Inside the path of suicide, a battle not meant to be fought alone (Renee Hutchens)

Contemplating and attempting suicide – something I thought I would never struggle with in my life. Never. Life was good. I felt confident and capable to do anything I set myself out to do. I had family and friends that loved me and I took advantage of everything the outdoors had to offer. I had a bright future ahead of me. One moment my life felt great, and the next moment, I awoke to find myself in a dark and lonely place. How could I explain this to anyone, or have an answer for them as to why? My capacity to participate in my normal life activities, and seek outdoor adventure with friends was practically zero. I was depleted to live anymore, to think anymore, to feel anymore. I was physically alive, but lifeless.

The path of depression and suicide was lonely, exhausting, and isolating. The struggle felt bigger and stronger than me, almost paralyzing. It was a battle to reach out to anyone because I was afraid I’d make people uneasy—uneasy to be around me, uneasy about what to say or do. I feared opening would only serve to isolate me more because I wasn’t the fun, adventurous, uplifting, and energetic person that I felt people wanted in their lives. So, I remained hidden towards others. Another day passed, another day began. I didn’t look forward to another day of struggle and trying to see if I’d survive that day. I felt I had failed myself and others, and I was angry I couldn’t fix myself. Eventually a friend was relentless in reaching out to me and recommended that I seek help from a mental health professional. The task felt monumental and impossible. Opening to my friend my true feelings of helplessness, as scary as that was being vulnerable, enabled my dark path to merge into a path of healing, even if it meant I had to be hand held every step of the way to get there. This is the most courageous thing I’ve done in my life—taking the leap to be vulnerable, open, and seek help from others. Life is just like biking, there are challenges and there are victories, climbing mountains and descending valleys. So, I remind myself that difficult trails often lead to beautiful destinations, views only possible because you conquered the impossible, and stepped onto a journey of healing that made it all worth it. I was worth it.

Now, several years later, I feel grateful that my journey of healing gave me back my life. It isn’t perfect or pretty all the time, and that is okay. Since then I’ve made a commitment to being kind and patient with myself every day. This means finding ways, alone and with others, to feel and experience myself in realness. This is real freedom – living true to myself no matter how it feels or what that looks like. It could mean being silly, skipping because I feel like it, getting rowdy on trails, sharing adventure, crying, thinking out loud, feeling sad and mourning loss, blasting down a mountain, singing to jams with friends, fly fishing in the middle of a river, climbing, sitting quietly to reflect, or enjoying a sunset. No matter where life has you, let yourself be there. Find others that support your real self, and realize that no feeling is wrong because it’s you. If you’re in a tough spot in life, remember it will not be that way forever. There is another possibility to experience that I encourage you to be curious and adventurous to explore. Seeking help from a mental health professional does not mean you are a failure, something is wrong with you, or a bad person. You are human, and you are courageous!

Finally, the benefits of technology and how it has impacted the way we communicate, connect, create community, and share our lives is numerous. On the other hand, social media can sometimes make us feel more connected with others than we actually are. Therefore, knowing that depression and suicide can oftentimes remain hidden from the rest of the world, and even hidden from close friends, I believe it’s essential to find opportunities to build relationships with others offline, especially when that person is struggling. Reach out with intention whether it’s a phone call or inviting them to join you on an outdoor adventure. If it doesn’t work out, reach out again, and again. This allows for real conversations to take place and creates a space that feels safe and trusted to open. By connecting in this way, I hope to become part of others’ supportive community that that person may need today or in the future, and just may change their life.

Renee at Leap2fly Ladyshred Retreat