Dark moments carry important lessons.
It was a dark moment.
I stood at the edge of an ocean cliff, looking down at the 150 feet of empty space between where I stood and the bottom. I wondered what my last thought would be before my body smashed against the rocks below.
The answer that came to me might have saved my life.
Of course, I didn't go there planning to jump off the cliff. I was just in the neighborhood, so to speak, for an event about 100 meters away. I noticed the cliff and found the tragic convenience wildly enticing.
Why was I feeling suicidal?
On top of that, my first (almost) million dollar business failed when I ran it into the ground, I'd ruined relationship after relationship with dear friends whom I known for years, and most recently, I'd just had a breakup with an awesome woman I thought I was going to marry.
Needless to say, I felt completely broken.
That's how you get to the edge of a cliff wondering what your final thought will be before your body makes impact. Unfortunate circumstances stacks upon even more unfortunate circumstances, until your mind starts to add up the sums and show the result of your life as a huge negative balance.
What's the point anymore? you wonder.
By this point, the "just be positive" mantra had shown itself threadbare and there wasn't anything left to hold on to.
It's funny and embarrassing to admit what goes through your mind when you're thinking such morbid thoughts, but I did think "I have a little brother. And I love him very much." Strangely, I also thought about a woman I met after the breakup who was especially kind to me. Her brother had killed himself years ago and every year she has a crawfish boil in his honor. This would be a shitty way to thank her.
But thinking about how shitty of a person you'd be killing yourself when you already feel pretty shitty doesn't really effect you much.
What kept my feet on the ground was the answer to the question "I wonder what my final thought would be."
I imagined my body leaping into the air in slow motion. First, the apex of the jump, like I was an Olympic diver. (That's part of the delusion of suicidal thoughts; they always seem so heroic in the first person.) Then, falling, falling, falling on the way down.
The thought I imagined going through my mind was — I wish you wouldn't have done that.
That sentence stopped me in my tracks for two reasons:
First, who wishes I wouldn't have done that? God? Elizabeth Gilbert, eat-pray-loving her way through Bali? (Wouldn't that be an awesome story? God saved my life by speaking to me at the edge of a cliff in Bali.)
I still can't say who for sure who it was.
Second, the voice (and that sentence) seemed to hide a secret, as if there was something in store that I'd miss out on if I jumped. Some adventure, some surprise, some way that it turns out that I could never foresee standing on that cliff's edge in that frame of mind.
It's like when someone someone puts you on their shoulders in a crowd so you can see better. This voice seemed to have perspective. It could see more than I could.
It wasn't like, "I wish you wouldn't have done that because I'm about to give you a brand new Rolls Royce." Just more like it had better insight into the way life really works than my own thoughts did at the moment. More like, "If you only knew what's in store, you'd be really disappointed you missed out on it."
And I believed that. And didn't jump that day.
Time after time, we hear stories like this of people at the end of their ropes. And then suddenly, they get a sense that they're meant for something more ... and so they keep going.
Author, JK Rowling, had a moment like this.
Before she penned her wildly successful Harry Potter series she also felt so down on her luck that she was suicidal. You better believe she's damn glad she didn't go through with it.
I don't, for a minute, fashion myself near the literary genius she is nor make any comparisons like that whatsoever. But, if you're feeling so depressed that suicide feels like an option, let me reiterate this point for you:
You never know what surprise could be waiting for you around the corner.
It's unlikely that you're in as terrible a spot as I was, or Ms. Rowling was. But, if you are, take heart. Be of strong courage.
Life really is full of wonderful surprises. You just can't see them from where you're standing right now.
Of course, you'll still face your own frustrations, disappointments, heartaches, and even tragedies. But when you do, allow these words to echo in your ear and keep your own feet on the ground: You never know what good might be waiting for you just around the corner.
If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression, please reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help.