Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.
For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.
The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.
It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.
Whoever finds this post and is struggling: It really DOES get better. I promise.
I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life. I wish this message had found her. Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is. Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.
I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself. I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.
Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel. I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too. I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter. I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.
I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever. For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light. I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it. I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it. And I see now how my experience can benefit others.
That’s everything this blog is about.
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die. My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life. I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did. But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within. It was a glimpse. It was a glimpse at what could be. And for me, what now is.
I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this. There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this. I don’t even know your names. I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.
If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.
I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly. I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision. But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it. The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others. To those you loved most. No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life. Through sharing your struggles with others. Through finding your joy.
None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.
It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there. But you WILL get there. It may feel like more than you can bear. But you CAN bear it. You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.
It really DOES get better. I promise.
IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
I’m sure you’ve heard of baby steps, the small steps we make to work toward a larger goal. It is keeping the eye on the prize, but starting with little prizes that lead us to the bigger picture. As humorously as Bill Murray translated it, it can be a seriously helpful concept.
For me, it is a part of daily life. Even the smallest of accomplishments can be considered a success in your journey to a greater outcome. And after all, isn’t it said that this life is not destination, but rather, a journey?
What I really love are the people in my life who see my successes, when I see a struggle. When I came to my sponsor, irritated with unreliable friends, she recognized a new accomplishment in this journey: I had learned what qualities I do and do not want in a friendship. Success! (Her perspective reminded me of the little old lady with a walker at a restaurant in NC.)
These are baby steps.
For a while, I walked around with a daily list. That list contained 25 things that I could choose to accomplish on any given day, activities that would work toward a healthy life. My goal, was to accomplish as many as possible during each day. I highlighted as I went along, and could look back on each day as a success. I had spent time that day, working toward my recovery.
You know, looking back over my years of drama, torment, depression, and darkness, I see that I always wanted to run. All of my favorite songs were about running away. To get where is uncertain, but I knew I didn’t want to be who I was and where I was.
Ironically, it wasn’t running that got me to where I wanted to be. It was baby steps. And I’m grateful that I had an opportunity to take the scenic route, because it was that growth that I want to hold onto, those moments of revelation that I want to reflect upon. Today, I hear those songs and I cannot relate. I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than right where I am.
To illustrate my point, a baby polar bear, learning to walk: