How to Keep From Sinking


Back before Brooke was my wife, and even before we were even publicly dating, we met at a field to talk. She was leaving town for a few weeks and we needed to try and clear a few things up before that happened. Honestly, we really didn't.

But I remember sitting in the middle of that field and confessing how much pain I was in.

"I look back at everyone I've ever interacted with," I said "and all I can see is how I've hurt them."

I've thought about this a lot since then, although I'm not sure we've ever talked about it much. Obviously we went on to clear a few things up, since we hit two years of marriage this past May.

That feeling though, has often haunted me:

"I look back at everyone I've ever interacted with, and all I can see is how I've hurt them."

To be completely honest, I haven't felt that in awhile. This in itself might be a minor miracle, since I felt that way for literally years straight.

And the weight of that is nothing to be downplayed. In Dr. Thomas Joiner's interpersonal theory of suicide, he lists 'perceived burdensomeness' as one of the three necessary components that lead to a completed suicide attempt.

I want to tell you: this is absolutely a reason I considered suicide for as long as I did.

Believing the people I loved would be better off without me was 100% a factor in every suicide attempt I've ever made.

That's why tonight was so hard: I haven't felt that weight in awhile. I'm not sure if it's a change in setting or a change in me, but I've found myself more able recently to see the positive roles that I play and focus less on the negative.

And the simple fact is this: you're going to mess up and hurt people. This is part of being human, and we should own up it when we do. But if all you can see is the hurt you've caused, you're not seeing clearly. (Tweet)

This is where other people come in.  This is where authentic communication comes in.

Sometimes your brain is a boat that keeps springing leaks. The more water pours in, the easier it is to sink.

You need people who are willing to throw you life lines of truth. You can not survive without them. (Tweet)

Earlier tonight, Brooke and I had a hard conversation. It ended with her being upset about something that was not entirely out of our control, but that we couldn't change now (and I'm not sure we would if we could.)

Now, I'm not entirely sure how I was supposed to react, but seeing her in such obvious pain led me to this:

Think about how happy she would be with someone else. The circumstance would be different, things might have worked out how she had originally planned them.
You ruined her life.

Now, of course this isn't really true. I have no idea what her life would've looked like if she'd married someone else. I can't even begin to imagine it, because I barely even knew her when she was dating someone else.

But my brain is great at latching on to things like this and repeating them. And the more I repeat them, the easier it is to believe them as truth.

The more water pours in, the easier it is to sink.

And so I sank. I knew full well I was sinking into my own head and I couldn't do a damn thing to stop it. I accepted the lies as truth and I leaned into the feeling that I'd ruined her life.

But: you & I both need life lines.

Because the truth is: life was going to be hard either way.
The truth is: Brooke wanted me to be a part of that, even (especially) when it got hard.
The truth is: I didn't ruin her life or anyone else's life.

And that's why I need people willing to throw me life lines of truth. Because sometimes I just can't stay afloat by myself. I can't swim to shore or create a raft or paddle hard enough to keep my head above water.

I need people who are willing to yell truth into my lies, shine light into my darkness. I need people who are willing to toss me a life preserver, not realizing how literal that term is for me.

Because in the long-term, my boat keeps getting better. I'm learning how to repair leaks and even prevent leaks better than I knew a few years back. But I'm not perfect at it yet.

There are times, friend, that we all take on water. There's nothing in this moment that matters more than accepting help. There's nothing that matters more than being surrounded by friends that have a good throwing arm.

You need life lines.
You need truth.

You need people.