A dear friend sent me a book in the mail. It’s a simple book, with only a few short sentences written by Annie Dillard called “Give it All, Give it Now: One of the Few Things I Know About Writing.” The words are spread across beautifully illustrated pages, with just a simple phrase per page, causing the reader to tread slowly, thoughtfully considering their weight. The content is well summarized in the title – do not save your best for another day, spend it all. Use your best ideas now and new ones will come for other days. Approach a blank page with abandon and from that place ideas will flow.
Kathryn and I had a rough day yesterday. Despite my treatments and seeing some days of improvement, my mind is still very unwell at times and can lead me down dark and twisted roads. When the medication I had been given didn’t seem to ease my suffering, I began to say goodbye to Kathryn, in a contorted effort to ease her pain if I died that day. The good thing that came from my distorted thinking was that Kathryn was able to alert my nurse to my intentions and he intervened to keep me safe.
It’s hard to talk about these parts of my mental illness, the parts that hurt Kathryn and my family the most. It’s hard to admit that I’ve drained friendships (especially while I was in university) with my near constant cycling of depression and hypomania. And I’ve scared people more times than I want to admit.
I have a handful of scrap papers torn from an old notebook that I’m holding onto for a future day. I plan on doing something with the words or images on each of them at some point. One image is of a labyrinth that I’d like to try painting onto canvas. Another page contains a list of tattoo ideas. Still another has a list of blog topics I hope to eventually write about. A list of all the things I am hoping for this fall: the birth of my niece, a trip to New Brunswick, the wedding of two friends, starting hockey season.
And tucked in with these pages is a letter to Kathryn. A letter written in the past tense. “You were the light of my life.” “I’m sorry the darkness consumed me.” A letter intended to ease her pain if I killed myself. I wrote it with the intention of acting on the urge to commit suicide yesterday, and I am glad the nurse intervened and I was given the support I needed to get through that urge, but for some reason I feel like I can’t let go of the letter. It should be crumpled and tossed aside, a discarded scrap of distorted thinking.
Here’s why it’s so hard to throw the letter away. (We’re in the dark down here, so I hope you’re okay with me talking honestly about this.) I hold on to suicide because it gives me hope. Hope that the pain I feel won’t last, that somehow in death I’ll find peace. That no matter what, there’s an escape hatch, a way out if the going gets too rough. A give up button.
This is broken hope, yes. It clings and claws at my heart rather than filling and nourishing me. This is not hope as light, or hope as Life. By buying into this broken hope, by hitting the give up button, I am losing everything I’m trying to save. Suicide threatens to rip me away from the very reason I crave hope – Kathryn, my family and my future.
I showed Kathryn the letter tonight. I told her how it was hard for me to let go of it. I told her how I still want her to know all the things that are in the letter, if I do die one day. And in telling her what I would want her to know if I were to die, I realized how to take this broken hope and heal it! I realized I could live the letter out – rewritten, transformed from a suicide note to a love letter. Take it from the past tense into the present. Kathryn, you are the great love of my life! Kathryn, you are my Light in the darkness! I want to shout these words from the rooftop (though the nurses would likely think I need my meds adjusted).
So this is my new letter. Instead of marking the end of something, this letter will mark the beginning of each new moment in my life. The best I have, given all for today.
You are truly the great love of my life! You are my Light in times of darkness. I couldn’t imagine travelling through this world without you by my side. You teach me so much about patience, compassion, giving and strength. I find myself in you.
Here’s to the many great adventures that lay ahead of us, to the family we will create together, and to all the ways we help each other grow to be more whole.
Your love always,