Somewhere on the grand timeline of all things human, some blip of time after we held clubs in caves and scratched our stories into the walls, after we arranged broken stalagmites into crude ritual circles, after we grunted our way through understanding, we got it into our little brains that we had to be a hell of a lot stronger, a hell of a lot more often, than we even knew how to be. We convinced ourselves that self-reliance was the key to this thing, that vulnerability had no place, that we simply keep calm and carry on, our upper lips stiff, our hands still by our side. Somewhere along the way, asking for help, screaming out when you needed a hand up, a hand out, when you needed a bit of patience or understanding, became a taboo, and my goodness how that taboo spread. We lied to ourselves, to others, that what went on in the dark and dusty recesses of our own minds was our problem to deal with, and no one else’s. We don’t speak of these things, we were taught, grin and do your best to bear it, we’re all hurting, after all.
What utter and complete nonsense. What shit. I’m going to get a bit personal for you here, and so perhaps I’ll offer a bit of a trigger warning here, I’m going to be speaking of depression, of mental health, and of suicide directly. If this is something that’s too much for you right now, I’ll give you time to back out of this Signal Fire and either save it for later, or not read it at all. If this does happen to be you, I really, really hope you’ll reach out privately to me, or at the very least, to someone, because that’s the whole point of this essay today, the vital necessity of asking for help when it’s help you need. Anyway, onward.
Personally speaking, I have lost multiple people in my life, close friends that I loved and adored, to suicide. In all of these cases, I didn’t see it coming, I was blindsided by the news, I was devastated and immediately wished I could have done more, said more, been there more…just, More. In all of these cases, the people I loved, even if I lost touch with along the way, didn’t reach out and get the help they needed. These beautiful souls suffered in silence, for years they suffered, plastering fake smiles and strength they just didn’t have. They didn’t reach, I was too far to know I needed to, a truth that feels like excuse but remains my only explanation, and before anyone knew what was coming, it was too late. If only they screamed, I kept thinking, if only they whispered, I would have heard, I would have known, I would have done anything and everything to help. If only they were heard, by me, by someone, they’d be here today, they’d know how loved, cherished, needed, they truly were. If only they grabbed the fragments of courage floating inside themselves, held tight long enough to use their voices, shaking though they may be, maybe, just maybe the help would have come in time.
Then again, maybe not. Maybe we’re all on a path that’s written long before we even know how to read, maybe it’s destiny, maybe we go when we’re meant to go, and no amount of screaming will stop that. Maybe, but with all of my heart, I do not believe that is so. I believe help is there, always there, if we ask for it, if we scream at the top of our broken lungs, if we hang on just long enough for it to come. I believe this, not because I am an eternal optimist, far from it, I believe this because in my forty years of circling this sun, I have seen suicide and its atrocious grip affect so many people. I have had it personally affect mine, I have watched others I love deal with it in their families, with their friends, and in EVERY SINGLE CASE, I hear the words left behind. This, this is why I believe. Those that depart from us are not gifted with the ears to hear the truths spilled when they go, that’s for us, that’s for the living that remain when the funerals are over, when the grief settles in like a later winter storm and refuses to go. The words are the same, time and again, “why didn’t they stay?!” “why didn’t they reach out?” “why didn’t I know” “what could I have done” “how did I miss this” “I would have done anything.” “I will never stop missing them.”
To all of us who have felt the pull of the beyond, to all of us who have felt it pulling far before we ever should, I beg, I plead, I urge, I barter, to hold on. I beg you to use your voice, no matter how small it may feel, no matter how desperate you think it will sound. I plead with you to defy the evolution from cavepeople holding sticks and learning of fire, I ask you with all the sweetness and strength I can muster to go against the grain we swear is built into the fibers of us, to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to the great possibility that someone, somewhere, is always ready to help us should we need. I offer this Signal Fire as a promise, someone cares, and if by some miracle of misfortune you cannot seem to land on a single soul, come here, for I do, for I always will.
I know life is infinitely scarier than death, I know living is more difficult by an order of magnitude unfathomable by our simple minds, but I ask you to live it. I ask you to find the voice inside when times get dark, and shout until the lights come on. They always will, and I will do all I can to make sure of it.
Hold on, please, just hold on. For you, for us, for the help that will come.
*For anyone who needs a lifeline, please, if no one else, call 1-800-273-8255. If you’re in the UK Text "SHOUT" to 85258.*
*Also, if I spoke in the podcast about needing, but not having, Intro music or a "theme song” please note, I recorded the audio before I figured out the theme music :) Sorry for the confusion.*
Never be afraid
to scream until you are heard,
until the help comes.
Song of the Week
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