All four of us took part in a 5km walk from Darkness Into Light in aid of Pieta House this morning. We woke at 3am to get ready and out for the walk’s start at 4:15am. Other teachers were taking part as well, plus some of our students.
Pieta House, for those who don’t know, is a voluntary, non-government organisation who offer support, counselling services and other services to people at risk of suicide and self-harm. It’s an area personally close to me and my family, so the walk (when not dealing with the immediate needs of four-year olds) was peppered with thoughts of the past; of difficulties and choices that didn’t feel like choices and lots of other remembrances.
We were serenaded out of the Quad in UCC by Snow Patrol’s Run (hence the post title). It’s a song I’ve always found really affecting anyway, and has become even more so since the funeral of my good friend last year (who died after a long battle with cancer), where it was played. He was actually one of the friends I could call at 3 in the morning when the world seemed unbearably dark, and he would drive over to where I lived and sit and talk with me for hours, or ’til I fell asleep, or whatever I needed. So the line “Even if you cannot hear my voice, I’ll be right beside you.” still yanks at my heart like a fishhook.
I was just listening to it again as I started writing here and the tears are welling in my eyes. It’s a song that somehow manages to squeeze a whole mini-universe of my life into a ball, and throw that emotion ball at me in one huge “splat”. I find it difficult to even separate out where the different emotions are coming from.
I found myself thinking about a younger me a lot during the course of the walk. There was a point when we were climbing up a steep hill, the sky was still black-black, and the children were struggling so we’d put them on our shoulders for the climb. It felt fittingly metaphorical, how just before you break into the light, you might have to face an uphill battle, maybe carrying extra weight. We’d also fallen to the back of the crowd, so we were alone, with just the ambulance close on our heels, like some fantasy monster chasing us on. But we had each other. You get the metaphor, right?
So, younger me, yeah. I started cutting as a form of self-harm when I was 13. I also used to punch myself in the face to make my nose bleed. That sounds more violent than it felt at the time. I just wanted to see my blood. It used to relax me. I understand how “crazy” that sounds, so you’ll understand how crazy I felt, and how ashamed I was and how hidden I felt it must be kept. I also felt that I needed to keep whatever emotional need I had hidden. You know, the emotions that were too strong to cope with, the sadness and anxiety and feelings of isolation; all of those things that meant that bleeding was a relief. Some real pain to bring me into a present moment and calm down everything else around me.
I was thinking of that younger self and wishing she’d had the facilities of a place like Pieta House to help. Maybe then she would never have carried so much to where an older younger me ended up in hospital on three separate occasions suicidal actions. Maybe she would still have kept it all bottled inside and ended up in the same place anyway. I like to think that the normalising of the behaviours I was engaging in, and the knowledge that such a place existed might have led me to seek help at a much younger age.
A psychotherapist from Pieta House came to speak to our school a couple of days ago. And one of the things he said really resonated with me: “Most people who attempt suicide don’t want to die. They just want the pain to stop.” and when I heard that, I felt the most enormous relief. You see, I’d actually always felt like a bit of a fraud regarding my suicide attempts because I hadn’t wanted to die. I just didn’t know what else to do, and I’d reached a point where I didn’t care if I died or not, because I couldn’t see a solution to living. So, it was nice. To hear that. It sort of started to heal up another small shame that I hadn’t even really noticed I was carrying.
Pieta House. Helping more than they even realise.