“But I did okay, didn’t I? I mean, I got, what, fifteen thousand years. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? I lived a pretty long time.”
“You got what anybody gets, Bernie. You got a lifetime.”
-Bernie & Death, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
I’m not prone to being a numbers person, but in two weeks I turn 32. That’s double of 16. In two weeks I’ll have doubled my age since my first attempt at suicide.
There’s a line from Jay-Z in his song, Murder to Excellence: “they said at 21 I’m supposed to die, so I’m out here celebratin’ my post-demise.” If I’m being honest, that’s how each birthday has felt for me. I celebrate, and how I celebrate is either over the top jubilation or somber, solitary reflection.
For people who deal with depression, and are plagued by suicidal thoughts life doesn’t just happen. We don’t have that luxury. Life is a decision. It’s something we have to stare down a monster and fight to continue in spite of how tempting and easy the alternative can seem.
I made the decision, years ago, to fight for that decision. Some days it’s easier than others. I cultivated what was at first a spirit of defiance into a project of self-improvement, purpose, and even joy. I know I can seem, at times, impossibly positive. That’s the result of training myself to seek and focus on the positive things: those that are, and those that I can make.
I have given myself, by this decision and diligence, a second lifetime. I have been blessed by not having to suffer the irony (yet) of it being taken away from me. In my personal case, it’s the result of finding things that give me meaning and motivate me. Of finding those things that are within my control that give me another reason to keep drawing breath, and look forward to another day and another chance. Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing kind words with another person.
I reflected on how far I’ve come at coping with and even applying my anxiety positively, I even shared earlier this summer a look into my meditative practice of the mental edifice into which all the good things and people in my life reside. I’m standing here on the cusp of another birthday I very nearly stole from myself in a moment of weakness, and I am so happy to be here. I am so profoundly proud of the life I’ve made for myself.
It is not a grandiose life. It is not exceptional, or truly fantastic, but it is filled with fun, joy, good people, and love. I am an unremarkable man, but with time, faith, and patience I built an edifice of self that is now sturdy and resilient to the storms of my psyche and life. Within that edifice I am able to welcome so many good things, and make so many myself.
On my birthday, it has become a tradition for me to write letters or emails to the people I care about and who helped me make it through another year. Every year it becomes a longer and longer process. I look forward to sitting down and writing all the good things I think and appreciate of the people in my life for another year. I look forward to telling you just those things if you want to hear them as well- you need only ask.
I don’t have a tidy conclusion for this piece, and that’s because I don’t have a tidy conclusion for this second lifetime yet either. Someone else will have to write that for me one day when it’s all said and done, but for now I’m continuing to write the story of this lifetime as it continues. I found the way in a dark time to keep going and if you’re in such a place, I believe in you. There are resources that can help, the national suicide prevention line is always there in the darkest of times (1-800-273-8255), and aside from professionals who you can speak to, there are friends and family.
Keep going, because remember friends: we move forward.