I was over on Reddit again last night, and saw someone ask this question:
Nietzsche once wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” What is your why?
I read through the comments and got to one where someone talked about contemplating suicide, but holding on because life can change. I wanted to share my experience, strength, and hope on the topic, so I wrote a reply. This morning I went back to look at it again. I really liked the way the first two paragraphs came out, and wanted to copy the whole thing here because maybe it will be useful/helpful to others, and maybe having it here might help preserve it for posterity. So here’s what I wrote:
I attempted suicide when I was thirteen. Obviously (and fortunately) I failed. The one good thing my now-former step-bitch did was talk my dad into letting me see a counselor. After 6 months the counselor pretty much told me there were only a few things I need to get straightened out, and that I had, and the rest I couldn’t do anything about because I was a teen living at home in a shitty household, and all I could do was wait until I could move out. So that became my first why: to get old enough to move out.
Since then I’ve gone through many more years of counseling, and 12-step work, and have come to understand that time is the greatest gift of all. No one – but yourself – can give you more time. Only you have the power to give yourself more time. Only you can give yourself that gift. And it IS a gift. And the beautiful thing about it is … even if you’re in a place right now where you don’t feel like more time is a gift … it still is. Because that might be the time you need to get out of that place you’re in, and into a place where time does become a gift again. And if you take that away … you will never have another opportunity to give yourself any more gifts ever again.
The “It Gets Better” thing that went around a few years ago really resonated with me, not only because life does tend to get better, but because for most people it’s not just life getting better on its own. It’s life getting better because you’re making it better (in addition to other things working out, too).
When I got back into counseling as an adult I had to go through three counselors before I found one that I could click with and who stayed present long enough for me to get the help I needed. The first one I didn’t vibe with. The second one told me after 6 months that she was going to start her own practice (which wasn’t going to work with me on a sliding scale, so I couldn’t afford her).
That really took the wind out of my sails. For *weeks* I asked myself if I wanted to go through the pain of opening up to a new counselor, take the time and money that would be needed to get back to where I was, and be able to move forward again … until I realized I had to. Not because of anyone else or anything else, but because of ME. I wasn’t going to a counselor for anyone else, I was going there for ME. I was going because **I** wanted MY life to be better. I was going because **I** needed this, for ME.
And that leads me to my second why, which I alluded to a moment ago. My life is getting better because *I am making it better for myself*. I am doing the things that I need to do, because no one else will. Some days I’m sad about that, but most days I’m strong and I’m actually okay with it because the counseling taught me that a lot of my pain was from counting on other people and expecting them to know what I wanted 100% of the time. (Shit, half the time **I** don’t even know what the hell I want, so how can I expect them to?)
Relying on myself is not a woe-is-me thing any more, for I can now see it as the best opportunity for me to get what I want. Statistically, I am less likely to let myself down than anyone else, and even if I do let myself down – because let’s face it, I’m not perfect either – then at least I have no one else to blame. I can’t be hurt by someone else now, and when I pick myself back up it’s because *I* want to.
And now that’s become my third why. I am doing this for me. Because I want to see what else this universe has to offer, every single day, and because no one else can know what I want better than me, and because no one is in a better position to help me get what I want every day than I am. Even if all I want to do today is sit in my underwear and sleep until noon, well then by god, I’m entitled to earn a half-day of rest every now and then because I’m the one out here working for me.
So if you’ve made it this far, all I can ask is: What are you doing for you? And I ask that not to shame you, but to honestly ask you to think about that, if you haven’t.