WARNING: This week’s Saturday Soul School edition is a very personal story about my brush with suicide. If you are dealing with suicidal thoughts and you need immediate support please reach out to official suicide prevention resources: Lifeline Australia / SupportLine UK / Suicide Prevention Line USA. And if you’re having a tough time and you want to work through it together, the doors to Maximum Growth are always open to you.
My heart dances inside my chest as I sit cross legged on the rocky edge of the cliff.
I’m alone, shivering.
The cold dawn wind cuts at my face. The night sky begins to break as the morning light peaks over the horizon.
A few eager walkers are about. Their shadows stroll by but I hide behind some shrubs, out of sight.
I can imagine the waves roiling against the rocks far below but I can’t see or even hear them.
It’s a long way down.
A fact that should push me back, away from the edge but lands as if I’d just thought, “oh, it’s Tuesday.”
I’d been skirting a mental ledge for months. And now here I am, quite literally, at the edge of a cliff, feeling my life wobble on a knife point.
I’m sunk in the heavy thoughts swirling in my head, drowning in my emotions, feeling all the painful experiences I had shut down and locked away. My emotions festering in the dark and silence, nameless and unknown, waiting to implode. Or maybe explode.
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I’m here because of an accumulation of a lot of reasons, but it isn’t the stories that matter most, it’s how I was dealing with them.
The build up of unresolved challenges triggered a heap of repressed emotions to cascade down on me like a ton of bricks.
Waves of raw emotion came flooding over me the moment I tried to process how I was feeling. A flash of an insight, then pounded with another wave.
Ever been dumped by a rough swell at the beach? Struggle to the surface only to swallow seawater and sand before you’re pulled under again? Yeah, like that, but in your head. Over and over and over again.
Thoughts continued to rumble in my head like unforgiving waves, louder and louder, becoming stronger and stronger. I felt totally overwhelmed and out of my depth. I nearly drowned in my inner world. I struggled to dissolve the crap in my life on my own but the thought of asking for help didn’t even cross my mind.
So I waited on that ledge. Wondering if maybe, finally, it would be a nudge from the wind that took the decision out of my hands.
The police never said how they knew to look for me.
Was it the cameras on the light posts? A particularly observant morning walker? Divine providence?
Perhaps it was nothing more mystical than a routine sweep. Whatever it was, the next 8 hours changed me.
I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a strict protocol they have to follow when someone makes an attempt on their own life.
They make you leave the cliff and your car – for obvious reasons. Take you to the hospital, where they administer an official assessment.
Then, to be allowed home, you must be accompanied by a friend. Again, for obvious reasons.
So I had to lean on my network of people… except I was the one that people call.
And I was lost. Who do you call when you’re your own ICE contact?
That precise moment – looking at my phone, finger scrolling aimlessly up and down my phonebook – is when I finally and fully realised how important it is to have someone to lean on and guide you. (Not just to get you safely home, but for the months after too. All you have to do is reach out.)
Eventually I called my friend and surrogate mum, Lizzie who was there by my side in that moment and for the days, weeks and months to follow.
People often say, “you saved my life” but she literally did. Just by being a safe place for me to land.
That was 6 years ago, Wednesday.
I don’t have a ritual to mark the day, but I took a moment to write a thank you note to myself, for sticking with it. To the universe for having a plan for me far greater than I could ever have imagined. And for the people who loved me more than I ever imagined possible when I felt anything but worthy of it.
Because – as I’ve come to truly know – life’s too precious to take for granted.
Today’s a great day to remember that. Tomorrow, too.
I’ve reflected on my cliff edge moment a lot since then. Pondered how, why, what led me there.
And I wouldn’t be who I am today (and this wouldn’t be a Sunday Soul School email) without sharing the wisdom in my experience.
So, three takeaway lessons for you:
- In my darkest moments I have learned the most about myself, about my life and makes me a better coach and human. And I wouldn’t change it for the world (but I have discovered other strategies to learn about myself without losing the light). “The seed germinates in the dark.”
- Human beings depend on one another. You can’t manage your darkest moments all by yourself; no (hu)man is an island. As a student of human behaviour you may tend to go inward for answers. Sometimes they’re outside. So reach out.
- And you’re never not going to be challenged, or challenged greatly, again. The real question is, “how do you gather the network of people who can help around you, so you can lean on them when you need them the most.” And don’t forget to ask for help. It’s a two way street.
So know this my friend: in moments of darkness, where you can’t see the forest for the trees, when life appears shattered, you can always reach out. Whether to a friend, a professional or me and the Maximum Growth Community. You’re not alone. We’re here to help you put the pieces back together again.
And if you ever need reminding of your magnificence, I’ll be the first to tell you.
Warm fuzzy squeezes,
PS – I know this was a heavy email. But it’s too important to not share. You deserve to know that no matter how you feel, you don’t have to face anything alone. There’s a whole community here for you, even when you’re lost in the depths of the darkest corner of your mind. After all, were it not for the fierce love and belief of my friends in me, you’d not be reading this today.