If you are lost in the darkness and can’t see the end of the tunnel, we have a flashlight for you.
This article first appeared in the Vail Daily on December 23, 2019.
While it seems that everyone is surrounded in joy and celebration during the holidays, we must remember that for many, it’s just another workday, and for some, it is a reminder of all they feel they lack.
With a focus on family, friends, parties, shopping, bright lights, happy music, and fun celebrations of all sorts, we can feel overwhelmed; and after seeing such merriment posted all over social media, and watching movies that always have happy endings, it is easy to begin wondering why our lives aren’t as perfect as everyone else’s. We forget that most of what we see is staged and we are fortunate if we have even a couple of those things during the holidays… happy music and bright lights may be all we get some years.
If we have a cloud of darkness following us around, those bright holiday lights seem to cast an even darker shadow on our path. When it gets too dark, we begin to lose our way, and it’s almost as if it becomes a dark pit, from which we feel as though we cannot escape.
Desperate, we seek any way out, for it is a much- too-familiar scene. We first noticed it years ago, and while we are able to periodically lose it, it manages to always find its way back. And, each time it returns, it brings with it, heightened agony.
If it’s possible, the darkness actually becomes blacker and, as if it could speak, it creates a sound of doom. An overall encompassing sense of loss, heartbreak, worthlessness, loneliness, and pain… oh, so much pain.
After a while, getting rid of the pain becomes all that we can think about. We try everything to dull its effect; alcohol, drugs, risky behavior… anything that will distract or end the torment.
Some of us, lose our sense of reason and go to such extremes, that unwittingly, we can cause permanent harm to ourselves or others, and in a last-ditch effort to end the pain, we end our lives. We begin to imagine a peaceful sleep, an end to the horror we are feeling. Suicide becomes our respite. We really don’t want to leave; we just need tranquility and peace.
On Christmas Day 2014, instead of celebrating joyfully with family and friends, surrounded by delicious food, laughter and a warm fire, our family received the dreaded news that no family deserves to hear.
On the other end of the line, “your brother has died.” He died by suicide after a long and agonizing fight with addiction and depression, a decision made out of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. A person who never had a bad word to say about anyone… who was known as a fun-loving sportsman and would often walk away from a golf course with his friend’s gambled money in his pocket and a smile on his face. A person who seemed to love life, yet one, for whom that dark cloud sought solace.
A year earlier, our family spent Christmas Day in the Eagle County jail talking to my brother through a screen. He had been incarcerated, his decision-making capacity blurred by sadness and pain. Scotty’s behavior had taken a dark turn and we could see the culmination of 14 years, over 5000 days, of grief all over his face. We wanted to think that it would pass, but instead, it became more erratic, more prevalent, and more ominous.
Instead, for years, during the holidays we had spent our time, trying to “ x Scotty”, only to realize that these demons were coming from within. There is no sense of helplessness greater than watching a loved one descend into darkness, without a glimmer of light, hoping they emerge to face another day.
He had gone to extremes before and thankfully survived, yet we feared that one day, he might not, and that dread was overwhelming. It engulfed the holidays and left our family filled with uncertainty, fear, and all-consuming sadness.
With the holiday season here, please take a few moments to notice the expression on a stranger’s face or look deep into the eyes of a loved one. Take note of subtle differences. Pain has many disguises.
Make time to share a friendly thought. Take a few moments to engage and listen, that simple act of kindness can go a long way, it may just save their life. Just a few caring words can provide that bit of light one needs to get past the threshold of despair… to live another day, and perhaps regain an inner strength, a feeling of hope, that they had long-thought disappeared.
If any of this is familiar, please call the numbers below. Please recognize that just because you don’t know someone personally, doesn’t mean they haven’t been where you are and can’t guide you out.
We too, have been on this journey of unimaginable pain and have come to know that it truly will subside. Please, let us be your friend, your guide towards emerging on the other side of this very di cult path.
You are not alone…We are here for you!
Scotty Lamothe… Forever in our hearts. Dec. 16, 1981 – Dec. 25, 2014
Extreme Risk: 911
Moderate Risk: CO Crisis Ctr 844-493-8255
Hope Center: 970-306-4673
Eagle Valley Behavioral Health: for multiple resources: http://www.EagleValleyBH.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Ideas for surviving the holidays: https://afsp.org/ handling-special-occasions/
Speak Up Reach Out:
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please reach out at http://www.eaglevalleybh.org/get-help-now