It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a trip down the rabbit hole. Do you know the place? The place where no one leaves the light on for you and where you always feel like shit about yourself? Self-Doubt and Not Good Enough have taken up residence there along with I Haven’t Done Shit With My Life. Yeah… that place. I used to live there so I know it well. But like I said, it’s been awhile. Lately I’ve been in more of a state I’d call a wave, at least that’s what it’s felt like to me. I started gaining momentum in my life and I could feel it building. There was an actual energy to it. It was like I had finally stopped fighting the waves and getting my ass kicked in the surf and finally figured out how to stand up and ride the wave. Much like surfing, which I have done a little of, catching a wave is a feeling that is just pure alignment. It’s as if everything is in agreement and flowing together in harmony. This is how my life has felt. Pieces of my life started falling into place and fitting beautifully. I felt on purpose and my life mission was clear. Miracles seemed to be a daily thing. This was a beautiful ride and everyday it just seemed to get richer, brighter, bolder, and more beautiful¬– if that was even possible. As much as wanted to hold on to the wave, I knew better. I knew that would mean instant wipe out. Instead, I enjoyed the ride and just let it build. I witnessed amazing connection, the grace of God, and saw a little window of the vastness of possibility. It was a great ride.
I bet you know where I’m going with this. Yes, the ride did end or at least ebbed a bit. This ride let out at the old familiar spot called the rabbit hole. Just like that, there I was surrounded with my old friends self-doubt and you suck. While I did find myself a permanent resident of this place for a big chunk of my life, in the last few years I would stop by but not stay long. I knew how to keep my bags packed and get back on the road pretty quickly. But this time I decided to stay for a bit and further in I went.
A good friend of mine wrote a song that touched pretty deep at one time and comes back to me now. It’s about being caught in a field as a storm rolls in. In this field, lighting strikes without warning and hits right in the heart. That’s how this trip down the rabbit hole started. I was struck in the heart without warning.
I was sitting in a place I’ve come to know as I’m Good Enough and I’ve Got What It Takes. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of the rabbit hole. Here people do a lot more than just leave the light on for you. This group has been extraordinary in my life and has helped me remember who I am and what I am truly capable of. I go back often because I tend to forget this easily. This has been such a sanctuary for me. Here I feel loved, seen, heard, inspired, and beyond accepted. I get to be me here and continue to deepen what that even means for myself. This is the place I go to fill up.
I was sitting in this place about a month ago and there, in my sanctuary, lightening struck. This bolt came in the form of one sentence, “We don’t recommend you work with individuals who are suicidal.” That was it. I literally felt the bolt enter my heart and just crack it open. I felt so exposed, so naked, and so vulnerable sitting in that room. Every single person in there knew I worked with suicidal individuals. I had spoken of it often. I would define it as my life’s work and now it wasn’t recommended. I didn’t just hear it as not recommended, I heard it as never do this and if you do you are bad and wrong. My stomach began to turn and I felt the blood rush out of my face. “What the fuck??” I came here to lift myself up, to inspire myself, and to learn how to do this work with more connection to God, and with more love and grace. Now it wasn’t recommended?? I was hurt and confused. Suddenly the wave I had been riding on, the one where my whole life made sense, was gone. I was in the rabbit hole where nothing made sense. Had I misunderstood my life? Had I taken a wrong turn somewhere? Was I a million miles off course? Had I misunderstood my heart? How could something that felt so right for me suddenly feel so wrong? I began to worry about every suicidal person I’d worked with in the last 3 years. Was I doing it all wrong? Had I actually been making it worse? My world seemed to shake and then spin. I was in a storm I had almost forgotten existed… I was in the hurricane and every part of my life was whipping and spinning and it all seemed so out of control.
There I was alone, afraid, confused, and questioning my life. This storm inside of me began to manifest in my world. A suicide intervention training I was leading had spots for 35 people to attend and 8 showed up. After part of the first day two left early and decided not to return. I suck at this. No one gives a shit. They were right, this isn’t recommended. I’m not qualified to do this work. What was I thinking? Further into the rabbit hole I slid.
