A lot of the blogs I follow are written by people struggling with mental health issues. These are raw and highly upsetting narratives often written from the brink. If you have never stood on the brink I pray that you will never have to. It is the loneliest place on earth. Beyond it lies nothingness. It is the place people come when there is nowhere else to go and nothing else to say. It is the end of the line, the final chapter.
What brings people to the brink? Well there are a plethora of reasons and they differ from person to person. They are often complex and concealed within layer upon layer of scar tissue. These can include bereavement, abuse of all forms, addiction, eating disorders and mental illness to name but a few. They ferment and fester over long periods of time before finally bursting like a pus filled boil.
You do not arrive at the brink overnight. For some this may have been a journey that has taken years, if not decades. It is a long and winding road with many detours and distractions. I say road but there are many highways that one can take which will eventually bring you there. Every visitor is unique as is their journey. But they all arrive at the same point eventually. The point of no return.
Let’s not beat about the bush here. The brink equates to suicide. I am no expert on the subject. I am not well read on it. But I have experienced suicidal thoughts. I have had suicidal idealisations and I believe this equips me as much as anybody else to talk about it. For I have walked the path. I have stood on the brink. And I have looked down into the chasm beyond.
While those there may have arrived by any number of routes and for any number of reasons they all share the one same feeling – hopelessness. They have twisted and turned with their own individual demons. They have used up every last ounce of resolve and resistance in their beings. They have fought until they are at a standstill, out on their feet. People who consider suicide are not cowards which is a commonly held misconception. They have performed heroically in battles that many could not even begin to imagine.
Just as people with suicidal thoughts are not cowards it is also unfair to condemn them as selfish. Yes at face value to take one’s own life is a selfish act. What about those left behind? The parents, the children, the wives and husbands. For the person who takes their own life, the pain ends but for those left behind it has only just begun.
But who among us is not selfish? We are at our base nature selfish creatures. I may behave selfishly given a certain set of circumstances but if you were placed in the exact same situation you would not. Our reaction to external factors is defined by a myriad of criteria – personality traits, belief systems and socio-economic background to name but a few. But at some stage in our lives all of us will be confronted with a bespoke scenario that will trigger the ‘self’ button in us.
For some it is suicide. For others it is infidelity, criminality or just being a crappy father or daughter. Selfish is selfish whatever way you try to dress it up. We are all stained by it so none of us can take the higher moral ground on the subject. Is the abused and damaged teenager standing at the brink more selfish than the ‘respectable’ business person who adds 10% to their expenses claims but tells nobody? I think not.
We have discussed pain and selfishness so far but I want to return to the brink now to consider the mirage of hopelessness; for with that I take issue. There is always hope. It may appear there is none but who are we to know what tomorrow brings, or the next day or the one after that. An escape route, a way out of the present moment and the specific emotions you are experiencing at that time.
Nobody can tell what the next day brings. So yes your past and present may appear without hope but in order to definitively declare hopelessness you have to consider it in the round and holistically. And this incorporates the future which you cannot confidently predict. Hopelessness is a transitional experience. All emotions are temporal. You cannot live your entire life 100% hopeless just like you cannot live your life 100% euphoric. ‘Happy Clappy’ Christians do not exist. Those that proclaim to be so are liars.
The human being consists of a body, a mind and a soul. Emotions invade the mind and trick it into commissioning the body into performing actions that cause harm and distress to oneself and others. Emotions lie.
I’m a useless human being and nobody loves me. LIE!
I’m fat and ugly and I’ll never get a partner? LIE!
I will never conquer this addiction? LIE
Everybody would be a lot better off if I just disappeared? LIE
Hope exists whether you like it or not. It could be five years away or it could be just around the corner. But it is there and it is real. The torment and suffering which drive people to the brink is equally real. But the voice that talks to them as they waver there considering taking that final step is a liar.
Believe me. I have stood on the brink. And there is nothing beyond it. Don’t listen to the lies being whispered seductively in your ear. Turn around and walk back. Let hope lead you back. For hope leads to life and life is love.
What are your experiences of the brink? Have you been there or know someone who has?
Are you standing on the brink now and need help?
Psalm 31:24 – ‘Be strong and take heart, all of you who hope in the Lord.’