Tonight, something happened. Something real. Something true.
I didn’t really want to go for a walk anymore. But I had already told myself this morning I would go after dinner. It wasn’t much, but it was something. A new tradition in an attempt to gain some head space and clarity in a life that has been nothing but murky and muted lately.
My headlamp illuminated a small path in front of me as tiny flakes of snowy rain fell. The small beam of light staring straight out into the darkness had a mesmerizing effect, like turning on your high beams during a snowstorm and suddenly feeling almost lost in a world of snow that seems to be cutting straight through your windshield.
I pulled the collar of my jacket up around my neck as I turned the corner and was hit with a blast of biting wind. I could hear wind chimes in the distance: beautiful deep, metallic sounding chimes that rose and fell with the gusting wind. It was the perfect melancholy soundtrack for walking in the darkness.
I kept walking as tears began to fall from my eyes. I sighed. I did not want to cry again. I was so tired of crying. So tired of swollen eyes and sore noses. So tired of looking like a mess and feeling like an even bigger mess inside. I tried to stop the tears, but I couldn’t. They slowly rolled down my face and became mixed in with the snowy rainy bits that landed on my cheeks and instantly melted.
In that moment, I heard it clearly. As if someone were standing right next to me and whispering into my ear. “It’s time to stop hiding Kathy. It’s time to tell the truth.” My stomach lurched. The truth? No. I couldn’t do that. What would people think of me? How would they look at me now that they know? Again, that voice whispered. “It’s time to stop hiding Kathy.”
You see, I want to hide. I’ve been doing just that for months now. I don’t know what I’m doing right now or if it’s right or wrong. All I know is that when I hear a quiet, stubborn voice telling me to do something I really don’t want to do, I need to do it. I should be saying this to some of you in person. Please forgive me for not being strong enough to tell the truth until now. For keeping you on the outside. For letting you find out with the rest of the world.
For months now, everything on the inside of me has burned with fire and I didn’t know what to do with it. I wanted to scream for help in the midst of these ashes but the words were extinguished in my heart, never to grace my lips. Fear and guilt extinguished those words before I ever got a chance to breathe them out. I wanted to ask for help so many times, but the words floated away from me weightlessly. I wanted to stand on my chair at church and scream at the top of my lungs for someone, anyone, to see that I was vanishing before their very eyes. I wanted to confide in my family that I felt like I was dying and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. I wanted to curl up into a ball on the floor in the hopes of someone swooping in to save me. I wanted to be saved from myself but I couldn’t be. I was too good at what I had done many times before: hiding and pretending. Only I could decide if I was going to be saved this time. I had to say yes.
“Yes,” I whispered to the wind. “Yes. I will tell the truth.” THIS IS ME. I pulled the sleeves of my jacket up to my elbows and felt the snow fall on my forearms. I inhaled deeply and threw my bare arms straight up into the air, like waving a white flag of surrender into the dark night. Snowflakes kissed my exposed wrists adorned with jagged slash marks that aren’t even a month and a half old. It started as a whisper. “These are my battle scars. These are my battle scars. These are my battle scars.” I felt hysteria building in my heart over the words I was saying. I repeated myself, saying the same thing over and over. “These are my battle scars.” I don’t even know where that phrase came from. It just popped in my head but it wasn’t enough. I could feel it building and so I did the only thing left to do. I screamed into the night. Not a scream of pain or anguish or even defeat. This was different. If these are my battle scars, this was my battle cry. This was a scream of power. Of fighting back. Of standing back up and charging my way back into my life.
I have been looking at these ugly scars on my wrist like they were my weakness. I saw them as proof of my undeniably weak character. But maybe, just maybe, they need not be weak any longer. Maybe they can become powerful. I got help. You can too.
Today I want you to get help if you need it. You are brave even if all you feel is weak. You can rally every last bit of strength you have left for this fight. You can return, weapons drawn to the front line to face off against your demons. Scream words of resilience and hope and power to the sky. You are not a lost cause. You are not unworthy of love. You are not worth giving up on.
This is me. As flawed as flawed can be. But I am strong. I know I am. Somewhere deep inside lies a soul covered in truth and bursting forth with a light so bright, I know I can banish the darkness inside. Today I beckon you forth from your darkness. Tell the truth. Find help. You are not alone.
If you’re struggling, TWLOHA has local and 24-hour resources on its FIND HELP page: https://twloha.com/find-help
Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255