The night before I had planned to kill myself, I got a phone call from a girl I knew from school. I had had the following day marked and planned four months in advance. Letters written. Preparations made. Pain and sorrow were my strength and sustenance. Isolation and distance from family was my home.
Then she called. We had bunked together on a 6th grade school trip and would talk in between classes during 8th grade. But we had never spent time together out of school. I remember where I was sitting, in my living room. I remember the detached way in which I had been interacting with my family. I remember my chest tightening and my eyes filling with hot tears as I repeated what she said.
“You want to hang out… with me?”
We made plans to have lunch after the regional science fair the next day with our mothers. I hung up the phone, walked up to my room, and burst into tears. You see, until this phone call, I had believed the lie that no one wanted to be around me. That I was unlovable and worthless.
The past three years had been a living hell. I had been bullied, mocked, harassed, and emotionally broken down day after day. I turned my pain inward and refused to allow my family near me. By holding my suffering inside and shouldering my sadness and weariness alone, I grew bitter and depressed. I would not let anyone know how deeply lost, confused, and angry I was. So I planned my escape, with the intent to make those who had hurt me feel the deepest regret for how they had acted.
And I was stopped. My plan was stopped, by a friend reaching out in love.
She wasn’t even a close friend. Just a girl from school, who would later become one of my closest friends, who has loved me at my best and my worst. She was a friend who saw pain and moved toward it, not away from it.
When I had finished crying, I tore up my letters, flushed my plans, and slept through the night for the first time in years. I woke up, went to the science fair, placed 2nd, and went to the mall with my new friend.
After that phone call, my life changed dramatically and not at all. Life kept moving; it was still hard, overwhelming, and scary. But I had a friend to lean on and slowly began the process of seeking out healthy friendships that would sustain me throughout high school, college, and the transition to adulthood. Eight years after that phone call, I finally had the courage to tell my friend how profound and life-changing her phone call was for me. My friend paused and said she was incredibly glad she wanted a friend at the science fair that day.
It is easy to walk through life without thinking for ourselves, doing what’s expected of us, doing what we think other people want to see us accomplish, and never living fully to our own potential. It takes a deeper and intentional commitment to choose life each day. To choose to push toward pain and joy with the same footstep, knowing that every single one of us is a phone call away from dark and light.
Each time I’ve sat across from someone who shares their story of pain, loneliness, and suffering, I’ve been reminded of my own story and how it allows me to sit a little longer with the pain of my brothers and sisters. My story gives me hope and continues to bring me to tears, both of joy and thankfulness.
I want that for you.
You are of infinite value, to me and many others, and you will be of great value to those who come beside and behind you in this journey. You have to walk with courage and hope. We have to invite friends, family, and counselors into our stories so that we remain connected to the relationships that give our lives meaning. We need more stories like mine, with thwarted endings and hope that overcomes hopelessness.
So be brave, even when you feel like you are the most insignificant being in the world. Be strong. Be courageous. Reach out. And come stand with me.
—Sarah B. is a therapist, a listener, and an advocate. Raised in the Midwest and now living in the South, she’s made it her life’s work to point people to hope and healing. Sarah is one of millions who have battled depression and anxiety and is grateful to have found her own path to health within a community of deeply loved friends and family. She is passionate about helping people find freedom from addiction and pain so they can carry hope and light to those who are in darkness.