What I’ll Miss

By Michelle SteppSeptember 15, 2018

For more than half of my life I’ve been plagued by the darkness of depression. Over the past decade I’ve seen mental health awareness grow significantly—for which I’m immensely grateful. Still, there are those who ignore the well-accepted fact that mental illness is well, a legitimate illness.

Witnessing mental illness being regarded as a choice is a powerful source of anger and frustration. And watching depression and anxiety romanticized ignites a certain kind of rage within me.

There is nothing romantic about not being able to work because your illness has rendered you lethargic and incapable of focus. After skipping out on personal hygiene for days or weeks on end, depression is no longer “cute.” Anxiety is no longer a charming, little quirk when it traps you in your home out of fear. And suicide is hardly a choice made by a weak, selfish person.

Losing a person by their own hand is soul-crushing. One only needs to think back to a time when they heard about a loved one even attempting to take their own life to get a taste of the sickening drop in their stomach that follows.

For those of us on the other side, the ones dealing with the thoughts of suicide, I want to promise healing and solutions. But I can’t. Today and tomorrow have the very real possibility of bringing pain and struggle, I’m sure you’re well aware of that. But, they also have the opportunity and space for joy and hope—no matter how fleeting those moments may seem.

Within a span of two years I’ve been hospitalized four times and made three attempts. This summer I spent 30 days in two psychiatric hospitals. Less than one week after leaving one hospital, I made another attempt. With that track record, I hardly seem like the right person to be stating that tomorrow needs you or me, or sharing about God and his power to heal. However, I believe my track record is the exact reason why I am the right person.

One of my favorite book-adapted film series is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. In the first movie, 12-year-old Bailey, who is dying of cancer is seen star-gazing with Tibby. Tibby asks her if she’s scared of dying, and Bailey replies, “I’m afraid of time… I’m afraid of what I’ll miss.”

Her reply always confused me. How could she miss anything if she was gone? What is there to miss when you’re sick and hurting? A life of pain, suffering, and mental illness? What could you possibly miss about that? But Bailey was speaking with a wisdom beyond her years. We all understand how a person is missed when they pass away. It could be accidentally, naturally, or a death by suicide at the end of a long road of mental illness. Regardless, the loss is palpable, and there is no doubt the person is missed. However, the person who is missed, is missing out on things as well.

This summer alone, I missed a month of sunshine (hard to come by in Ohio, and hard to accept for this Arizona girl), a month of being home with my husband and our cat, a month of routine and community—overall, a full month of doing a majority of the activities I often times forget I love or take for granted.

It’s painful to imagine what I would have missed had any of my attempts been “successful.” So instead of listing off the things you and I could miss and be missing from, I’ll leave you with one example from my first hospitalization: During the ambulance ride, I told the medic about my brother. He said he had worked with him as an EMT. I proudly told him that Robert had recently received his paramedic certification, in the fall would finish his degree, and would eventually start fire academy training. His response—telling me how great of a guy my brother is—was genuine and made my heart swell.

It was in that moment, in the back of the ambulance, that I quietly wept at the realization that had I ended my life, I never would have seen my baby brother fulfill his dream of becoming a paramedic. Flash forward into the future a little more, and I wouldn’t have been able to pin on his boutineer on his wedding day, kiss him on the cheek before the ceremony, or help his beautiful bride not stress out.

That day needed me to live. Those people needed me to fight and stay. I needed to be there, for myself.

Tomorrow needs me too. I have a husband who needs kissing. I have a cat who needs cuddling (but who mostly needs and wants food). There’s coffee that needs to be drunk, and delicious food to be made and eaten. There are life-giving conversations needing to  take place, and friendships to foster. And I believe God needs me to be alive right now to share my story.

Whether this comes off narcissistic or not: Tomorrow needs me. Tomorrow needs you. Tomorrow needs us. For what, I’m not 100% certain, but isn’t it worth staying to find out?

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Comments (15)

  1. Alison Quinn

    Michelle what beautiful words. I need you. Not only for your delicious tortillas but for you. I need you because my sister your momma and your daddy live for you. The world needs you because your words your devotion may save not only you hut someone who is reading them and realize that tomorrow needs them too. I love u nanny al

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  2. Nancy

    thank you for sharing. for putting words to the emotions and reality of so many. you are a beautiful. Today needs you. Tomorrow needs you. The world needs you. Bless you for having the strength and guts to honestly write your feelings down and share them. I pray for to have peace and the strength you need to continue one moment at a time.

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  3. Daniel Stee

    Thank you Michelle! Thank you for being a light of hope. Your words brought tears to my eyes. The younger me, who wanted to end it so badly sometimes, cried out. The older me, who just doesn’t want anyone to have to die this way, cried out. Thank you, for creating a safe place for them to do that in your words.

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  4. Jane doe


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  5. Junior Barbosa

    Hi Michelle, I was really thrilled by your story and impressed with your courage to tell it here for us. I understand how you feel because I also suffer from depression and anxiety, I have also tried suicide. I believe there is no cure for depression, and we are doomed to “carry that shadow” for the rest of our lives, but we will fight for our lives to the end.

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  6. Daniela

    A Month ago, my best friend lost his brother.
    I tried to talk to her for go out, like a coffee or a place where we can talk, not necessary about his brother. But when I wrote a message or looking for her in school, she said me she don’t want to talk or go out and I respect this, but I don’t know how to be closer to her and I am worried that some day she hurt herself.
    So please help me.

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    1. TWLOHA

      Hello Daniela,

      Many times people grieve in different ways. Some people may need time to be alone, while others like the comfort of friends and family. You can let your friend know that you are concerned about them and just want them to know that you are there for them. You are welcome to email us at [email protected] if you would like to talk about this situation more. We would love to talk to you more in depth about it.

      With Hope,

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  7. Julie

    Thank you Michelle for sharing your heart and your honesty on this journey. This touched my heart deeply. I’m so thankful our paths have crossed. Hugs

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  8. Cortland

    Thank you for sharing this. although It seems from the outside I am rising up after a failed attempt and hospitalization, I’m almost done my degree, i completed a 12 step program, and i am a youth leader for my church…I still feel the feelings and still have the thoughts that make me so tired of fighting. But you are so right, my nephews need a cool uncle, and my church still needs a willing vocalist on stage at recovery meetings. My friends need an encourager and my parents need a loving son who doesn’t cause them tragedy but makes them proud. Thank you, i needed to hear this tonight.

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  9. April

    Even when you don’t feel qualified, your words are important… and encouraging.

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  10. Arlene

    Michelle, A million hearts to you. Thank you. I am older, and have never had a husband, most of my family are gone or estranged. I wish I could say that I had loved ones to stay for. But in my good moments I try to believe that God has me here for a reason.

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  11. Jolie Parker

    I can really relate I’ve been hospitalized 10 times for suicide attempts and self harm. And this story made me realize that I am not alone on feeling suicidal.

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    1. TWLOHA

      You are not alone, Jolie. People have felt and continue to feel what you’re feeling. But we want you, and everyone who is struggling, to know that there is help, and you deserve it.

      Would you email us at [email protected]? We would really like to know more about you and your struggles so that we can offer you some support and resources.

      With Hope,

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  12. Brittany Summers

    I absolutely love this piece. It is not only true and honest, but it is from first hand experience, not hearsay or an outsider looking in. The people with the mental health issues are the same people that need to be speaking out on these issues. Thank you for sharing this!

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  13. Terry

    That is a very beautiful story, full of courage and hope, God bless you

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