Wait. Always wait. It always gets better.

Carrying the cross

I’m so glad I got Billy’s photograph when our church carried the cross through the neighborhood this past Good Friday. Because on the morning of June 2, we lost Billy, by his own hand.

Billy had a challenging backstory. He made it out of childhood and adolescence and was trying to build his adult future. The church was directly supporting him and loving him, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe he was crushed by the weight of his past. Maybe the road ahead looked to be too steep. I don’t know.

But I do know about suicide. I’ve written about it here obliquely before, but let me be plain about it now: I lived with and fought through periods of severe depression from the time I was 16 to the time I was about 40. I’ve walked right up to the edge of suicide several times.

During the worst of my depressions I didn’t kill myself because I was afraid of surviving it and being left permanently, horribly damaged. Then after my children were born I never ended it because I couldn’t leave them behind. But during those times, the pain was too great, the recovery road too hard. I wanted no part of life.

Because I stuck it out, sooner or later things got better. Never all better. But things always stopped being screamingly, intolerably bad. Whatever I was feeling, whatever thoughts were looping through my head, they changed all on their own. Mind states are never permanent. And whatever difficulties I was facing, the circumstances changed all on their own. The world keeps going while you are stuck, delivering change into your world. Sometimes circumstances got better and sometimes they got worse, but when they changed I could usually see a path forward when I couldn’t before.

If you ever think about ending your life, wait. Just wait. Your feelings, thoughts, and circumstances will change, if you just hang on.

We gathered at church on Saturday to celebrate his life and mourn our loss. We will miss Billy terribly.

Billy was 19.


16 responses to “Wait. Always wait. It always gets better.”

  1. Nobby Avatar

    Rest in peace, Billy!

  2. chris smith Avatar
    chris smith

    utterly inspiring

  3. George Denzinger Avatar
    George Denzinger

    So sorry to hear this. May and his community find peace.

  4. hmunro Avatar

    I’m heartbroken for Billy, and for everyone who knew and loved him. Gazing at his photo I can only begin to imagine the pain that lay behind that smile. And that’s the thing that can make suicide such a stealthy foe, isn’t it? So many people walk around with masks on that hide their quiet despair. I’m glad you’re not one of them anymore, Jim (because I’ve been there too, and I still remember how dark and desperate that place felt). And I’m especially glad you’ve written this post. I hope your words will resonate with someone else who may be standing on the brink of that abyss, and that they will *just wait.*

  5. Bon Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this thoughtful message. I enjoy your writing and photos. Keep it up!

  6. Jim Grey ☕️ Avatar

    Thanks everybody. It was a very difficult week last week in the aftermath of this.

  7. arabelmortimer Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your painful thoughts and experience. I am sorry for your loss of BIlly, bless you both.

    1. Jim Grey ☕️ Avatar

      Thanks so much.

  8. DougD Avatar

    When a young person goes early they miss so much. We can all think of great things that have happened after tough times, or even how tough times led to something great. I hope your community will eventually get to peace over this.

    1. Jim Grey ☕️ Avatar

      Thanks Doug. We’re still hurting, but it will ebb with time.

  9. dmswriter Avatar

    This is so sad, Jim. I’m heartbroken to hear about Billy, and saddened because of the possibilities in his life that are no more. Thank you for sharing your own difficult story, too. I’m hoping it will help someone who’s walking in those shoes right now.

    1. Jim Grey ☕️ Avatar

      Me too. That’s why I chose to reveal it.

  10. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    Absolutely heartbreaking. It is so sad to think about how much damage can be suffered at such a young age to cause such desperation. And I am so glad that you are no longer in a place like that.

    1. Jim Grey ☕️ Avatar

      Yes. I wish for a world in which children could not be so broken.

  11. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Oh man, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve wrestled with and had to deal with the monster that is suicide. And what perfect advice! I have two internal mantras that I tell myself when the going gets tough or it seems like everyone (including myself) would be better off without me they’re “just keep moving” and “wait, this will pass”.Those and my wife Rebecca, my students, my cats, my guitar and my bicycle have saved my life so many times it’s uncountable.
    I think it’s so very brave of you to share such deep and difficult stuff like this here on the internet. I know it does you good to share here, but I believe it does others, me included good too. Thank you.
    Again, I’m so sorry for your losses and the internal monsters you’ve had to battle, but I’m glad that you’ve always been able to survive and thrive.
    Happy New Year!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Sonny. I write and publish this stuff primarily because it helps me. The writing helps me, but I won’t write it if I don’t publish it, so I publish it. I’m always pleased when what I write touches others.

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