Not too far from my house is a cemetery, less than a mile. I don’t normally see it, trees block it from the main road, but when I come home the “back way,” I pass it. I look out my driver’s side window at all the colorful flowers. Sometimes there will be an awning up because that particular day is a day for a burial.
When I pass this cemetery, or any, I am overcome with emotion. First – sadness. Sadness that every colorful flower I can see from the road is the symbol of a life lost. Then guilt, because I almost was a colorful flower placed there by someone who loved me. And finally, thanks – I am thankful for all that has come after my suicide attempt.
When you try and take your own life and you survive, there is this gnawing guilt because in the aftermath you see what you would have done to your family and friends. You would have broken them. Hell, you broke them in your attempt. But as you healed, so, too, did they. If you had left this world no one would have been able to glue their pieces back together. Don’t you see? You are the glue.
Today I came the “back way” home after therapy and I passed the cemetery with flowers decorating the dormant grass on this sunny December day. I was flooded with the emotion of thankfulness. I was on my HOME, where I live with my BOYFRIEND and TWO DOGS. If I had died in October of 2008, there would have never been this place I call home or a boyfriend who loves me as fiercely as I love him and I wouldn’t be here for the two dogs that depend on me for their care. If I had died I would never have written a memoir or become a mental health advocate. I would never have seen my best friends have babies. I would have missed SO much.
Surviving my suicide attempt is the one failure I value the most. That’s right. At the end of the day, I failed. Perfectionists don’t like to fail.
I’d like to tell you that is the only time my life was in danger, but bipolar disorder isn’t always beautiful. Some days are just worse than others. It is an illness where the chemicals in your brain cause you to feel things so deeply that sometimes death seems like a good alternative to this hard-to-handle life you were given.
But the truth is you have to stick around. I’m not giving you the choice to check out. What keeps me going is knowing that tomorrow can always be better – than today, than yesterday, than last year. There is no telling what is around the corner, just waiting for you to show up.
So when I pass a cemetery, I say a little prayer of thanks that God gave me a “do-over.” I’m not ready to be a colorful flower atop a slab of stone. I want to remain a wild dandelion.
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