Two years ago I tried to take my own life. My mind had been cloaked in a thick, suffocating fog of depression for months and I couldn’t bear it any more. Calmly, and with certainty, I told myself that the last seconds of my life should be spent on the end of a rope. I got as far as climbing, tightening, dangling and choking before some primal reflex kicked in and gave me the strength to hoist myself back to safety.
In the hours and days afterwards, I began to explore the pitch black labyrinth of my mind. With a wonderful, world-wise therapist as my torch, I shuffled around the maze, mapping doors and dead-ends. Over the weeks that followed, the straights, bends and steps became more and more familiar. My shuffle turned into a walk and my walk turned into a run. I had learned the layout of the labyrinth and I had learned the value of the life I had written off as having no value.
At some point in the months that followed my depressive apocalypse, I paused for thought. Having scrambled from the squall up onto the life-raft and survived, I now had a desperate urge to reach out my hand. I wanted to save other non-swimmers from drowning. I began volunteering for an organisation that offers emotional support to people in despair. Once a week I would speak to many suicidal callers. I didn’t try to talk people down. I just listened, connected and empathised. Most of all, I didn’t judge. And, throughout, I could feel and hear the difference my small contribution was making.
In my deepest trough, I believed that life meant nothing. With help and willpower, I found my way to believing that life meant everything. But, while life means everything to me now, I respect people’s right to feel the way I did as I tightened the rope around my neck. The best I can do for someone who wants to die is put my hand on their shoulder and offer them a befriending ear. And yet the best I can do is often enough.
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