It has been a long time since I have been on a swing, feeling that elation of swooping up high and swinging down low, hearing my heart thumping in my chest all the while. There is something about being on the swing – the sense of peace and freedom. When you push yourself up really high, you are exhilarated with every new height you reach; and as you let gravity take you as you come down, you shred every care in the world into the wind. The gentleness of the breeze that caresses your face; the soft whisper of birds calling one another as evening approaches; and the golden setting sun – these are all happening here. On this swing.
For a brief moment as I was in the ecstasy of reaching the new height, a series of thoughts flashed into my brain. The time I was caught in a rip at Bondi Beach and the realisation that I could drown. The blog post I read this morning about finding joy in every circumstance. And the most recent encounter with the darkest thought I have ever had in my adulthood. I have wrestled about whether to share it. I decided to do so as communication always fosters connection and understanding. It is my hope that this entry might do just that.
The other day while on the way home from work, a sense of despair hit me very hard, so sudden and unexpected. I felt like a failure, a hypocrite, and a liar. It all became unleashed because I didn’t pass my driving assessment. That sounds rather silly, I know. But it wasn’t just the a driving assessment, was it, that undid me? Failing the review unearthed something I buried deep inside – the nagging voice that said I am a loser; and I cannot achieve anything. I have got my permanent visa application waiting to be done. I still have to enrol to study but the amount we have to pay is ridiculous. And I need to book more driving lessons so I can get my license. My friend, Lisa, put it perfectly when she said, “I think that when a big thing is paired with a bunch of other things that are going wrong, then it can quickly become overwhelming.” At that moment, I was on the verge of drowning… that when I stopped paddling, I would be dragged down by the powerful current to the bottom of the ocean.
That sense of despair made me contemplate suicide for a brief second. That if I would end it all right now, I would be rid of hurt and pain. I felt very alone as I trudged home, thinking that no one would be able to help me bear this load because everyone else has got their own happy lives to live.
It was very fleeting, a whisper-in-the-wind kind of moment. What was worse, though, was the shock from the realisation that the thought even passed through my mind. I cried big fat tears when I got to the house, gushing out shame, because I should have known better – that my life is meaningful, precious and worthy of love.
Thankfully, God pulled me out of the depth. I was reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice – his life for mine on the cross. Feeling ashamed is an understatement. But God’s grace is sufficient for me. His presence, though not as forceful as a strong gale of wind, made its way into my heart and softened it. He reminded me of the things worth living for – my husband, my mum, my sisters, and my friends. I thought of Joel’s gentle touch and fierce devotion; of my mum’s long months of pregnancy, strenuous hours of hard labour and difficult years of raising me; and ultimately of Jesus, who gave up his life so I can live it to the full.
In a sense, I am thankful for the experience because it provides an insight that helps me sympathise with people who either might be contemplating suicide, or even those affected by someone’s attempt.
Here is what I learned. Loneliness is dangerous. What you see portrayed is not always what goes on inside someone’s heart. Loneliness is the biggest reason why people choose to take their own lives. We prefer snippets of chats online to real time conversation. Our interaction with each other is brief and polite but we don’t linger because we are so overprotective of our time. We lose touch with people we love because we are so busy. One by one, we slowly find ourselves at the centre of the stage, surrounded only by a handful of people who are generally there like our spouses, children or parents. We are overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities that we cannot see past what is just in front of us. We’re trapped in our own head, our own space…and that’s where it all goes wrong.
This suicidal thought can happen to anyone at the most unexpected time. It is such a terrible thing to think about that we become so afraid to even mention it as it seems cowardice, irresponsible and reckless. We think it will pass. So shame keeps us silent. I urge you – do the opposite to what you feel and choose connection with people.
If you would rather stay inside to pick your wound, go for a walk; otherwise it’ll fester. If you think you are worthless, look around for notes, letters, emails or pictures that your loved ones gave you. If you would rather keep silent about it, find someone you trust – a friend or partner or family member, and tell them in the rawest, simplest words of how you feel. (It is difficult sharing this, even at this moment, because I constantly feel like a coward; and that I am disappointing a lot of people by admitting it.) And if yelling, crying or smashing things help you knock out those nasty emotions you bottle up, go ahead. You’ll be a better person for it. Remember that at the end of the day, it is not just your life you take but those around you as well.
I don’t know where you are at the moment. You might either be someone contemplating suicide; or you might have lost someone. I will not say the cliche, “It is not your fault” because I don’t think it is true. I will say this, though, that whatever happens, we all share in the responsibilities of looking out for and after one another. God has created us in his image; and intended for us to share this beautiful world with one another. It would save us using the “should have” if we are intentional about staying connected and nurturing relationships.
I wish life was simple, the way it was in my childhood. That I could kick back in the swing, and not have to worry about anything. But as we grow, our responsibilities increase with us. And we have to take each day as it comes, constantly reminding ourselves to pause, breathe deeply and enjoy that swing ride we love so much.
Seriously, when we have our own house, I’m going to put a swing set in our backyard.
P.S. If you find yourself in a dark place, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am no councillor but I have got two ears, a willing heart and prayer for you. Please do not seclude yourself.