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Sep13
2014

There Was For Her. There Was For Me.

By Kevin Breel

(Editor’s Note: Some of the scenarios described below can be upsetting. Please take caution when reading.)

Three and a half years ago, I almost made the mistake of taking my own life.  

I was a seventeen-year-old kid, and I was stuck in the middle of a story that seemed more painful than promising. Not only had I been struggling with depression, but I was also questioning whether or not my life mattered. At the time, it didn’t matter very much to me at all. 

Thankfully, I ended up deciding to stay alive. I went to counseling. I talked about the stuff that kept me stuck. I got honest about some of the things I had been lying to myself about, and I watched as the narrative of my story changed. Things got better. Life got lighter.  

Two years after that experience, I had told very few people about that night in my room with a suicide note. Ironically, the first time I ever really talked about it was at a TEDx event, when I stood up in a room full of strangers and shared that part of my story. In retrospect, it was more of a confession than anything else. That talk, that story, eventually found its way on to the Internet, and people started to watch it.  

It’s been three and a half years, and what I’ve found is that, to quote Jamie Tworkowski, “there is still some time to be surprised.”

This thing, this secret, this pain that kept me from forming healthy relationships and living honestly was now connecting me with people from all over the world. Letters started showing up at my house from kids who had such similar stories and secrets that it stunned me. It made me realize that the thing that surprises you is the simple stuff. It’s the thing you would have never have known you were missing out on until you lived it. It’s a letter; it’s a laugh. It’s holding your friend’s firstborn baby.  

I realize I am lucky I’ve gotten to experience all these things. My story could have ended, but it didn’t. And I’m so grateful to get to play the part in the world that I was supposed to play, the part that no one else can play.

Last fall, I went to my favorite gym back home. When I walked out after my workout, I saw what had to be at least three hundred people gathered in the streets, and they were all looking up at a roof. There was a young girl up there. She had been up there for a few hours, trying to make a decision about her story and whether or not it should end. I stayed with that group of people, just standing and looking up at her. We stood still, and it felt like time did too. I wondered at one point if a bunch of strangers made her feel any different.

But then I realized that maybe we weren’t strangers. Maybe we’re all in the thing together. Maybe all of us down below reminded her in some way that there were people who still cared.

Even though she didn’t know us and we didn’t know her, in that moment, it felt like we did. We didn’t know her name, but we connected to her pain. On that day, a few hundred strangers came together to let someone who felt alone feel known. She stayed up on the roof for a long, long time, but eventually she came down. I don’t know what made her decide to continue living her story. Maybe she felt our hope for her. But whatever it was, I’m thankful for it. She found the strength to walk away from that roof, from that decision, and on to something better.  

There is still time to be surprised.

There was for her.

There was for me.

There is for you, too.

I think TWLOHA stands for the idea that your story matters. I certainly believe in those words. I also believe that your story is still being written. So if you’re stuck, you can become unstuck. If you’re holding on to something too heavy, you can still let it go. And if the idea of tomorrow ever starts to get scary, I hope these words feel true to you: “There is still some time to be surprised.”

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Comments (4)

  1. Madden

    I’ve been following TWLOHA since ’06, and have been around for all the powerful mantras that have come around since then. This one (there is still some time to be surprised) seemed like “just another one” to me until I read this. After a long time since my last battle with suicide, I recently found myself quite hopeless and helpless and not able to rember any of the reasons I’d collected for myself to continue living. There were honestly so many reasons I could have given up. I think I stuck around because I truly hope that I will be surprised. Thank you for these words and for helping me make hat connection.

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  2. Christina

    Some say little things don’t matter, but they do.

    Recently, my son started kindergarten. I decided to volunteer on the days I was off of school. I had to go through “volunteer counseling” which consisted of dress code, etc, with the school guidance counselor. Before I continue, I must add that I am a heavily tattooed mom. Well, the guidance counselor asked me “Why do you have so many tattoos? Like, whats the story?”

    Well, here it is. In 2009, my dad lost his battle to leukemia. I won’t capitalize it due to my hatred of the disease. When I lost him, my world turned upside down. I lost my best friend. I suddenly fell into this downward spiral of failure. I quit school. I started neglecting my child, who was only a few months old at the time. I turned to drugs to ease the pain, and when they didn’t help, I turned to cutting. All of that became an addiction that got worse over time. I attempted suicide when everything got to be too much, and I failed, of course. Once I failed at that, I turned to more pills to ease my sadness. One day, I realized that I could not remember what I did with my son that day due to being high. This was 4 years ago. From that day, I have not taken a single drug, nor have I hurt myself in any way. From realizing that I could not remember the events with my son, I realized my life was so screwed up and I needed to fix this or I would die. I did not want to die any longer. My purpose was my son. He was my reason to believe and have hope and keep going.

    I did not get help. I did everything on my own, basically over night. and I know that sounds hard, but it’s possible. I’m also not saying you shouldn’t seek help, you should, you definitely should. Your life is way more important than you realize. What hurts today will subside. You will feel better eventually. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But eventually.

    I started running the RunForIt 5k in Melbourne, FL that is put on my TWLOHA. I have ran it both years that it has been held. I will continue to run it every year that it is available. In 2013, I got to meet Jamie Tworkowski at the first ever 5k. It was probably the most amazing moment of my life. No, he isn’t a celebrity. No, we did not talk much. But his organization helped save me. His words inspire me. TWLOHA will always hold a special place in my heart because, if not for them, I would not be as strong as I am today.

    The day I had the meeting with the guidance counselor at my son’s school, I told her all of this. She then told me that all school staff in the state of SC are being made to go through “bully training” and what signs to look for, for bullying, suicide, self harm, etc. We talked for a while about this and how it is important to educate today’s youth on the effects of bullying and self harm. The next week, I brought her 2 TWLOHA cards I had laying around from previous packages I had ordered from TWLOHA. They didn’t say much. But she took them and read every word and understood how important TWLOHA is and will always be. That afternoon, she told me she researched TWLOHA online and read the original story and how powerful it was.

    It really feels amazing to know I AM HERE, I AM ALIVE, and MY STORY IS IMPORTANT. If it weren’t for TWLOHA, I would not have been able to share this today.

    So, thank you guys. Thank you so much.

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    1. Anonymous

      Awesome…shalom

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  3. Natasha

    I read this this morning before classes, and it made my day. It was so inspirational and something I really needed to read. I had a great day because of it.

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