Apparently today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This is bringing up emotions not because of the suggested candle-lighting tonight around 8pm, but more because of an email I got this morning from the survivors of suicide forum which I joined last year. The email was asking for volunteers to spend an hour on the forum, responding to more recent survivors and trying to give them what we needed while we were at that point in our grieving – which distills down to understanding and hope.
So, I went to the website to sign up, since this seemed like something I could definitely do. When I got there and started reading through some of the recent entries though, I was struck with the image of reading them as if I was on the shore watching the writer flailing in the choppy waters, trying to pull themselves toward the shore but not getting anywhere.
Side-note: vacationing in Ocracoke several years ago, my family was swimming in the ocean (or in the sound?) and accidentally discovered what a “rip tide” is. Siblings and cousins were all in the water playing, with several parents/aunts/uncles looking on from the shore. At some point one of the younger kids figured out that, try as they might, they could not swim back to the shore – and once the adults realized this, chaos ensued. I do not remember being scared until Joel, who was nearby, latched onto me — all the while kicking and thrashing and freaking out and doing everything he knew, as a small child, to do to keep his head above water. As the oldest kid there, I hadn’t needed help getting back to the shore, but once I was working to keep both myself AND Joel afloat, I started to get scared. He kept pulling me under, and I didn’t think that I could carry both of us back. I remember feeling very much out of control and frightened – especially since he was feeling about a million times more out of control and frightened than I was. Thankfully, an uncle came and took Joel so that I was able to focus on getting myself back to shore – no biggie once Joel was gone.
I mention that experience to say that looking at those entries this morning reminded me of how I felt in the water at Ocracoke. These people who are just now writing about how they’ve recently lost a loved one to suicide are kicking and screaming and thrashing and freaking out just like Joel did, and for the same basic reasons – they feel out of control (because the illusion that you have any control over another person’s body and mind is hard to shake) and frightened, and they don’t know how/if/when they’ll be getting back to solid ground.
Not only do they remind me of Joel on that day, but feelings that I have about being on the forum are reminding me of myself that day too; the thought of getting “back in the water” to try to help them out is a little bit scary for me. I’m not afraid of floundering, and maybe “afraid” is not even the right word for me to be using. I’m hesitant though. I’m nervous about the emotions and memories that will inevitably come up again if I really engage with someone in the forum. Even if I can throw someone a life jacket, I can’t pull them to the shore. I can help them to stay afloat, but that’s all, and it takes so much more energy to stay afloat than it does to drown.
I think I’m still going to volunteer to go over to the forum for an hour, but it’s going to have to be an hour after work, when I don’t have to worry about my calm, professional front. I don’t want to avoid doing things – especially potentially helpful things – because I am scared or nervous. That’s not a good way to go through life at all.
Anyway, wanted to write about it instead of just ignoring my initial thoughts and feelings. I’m trying to address my life head-on.