Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Of Hooks and Tethers and Folks On Belay

Recently, I wrote about my own issues with depression and anxiety and how often suicide crosses my mind. More importantly, though, I shared that the thought is only fleeting. I have so many reasons to work through the dark times and keep on moving forward.

Right now, though, I'm talking specifically about the tools that give me strength.

Hooks. Tethers. Folks on Belay.

Hooks. You see them hanging near swimming pools. If someone is in trouble in the water and needs to be pulled out, the Shepherds Hook is the safest way to help rescue them.

The hook allows the person outside of the pool to reach the swimmer and drag them to safety without requiring them to also jump into the water. Simple and effective.

Tethers. Usually attached to a harness, a tether is a line that secures someone to a safety connection. Most commonly worn by workers on power lines, in trees, or up on bridges, the tether gives the person the freedom to move about while reducing the risk of injury should they stumble and fall.

In rock climbing, the term "on belay" refers to the person who maintains a hold on the climber. If the climber loses their grip and begins to fall, the line draws taut and their descent stops. In other words, the person on belay is the safety for the person climbing, and they can only fall so far before they are stopped.

Each of these things help keep a person safe. It would be foolish to swim without safety devices nearby, work at heights without safety equipment, or climb by yourself. And it's equally as foolish to go through life without emotional hooks, tethers, and someone on belay.

So what do all of these have to do with my blog about suicide? It's simple. In this life, because I have opened up and shared my feelings honestly, my friends understand what I'm going through. They know that I will have dark days now and again, and they are prepared to help me handle them.

More importantly, those friends and I have talked candidly and made promises to each other.

"I promise that I will talk to you before I do anything stupid to myself."
"If I feel overwhelmed and out of control, I promise to tell you and you promise to listen without judgement."
"I promise to be there for you, any time of the day or night, if you need me. Say the word and I'll be there."

Does that really matter? I mean, in a time of complete depression, is anyone really going to give a crap about a promise they made to someone else? Maybe. That's something, right?

And speaking for myself, the answer is yes. Many, many years ago, when I was in my darkest moment, it was a promise I made to someone else that kept me from taking my own life. When I made the promise, I really didn't think that I would honor it if things were truly bad enough. But when it came right down to it, and everything was going wrong in my life, the one thing that mattered was that my friend knew that I wasn't a liar. So I called. And I'm still here today because of it.

My advice to you, if you have felt yourself struggling to find reasons to hang on, is to secure hooks and tethers and get someone on belay. Speak to trusted loves one and tell them what is going on. Let them know that you need them and that one day, you may be in crisis. And believe them when they tell you that they are willing to do whatever it would take to keep you safe.

Make them a promise. Ask them to make the same promise to you. And together, know that you have one more reason to keep fighting no matter how bad things might seem in that moment.

Trust me, friend. I've got you.

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