“Are you thinking about harming yourself?”
How did those words feel when you just read them?
I’ve been sitting on finishing this post for weeks now. The words have been heavy on my heart, but I’ve been taking most of my downtime to focus on healing. On being present with my family. On making time for those I want to show up for. While writing can be an outlet for me, writing posts like this also opens up a very fresh wound.
With the Holidays here, this message has been even heavier on my heart. So has the thought of facing family gatherings where it’s inevitable that we’ll all feel a large presence missing; because, he is.
Since my last post, I’ve been told several stories, many by friends and some by strangers, of how they’re trying to manage their anxiety. How they’ve experienced suicidal thoughts. How they’ve even attempted suicide. And the good part? How sharing William’s story was a wake up call. How this is the first time they’ve said it out loud. How they’re seeking help. How they’re realizing that maybe suicide isn’t the answer. 🤞🏼
Another thing I’ve realized through these stories? All too commonly, it’s the people we least expect. The ones that showed no signs. The ones that seem happy. The ones that are there for everybody else.
Happy. Athletic. Funny. Compassionate. Popular. KIND. All of these are words I’ve heard used to describe my baby brother, over and over again.
I told my therapist I’m terrified.
“How do I really check in on my friends and family. How am I supposed to know if they’re not okay?”
I didn’t even know my own brother was in a dark place. How am I supposed to know if someone else is? How far do I take it? When I ask if they’re okay, they’ll probably say yes. How do I know when to push it a step further and that they may not be okay?
“ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT HARMING YOURSELF?”
That was her answer. “Ask your friends if they’re thinking about harming themselves.”
WOOF. It’s forward, right? It’s hard to hear. It’s even harder to ask. But the alternative? I promise it’s the worst. Asking it is the easiest thing you can do, in comparison.
Her analogy gave me a lot more confidence in how I can truly show up for the people I love. You can’t talk someone off of a ledge. You can reach out your hand out and offer for them to take it. And maybe they won’t.
But, how can we expect an honest, vulnerable answer without an honest, uncomfortable question? Someone’s not likely to respond to “you doing okay?” with “no, I want to kill myself”; but they might respond to “are you thinking about harming yourself” with a very honest “yes”.
So if you check in, CHECK IN. Be present in that conversation. Be intentional with your words. If you’re not sure where to start, tell them William’s story. Use it to start that conversation.
I can tell you what I did do immediately after that phone call was talk to the 3 people I was most worried about and asked them this very raw question. Fortunately, at least for now, I got 3 “no”s. What I didn’t expect was how it opened the door to the most honest conversations I have had with those people about how they were truly feeling and full disclosure: it was a complete relief, on both sides.
I hope sharing this helps someone. Anyone. On either side of the equation. If you feel alone. If you’re struggling. TELL SOMEONE. Anyone. Hell, you can tell me if you have no one else. I promise it’s not a conversation I’ll shy away from. If this time of year magnifies that pain, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you’re worried about someone, CHECK ON THEM. Really check. Ask the hard questions. If you’re close enough to care that much, they’ll understand your actions come from a place of deep love and you never know, it may lead to one of the the most honest and open conversations you’ve ever had.
I hope everyone gets to spend this time of year with someone they love, whether it’s friends or family or both. I hope it feeds your soul and fills your heart. I know it does for me. ❤️