Dear Jane, (Name has been changed.)
I really don’t know where to begin. You’ve been on my mind a lot lately, as I do indeed understand that your circumstances are overwhelming. In just a short span of years, you’ve lost your parents, your husband and pets that were like your children to you. If dealing with these losses weren’t enough, you have a daily struggle with the disease that has been the cause of way too many paramedic visits to your address. Add to that, the loss of balance that has resulted in several falls, causing multiple breaks and surgeries to repair your broken bones. I know what follows surgeries; long recoveries, physical therapy, many follow up appointments and bills. If all those things aren’t overwhelming enough, add the fact that you do all of this alone now.
You’ve felt abandoned by the little bit of family that remain. Your days and nights are spent alone in your recliner. Your wheel chair stays at your side for the short trips to the kitchen and bathroom because you’re still recovering from a broken bone. Yes, you have your one remaining pet, but for the most part, your little house is quiet. Voices that once filled your walls are now gone. One voice remains though, that won’t stay silent. It’s a taunting voice that brings torment. It plays like a tape on constant rewind. It tells you over and over again, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I don’t want to do this anymore” or “I have no reason to keep on living”. What’s scary to me is that you’ve listened and started to believe that voice.
I remember the days when you were very different. Your life was full of activity, full of family and friends. You had many people surrounding you with love and you loved them back with your kindness, encouraging words and generous gifts. You loved giving gifts to people around you, but your greatest gift was your compassion and your laugh. I loved hearing you laugh. Yes, you still had to deal with that childhood disease, but that didn’t stop you from opportunities to enjoy time with family and friends, opportunities to live.
But yes, you are different now. Circumstances have caused rooms that were once filled with light to become dim and even dark. I still hear the laugh at times, but it’s not the same. The laugh begins to emerge for a moment, but it ends abruptly as if it’s stopped by an invisible wall. Each time the laughter ends, the invisible wall is quickly revealed. It’s a memory, memories of what’s been lost. So much has been lost…
In place of joy, there is sadness, anger and bitterness. You’ve built yourself a little refuge, surrounded yourself with this invisible wall, each brick being a memory of someone or something that has hurt you. Somehow you feel safe in there, alone. So you keep building, but the reality is that you’re cutting yourself off more and more from family and friends. The wall isn’t invisible anymore, either. You’re isolating yourself, one brick at a time. Your wall may keep others from seeing you, Jane, but I can see. I still see you in there.
You used to like pretty colors, but these bricks don’t make for a pretty room. Unfairness, injustice, sadness, anger, death, disease, backstabbing, lies, betrayal; yes these are the bricks that life and circumstances have given you. These are the bricks you were given, so you used them to build your refuge. I’m no interior decorator, but this is not the room that I would picture you happy in.
No one would dispute the fact that life has been unfair to you. Anyone would readily affirm that you have good reason to be depressed and angry with your circumstances. You have indeed been repeatedly dealt some knockdown, drag out blows. Not just once or twice have you been hit, but over and over again. Of course, you would seek refuge from the onslaught. Who wouldn’t? Anyone would seek a safe place. So bruised, bleeding and eyes swollen shut, you did what you could and stacked your bricks, one on top of another.
Your refuge is not as it appears to you, though. The reality is you’ve built yourself a prison with these bricks. You’ve let me and a few others peek over those walls, but I’m afraid for you, Jane. I’m afraid that if you keep using these bricks and build your wall any higher, I won’t be able to reach you anymore. No one else will be able to either. Your prison will grow totally dark, completely quiet, and you will be intolerably alone.
Yes, life handed you these bricks. They were the closest ones to you, the easy ones to grasp. The thing is, just beyond those bricks were some other bricks, bricks that were much prettier colors. I know they seemed too hard to reach, but they were there for you to choose. Yes, they took more effort to get to; I mean a lot more effort. You would have to use what little strength you had left to crawl over the ugly ones to reach them. They do have rough edges and sharp corners that could and probably would hurt you more. It’s hard to see with eyes that are almost swollen shut, but just over those bricks are the pretty ones…
Life is full of choices, opportunities. We may not get to choose our circumstances, but we get to choose how we respond to them. I’m not just saying this lightly. I know it’s really difficult to choose sometimes. The constant battle of the voices in our ears is truly like we’re in the middle of the argument between the images of good and evil on our shoulders. And then there is the battle of the will and emotions, fierce warriors they are!
I’ve seen you in your warrior mode before, though. Living with disease all of these years has given you a strength that many lack. That in itself has made you a strong warrior. But I’ve seen you made stronger by other things, too. You’ve used your determination and strong will to win, many times over. You may not think you have what you need to make it through all of this, but I know you do.
I miss my old friend. I miss the warmth and joy that was once there. I miss her smile, her humor, her laugh, her love of people. I’m asking for her to break free from her prison. Jane, come out from behind that wall, please…
I know it’s not going to be easy, but I know even more that you can do it, Jane. The first steps are going to be the hardest of all and only you can take them, because right now, we can’t reach you.
First of all, stop building with those ugly bricks. Stop rehearsing all the negative memories over and over in your mind. You may not choose what thoughts come to your mind, but you do choose the thoughts that get to stay. When the memories of betrayal, lies, and all those ugly bricks come, kick them away. They have no place around you. Lift up your head and look at the light. Instead of using your inner strength to build a false fortress, use it to crawl over that prison wall.
That’s what we have to do when we’re down. We have to get up, even if we can barely crawl, we have to choose and make ourselves do it. The farther you crawl, the closer you get to the beauty that once surrounded you. Keep your eyes focused on all the colors just ahead. As you crawl forward, the bruising will fade, the bleeding will stop, the swelling will go down and your eyes will see clearly again. You will come to a place where you will be able to reach out your hand for help and allow others to touch you once again. Yes, there is risk involved with that. You could and probably will experience some hurt along the way. But it’s better to hurt with friends who can help you heal, then to slowly bleed to death inside a lonely prison. With each effort, no matter how strained, weakness will be replaced by strength. Darkness will become light. Hope will take the place of despair. Bitterness will be replaced by forgiveness, anger replaced by peace and sadness replaced by joy. Love will once again rule your heart and fill your life.
Your life isn’t over, Jane. There is a chance for a new beginning, starting today. There is hope for your future! Say yes, Jane. I miss you. Many of us miss you. Choose life. Please, choose life.
You know I love you! Your friend, Bobbi
If you find yourself in a place of despair, hopelessness and helplessness or have thoughts of suicide, please use the courage you have to seek help and wise counsel. Here are some numbers to call:
Crisislink – 1 703-527-4077 / 1-800-237-8255
National Suicide Prevention Line – 1-800-784-2433 / 1-800-SUICIDE