Andrew Lawes—like so many of us—knows what it is like to be on the brink of despair. He hopes his words will connect with those who need it most.
I can’t begin to understand the series of events that has led to you feeling the way you do. Everyone has lived a different life, experienced different situations and developed different coping mechanisms to survive the world we live in. For whatever reason, right now you are struggling. The thought of living each day is too hard. I get that. I know all too well how hard it can be just to make it through another day. I may not be able to relate to your personal circumstances, but I can certainly relate to what you are feeling about them. I know, because I have been there myself. For 15 years, I’ve struggled with mental health issues. I’ve self-harmed, I’ve abused substances, and, more often than anybody knows, I’ve wanted to take my own life.
There have been times where I don’t know how I’ve made it through, but I have. I’m still here, and right now, so are you. You’re still alive, you’re still fighting, and you’re still trying to make things better. Many people haven’t had the strength that you have shown just to still be here, but you have. And yes, I know it feels too much sometimes, and I know that sometimes it feels like you can’t keep going…but you have. You have kept fighting, kept getting through, despite the feelings you are having.
You’ve made it to today. You should be amazingly proud of that.
I know when I was suicidal, I’d feel incredibly guilty. I’d look around at other people, other situations from across the world, and I’d think to myself: “what have I got to feel bad about? All these other people have it so much worse than me, yet they can cope, they can be happy.” And then I’d feel ashamed at myself for the thoughts of ending my life. I’d wonder what was wrong with me that I couldn’t be happy like everyone I saw. I’m not assuming that you feel like this, but I think there’s a good chance these thoughts have crossed your mind.
Try to stop comparing yourself with how you think other people are. I know it is hard when everyone seems so much happier, but you never know what people feel like in private. You and I have both had to paint on the “everything’s ok” face, and yes, it is extremely exhausting. The thing is, it’s impossible to know just how many other people are also painting on the same face each day. Comparing yourself to others is the worst thing you can do. Your situation is unique to you. It’s not your fault that you haven’t developed the ability to cope with particular situations. It’s not your fault that you feel the way you feel. It’s not your fault. You are poorly, that’s all, and with help you can get well again, I promise.
Just keep breathing.
I’m not going to tell you that the future will be easy. I can’t say that you will find true love, work a dream job or own a big house. To do so would be disingenuous, and I don’t want to patronise you. Even when you start to get better, you will have bad days, and from time to time you will have dark thoughts, thoughts of self-harm or suicide. I don’t know if anyone has told you this before, but it’s normal to have these thoughts, it’s natural, especially when you have felt like this at some point in your life. Having a thought is different than acting upon it. Acknowledge them for what they are – thoughts – and then let them go. Thinking about something doesn’t mean you have to do it. In time, these thoughts will fade. The distance between them will get longer and longer, and they will become easier to manage. All you have to do is get through the next minute. Once you do, just get through the next one. Don’t focus beyond that, just focus on that next minute.
Just keep breathing.
If you are anything like me, you possibly feel like you are weak for how you feel. Nothing could be further from the truth. To have these thoughts, to be fighting against yourself and your urges just to live, to make it through the day whilst dealing with this illness, it’s the strongest thing anybody can do, and I’m so damn proud of you for being here to read this. You have strength and bravery beyond what you realise, and you demonstrate that each day, just by getting through to the next one.
Now it is time to make it easier on yourself. Get help. Talk to someone. Whether you talk to a doctor, a family member, a friend or even an anonymous stranger, like me, on the internet, stop trying to do this alone. You have been strong enough for long enough, and it is time to allow someone else to share the strain and support you through. The help is there, but you have to let people know that you need it; otherwise they won’t know that you do. Writing about my experiences has shown me that there are people that do care, but you have to give them a chance to. We may feel lonely, but we are never alone.
You can get better. You will get better.
Thank you for reading this letter. I can only hope that, one day, you can look back on this time and realise just how amazing you are, for continuing to fight, for continuing to try, for continuing to breathe. Because that is all you have to do.
Just keep breathing.
I’m here if you need to talk. There are organisations and helplines that are open for you to, and I will put the details at the bottom of this letter. Please talk to someone, because you deserve to get better. You deserve to be happy, and one day you will be. Take that first step towards happiness, and ask for the help from somewhere. You have no idea the relief it can be just to talk to someone about how you feel. Please try to do that.
You aren’t alone, I promise. You will get through this. I believe in you.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please ring one of the following numbers:
United Kingdom: Samaritans – 08457 90 90 90 (24 hours)
The Calm Zone – 0800 58 58 58 (5pm-midnight, 7 days a week)
Republic of Ireland: Samaritans – 1850 60 90 90 (24 hours)
United States: Hopeline – 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE) (24 hours)
or alternatively – 1-800-442-4673 (24 hours)
Canada: Salvation Army – 1-855-294-4673 (24 hours)
Australia: Lifeline – 13 11 14 (24 hours)
New Zealand: Lifeline Aotearoa – 09 5222 999 (within Auckland; 24 hours)
– 0800 543 354 (outside Auckland; 24 hours)
photo: jc winkler / flickr