One of the things that comes to mind when I look back on my major depressive episode and my suicide attempt is that I was suffering. I was suffering mind, body and soul. I felt alone in my suffering. It appeared – to me – that there was no end to it, and that it was consuming me. I could not understand why it was happening to me. I wondered what I had done to deserve such horrible pain. The only constant in my life was never ending suffering.
Not one time could I see any benefit to what I was going through. Even months after the worst of the pain had gone away, I could not see anything positive about my suffering. I was still angry that God had allowed it to happen. I could parrot all the wise sounding sayings about what can be gained from suffering, but I did not believe them. Those sayings made me sound as if I had moved past any residual pain and anger I may have been harboring. They made me sound as if I had found some sort of joy in the midst of my suffering. I could use them to lie, and not reveal what I really thought about my suffering.
Whatever it was about my thinking that allowed me to be a victim of my depression, was allowing me to be a victim of my suffering. I wore it like a badge, and used it as a manipulation tool. I used my pain to inflict pain on others. I used it to excuse my bad behavior. I stayed focused on it and would not let it go. At the same time I hated all the pain that was being inflicted on me, I was holding onto it tightly. I had held onto that mantle of suffering for so long that I had no idea what I would be without it, and that scared me.
If I could no longer be a person who was suffering, who could I be? I did not believe that I had anything of substance to offer the world, except for my long standing suffering. Without it, I felt I would be an empty shell.
As I began implementing the tools my counselor was teaching me, my pain and anger began to seep away. I saw glimpses of who was hiding behind all that suffering. There was a real person there. I was seeing glimpses of the me I could be. It was then that I realized that I was more than just a person who was suffering. I was not an empty shell, I had value. The more I moved away from the suffering person I was, the more clarity I gained. I began to understand that I had been more afraid of becoming someone new and unfamiliar than I had been of losing the safety of my suffering. I could see that the person I was becoming was not the person I had been before the pain began. The intense pain I had lived through for so long had changed me, but not in a way I would have expected.
Rather than make me a harder, all that suffering had opened up a soft place in my heart that had never existed before. I was a kinder, more caring person than I ever recall being. I spent less time focusing on my own negatives and began focusing on the positives I saw in the people and world around me. I was not the angry person I had been for so long. I still did not understand why I had to go through so much pain, but that no longer mattered to me. It became more important to discover what I had gained during my time of darkness and the period of healing that followed it.
I used to be a bundle of contradictions. Part of me knew that I was a strong person. I have been through a few events in life that have proved that. However, another part of me believed that I was weak and a person who had no value. It seemed those two parts of me were in a constant battle, with the negative part of me coming out ahead most of the time. At this time in my life, those warring halves have come together. I know that I am strong, I know that I have worth, but that knowledge is tempered with just enough memories of the past to keep me humble.
In addition to becoming a kinder more caring person, I gained the ability to empathize and sympathize with other people. I learned that I was not the only person to have traveled in a long dark, pain filled tunnel. While I had made it to the light at the end of the tunnel, there were many more still stuck in the pain and darkness. With a kinder and more gentle spirit I realized I could encourage and lift up those who are still in the midst of their own suffering. I can jump up and down, and hold out my hand, showing them that there really is a light at the end of their tunnel.
I can truthfully say that out of my suffering came hope. A true and genuine soul, warming hope. It is one of the most precious things I have, because I know what it feels like to not have any hope. One of my strongest desires in life now, is to see other people come out of their places of suffering and watch as they begin to have hope of their own.