One person reaching out saved me

by Paul Buskey

I recently attended my thirtieth high school reunion. Still hard to believe.

I saw classmates I hadn’t seen since graduation. I failed to realize how much some people still meant to me after all these years. I’m sorry it’s taken this long to realize that.

Reconnecting with those who were good friends and getting to know others for the first time besides a casual hello was outstanding and I truly had a great time.

On several occasions, the question was asked why I expose myself and write about my mental health. My answer was to let people know they’re not alone in that fight.

What I didn’t understand is that people have an easier time opening up to you about their struggles if you are part of their inner circle–whether the struggle is mental or physical health, relationships or professional issues.

When you confide in me, I’m humbled and honored you shared that information with me.

For the most part, my illness is doing all right. I still do deal with the ups and downs of bipolar disorder. I do fight with suicide ideation and self-harm thoughts.

Over the period of a couple days recently, they were particularly strong and my daily battle was wearing on me. The demons were starting to make sense and logic was starting to wane. I was having more difficulty resisting the urges of suicidal thoughts. I wanted the pain to go away. Getting to this point at times can be quick, or can build slowly over time. Here’s how I can describe it.

It’s like fog. Fog, gray in color drifts in smoothly and silently. It soon surrounds me turning black and blocking out the stars and moon. (I love the night) All hope drains. Now I’m blind. My feeble voice isn’t strong enough to penetrate the fog.

All sense of direction is forsaken. Desperation sets in. The stillness surrounds me. Trying to keep my composure, I listen for any kind of noise. It starts as a whisper and grows to a mighty roar. The noise and thoughts that never made sense are a beautiful melody that dance with the dark fog.

There’s clarity and truth in those thoughts. It devours every waking second– feeding, gaining momentum like a runaway train.

Alone, emptied of everything I’ve loved, all my dreams and aspirations disappear. I think, “No one cares what happens. They won’t notice.” Exhausted and too frail to keep fighting, I think it’s time to surrender. Any kind of light is needed but it all feels so futile.

One simple text, “How’s your day going Paul?” interrupts my negative thought process. 

I received it from someone I hadn’t spoken from my high school I had not spoken to in five years.

That simple act  pierced the fog. I was then able to make out one brilliant star and have a sense of direction. It’s the spark of hope I needed to make it another day.

Which brings me to my point.

Have you done a simple act to give someone the chance to see the stars through the fog?

Try and do it consistently. Connect with others. Not just when a famous person dies by suicide. Because one small act can save a life. 

We all are famous to those who love us.

Why don’t those thinking of suicide ask for help?

8 thoughts on “One person reaching out saved me”

  1. Thank you Paul for your honesty and suggestion. I hadn’t thought something as small as a text could break through the fog. I know small interaction with a store clerk or a casual conversation with a colleague have helped me on hard days. I will be more conscious of those little things

  2. Thank you for writing about this so well, Paul. The same thing works for me. When people ask me, and really mean it, “How are you doing?” it means a lot. I’m tethered to the world by people who love me, and whom I love. If there’s a long time gap between connections with people, that tether grows thin.

  3. Great idea, Paul! I’ve been on the receiving end of a text, phone call or card that lifted my spirits just when I needed it. Thank you!

  4. Paul, this is such a helpful post, in so many ways. Your description of how the fog of despair rolls in is so clear and your reminder to reach out regularly is gentle, wise and timely. Thank you!

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