“It catches me off guard, still today.”
I’ve recently said those very words – and more than once – after my son laughs or smiles or I witness him genuinely connecting with another human. Over four years ago we weren’t sure what would happen. We weren’t sure if and when we’d ever see that smile or hear that laugh again. The unspoken words between myself and my husband were the ones that you never imagine thinking let alone saying aloud.
My son didn’t smile for a very long time and even though we’re over four years from the time he wanted to die, every once in a while his smiles and laughs catch me off guard.
I stop for a second. I catch myself staring at him. It’s like my mind trips up for a moment and has to catch up with the present. It’s like the past and present colliding in my head and I have a huge realization. I realize that my son, for however long and hopefully always, is stable. He laughs, he’s engaged, he’s a participant in his life again.
He talks about the future. For a very long time he did not mention being 15 or driving. He didn’t mention “next year” or “next time” and the certainly never talked about college. I’m so grateful to hear those words from him, just knowing he even considers he will live another year and that he will or wants to attend college. For two years, maybe a little more, we clung to each word or action that would carry us another hour, or day. We didn’t get to wrapped up in thinking about the future because when your 10-year-old kid talks about wanting to die, or for you to kill him or how he wants to kill himself because of the pain inside, it’s just too hard to think about the future. The future looked painful.
We were afraid of what the future held. While I know our son will never be out of the woods, we’re getting better as time goes on in supporting him through the rough spots. Maturity, puberty, med changes, growing pressures now in high school, and his realization that one day, he’ll manage his medical and mental health conditions on his own. “Call in my own meds? I don’t know how to do that.” You will, we tell him. We say we’ll support him during the rough times and we’ll be there when he needs us, because that’s what parents are supposed to do for their kids that need their help. It’s what my parents did and do for all of us. I think about that a lot since my mother and sister died recently in a span of five months.
All of the reports of suicides in the news lately bring a fear in me I can’t quite describe. Grateful my son is still with us and fearful of the risks of the future enter my thoughts as reports come out. I know, even with love and patience and trying, there are successful suicides once people reach an age with means and opportunity. I know we are at risk, as are so many others. I could tell you that I only think about sunshine and flowers for the future but that would be a lie. I think about the dark, dark days we may have.
Sometimes when I hear him laugh and see him smile, I talk to him about the future. “You know,” I say, “if there’s a time you feel alone, like you can’t make it and you don’t want to live, I hope you will come and talk to us, even thought it’s hard. I hope you’ll do it especially when it’s hard because that’s probably when you will need our help the most.”
He quietly says, “I know. But I’m not like that anymore. I don’t feel that way inside like I did before.”
I keep on it. “But if you do, I hope you will let us help you, even if you don’t want our help. There could be a day we’re going to ask you to dig deep and let us help you even if it feels like you don’t want us to.” I’m a little teary as I say the words.
“Okkaaayyyy.” And he sighs slightly, tips his head back a little and smiles.
If you need help for yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and they can offer support. Their phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are feeling isn’t permanent and there is a way out. There are people who care about you and want you to live. I care and I want you to live.
If you think someone you know is at risk for killing themselves, here is a warning sign list. Out of 11 items on the list, I saw 9 of them in my 10 year old. If you are worried about someone, you can call the crisis line too. This is from their site:Looking out for friends and loved ones is an important part of preventing suicide. You can call the Lifeline to speak with a crisis worker on behalf of someone you are concerned about. The crisis workers have access to local resources, and can help you identify ways to get help to your loved ones. So call 1-800-273-TALK today to help save a life.”
Please. Never give up.
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