After the training I received a phone call from a friend. A mutual friend of ours had taken her life the day before. Sadly enough, this kind of call happens often for me now. I’m not always connected to the suicides, but I hear of them. This time the connection felt all too real. It did because I was her five years ago, or I could very much relate to her. She was a beautiful woman, very athletic, with so much to offer. She was very loved and in this time of her life lost her sense of purpose, her confidence, and her value. She lost her way and ended up losing her life. She had opted out… should I have five years ago? Was my life a mistake? I was more confused than ever, I felt myself losing my confidence at lightening speed… further down I went.
I began falling into familiar patterns. I stopped reaching out, I didn’t ask for help, and I didn’t return phone calls. I felt myself retreating and withdrawing, a pattern I knew all too well. I retreated into myself and questioned everything. As I questioned I didn’t trust the answers… how could I? How could I have gotten it all so wrong? My confidence was shaken.
As the storm was raging my instincts were telling me to flee… I wanted to run from the field, self-defense. I wanted to forget everything I knew about suicide prevention and abandon the dream of making a real difference for those struggling with suicide. I wanted to pass the buck and make it someone else’s problem. I wanted to agree that I wasn’t qualified and turn it over to those with the right degrees. I wanted to quit. I wanted to give up and let the hurricane just suck me up. But I guess I didn’t really, because that’s not what I did. There was a faint voice saying, “Lean in.” It was a voice I hadn’t heard before, at least it sounded a lot different from anything before. I trusted this voice without having reason to. I leaned into the storm.
Vulnerable, naked, confused, shaking, and reeling I walked into the scariest place I knew to go in this fragile state, the psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction. I signed up for five days of intensive training at the mental health office and hospital. For five days I spent time in the hospital listening, observing, and learning. I spent time in support groups; I coached those who were willing, and surrendered to it all. I made it okay that I didn’t know if I was qualified to do this work. I made it okay that I was scared to go to the place I had been so afraid to go. I made it okay that I was terrified as a trainee in the hospital. I made it more than okay that I didn’t always know what to say. This time I didn’t run from my doubt and insecurity, I leaned in. I was dancing in the eye of the hurricane.
Those five days were some of the most humbling, challenging, life affirming, confronting days of my life. I danced with it all. I felt the highs and the lows. I opened my heart and showed up willing to those most struggling. I wanted to see for myself if this was the work for me and if the fire in my heart for this work was true. For five days I gave it my best. In my view, this was some of my most profound work. With tears in their eyes I saw people look me in the eye and heard them say, “You get it.” I know my being there brought more light than darkness and more healing than misunderstanding.
I left Grand Junction on more solid ground. I headed to Moab, Utah to spend some time in solitude in the desert. I prayed a lot and talked to God. I talked to the wisdom inside of me. I cried. I walked. I laughed… and I continued to dance in the storm.
I danced my way back to myself. I heard my own voice and found my inner knowing. I connected with my truth and what was so for me. I know what is true for me is I want to be there for those feeling abandoned, hopeless, and alone. I want to be a stand for those who, in times of trouble, want to end the pain by ending their life. I want to be the light that is left on for them. I want to be hope when they’ve lost it. I don’t ever want to give up on someone, including myself. This I know for sure.
This is the road I choose to walk. It’s not an easy one and I know the heartache of this journey. It’s going to take strength of heart. And you know what’s happened over these last three weeks? Strength of heart happened. My fire is stronger today than before I was shaken– the wind has fueled my fire.
I might not be back on the wave, but I am back on the board. One thing I have learned is I’m the only authority on my dreams. No one else knows what is best for me and no one can make me give up without my permission. Maybe you have a great fan club for your dreams. Maybe you’re being cheered on and supported. Or maybe people are telling you it’s not recommended, it’s too hard, it’s not reasonable or practical. Maybe people are telling you you’re not good enough. It’s your choice to listen or not. Only you are the authority on your dreams and no one can take them from you without your permission. What will you let get in the way of what’s in your heart? What are you willing to do to get what you want? If there is one thing I can leave you with, be afraid and do it anyway. The world needs you and your dream… and I’ll keep the light on for you.