say that I want to live and therapy gave me the peace, acceptance, and ability to feel this way.
I may not wake up every day like Captain America (insert super hero of your choice here) and I may feel much more like Dead Pool (insert self -deprecating and begrudging hero here) but I am at least thankful to be alive. Thankful I can play guitar and sing with the audience of my faithful and energetic Blue Heeler pup. Thankful for the many the breaths I inhaled while writing this. And quite bluntly, I’m just thankful I believe life is Worth Living because of the fruit that hard work in therapy produces.
Find your path to recovery and fight for a life worth living in which you can believe. It will probably look nothing like mine on paper but I’m rooting for you every step of the way as are all the Worth Living Ambassadors and the mental health community at large.
You can win this war inside your head that was never asked for, you can feel hope, you can believe that your life is Worth Living.
Here’s to you and the story you’ll tell someday about what recovery looked like in your life!
NOTE: If you, a family member, friend, or colleague is experiencing thoughts of suicide or distress, call 911 now.
Canada- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention http://Suicide Prevention
USA – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
United Kingdom http://www.nhs.uk