I wanted to write a post for those struggling with suicide and depression. I could tell you a list of my suicide attempts, a list of my prescriptions, my therapy groups, the facts that validate my own experience. But those things are not important. What is important is you. And because I want you to remain, I would much rather give you words that might speak to your heart and convince you to stay.
I am one of you. We are kin. We speak the same language, which is ancient and native to us, but is sometimes incomprehensible to others. But though others may not understand the true nature of your suffering, you are not eternally misunderstood.
I know what it is like to be dissonant. I know the deep, discordant sound of a body and mind at war with each other. I know what it is like to live somewhere in between two realities, and I am intimately aware of the suffering and grief that you feel as you sit on that window pane or that parking lot ledge, when you think that no one is watching, praying to God that jumping will lead to a finality of your pain. I know what it is like to be three cups of bleach away from meeting Jesus.
I am a young, married, Latter-day Saint woman, and I have active struggles with suicide due to my mental illness. I am a Mormon, and I have tried to kill myself in moments of abject grief and suffering. I understand the Gospel with a beautiful clarity, but sometimes due to the frailties of my body, the horses reined to my mind become spooked and gallop away.
Suicide and I have a close relationship – as close of a relationship as I sometimes hear fellow members speak of their relationship with the Holy Ghost. I have a cerebral understanding that my suicidal impulses and depressive feelings are separate from what one might call my “wise mind.” Even so, these impulses and feelings are as real and as influential as our constant spiritual companion. And, much like the Holy Ghost, they cannot be denied once they have been felt.
These things are not something that you normally hear within our culture as Latter-day Saints – but I think it is important that you hear me say them, so that you know that you are not alone. So that you know that feeling like this is not imaginary, but quite the opposite – it is real, it is valid, and it is something to be taken as seriously when expressed as someone professing romantic love.
Suffering is a part of the human experience, but only some suffering is socially acceptable to express. But that isn’t fair – to you, to me, to our families and friends, to anyone. As Latter-day Saints, we believe in searching out for each and every lamb than needs help getting back into the fold. No matter what you may think, you are not disqualified from Christ’s pattern of perfect love because you struggle with suicide and depression.
So, as kindred spirits, if we speak out about our experiences in our native tongue, and call out to each other in the darkness, I believe we can bring more of us back into loving arms, and soothe each other’s souls and help each other remain.
With this in mind, I wish to give you these fighting words: to internalize and to growl out to yourself as you walk through the shifting darkness of your own experience. Please hear them. Hear me growling out towards wherever you are – so that it may rattle the cages around your heart and release the growling for life and vitality within you, too.
Do not lay yourself down. Do not give it up. If not for the loss of things seen or had, then for the people you couldn’t touch. Even if you cannot see them, there is always someone underwater with you. You are never underwater alone. You are both a miracle of science and an intentional creation, and nothing is wrong with you. Fight for yourself. Growl out loud for yourself. Use the distillery inside your mind to create a language of your experience. I know it is hard. It is so hard to live two existences, to live with imagination and reality doubly-exposed inside yourself. It is one of the hardest things to do. But that double exposure is yours, and it exists inside of you. You do not exist inside of it.
It may be scary to continue walking forward. You may have to growl and snarl and scratch and push your weight around for a while. Or be really quiet and still and light, blending in. That is an acceptable way to be, and it is always temporary. Please – be. Exchanging being as you are now for not being at all is not a fair exchange. You are meant to run and hide and snarl and bleed and eat and hold and wash and speak and make and cry and scrape and sleep and heal. And the truth of it all is this – you can heal and sleep, and still be. You WILL heal, you WILL find sleep, and you WILL return to being.
That strange comfort of being alone and underwater is false. It will always be false. Your body can be touched, and it can be held underwater for as long as you need, until it is time for you to come back up. And you will be pushed back up, if you no longer have strength for it yourself. If no one else, it will be me, holding your head and body in my arms, until it’s time for me to push you back up. If no one else, it will be me.
Shame is a fickle friend, and disappears if there is even one outside yourself willing to listen. As long as I am here, there is no shame in being underwater, or in not being able to return from the water on your own. I know the water, and I know sleep, but I also know that my blood-filled body is more powerful than shame, fear, and the opposition in all things. And so is yours.
Do not lay yourself down. Do not give it up. We will dive back in and we will be there with you. And, when it is time, we will push you back up.
Chloe Trammel is a writer and visual artist from Los Angeles, California. She She graduated from Southern Virginia University with degrees in English and Art. She lives and works in Houston, Texas with her husband, and is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. –
“As a trained visual artist and creative writer, I am extremely passionate about sharing my personal style and vision with the world. Being an individual touched by mental illness, I am equally devoted to creating work that erodes social stigma and empowers those who are similarly affected by adding to the collective articulation of our internal experiences. I am fiercely loyal to our nation’s marginalized and at-risk youth who often lack the resources and opportunities to translate their experiences into expression, and am dedicated to providing ways for youth to find solace through connection.”