Dear Suicidal Teenager (and those who love them).

Dear Suicidal Teenager,
I believe you. I believe you when you say you hate your life.

For you, life is constant pressure to conform and perform. Your world holds more challenges than most adults imagine.

Most of us have forgotten what it’s like to be 16, 17, 18, or 19. We talk to you from our adult minds and increase the disconnect. We listen to correct or inform, or even encourage, but we don’t hear your truth, experience, and perspective.

You know that. So, you say what you think we want to hear and too often you’re right.

You navigate through teachers, parents, coaches, and bosses who have little idea what you’re thinking or feeling.

In many ways, you’re smart. That’s your survival tactic.

I see you looking for a way out and screaming for help in ways no one hears. Those who do seem to make you feel worse.

I’m sorry you’re going through what you’re going through. You have more pressure than we ever did when we were your age.

And yet, even without the same chaos you’re dealing with, I was a suicidal teenager.

Now, I’m 53 years old. I recently told a close friend I’ve known since high school that I tried to kill myself my first semester in college. She said, “What? I had no idea.”

Of course not. We all keep secrets.

Dear teenager trying to get out of this world, this life, your life, I know how that feels.

People who’ve never truly hated their lives or their parents think your words are exaggerations or drama. They can’t fathom your daily pain.

Your pain is real. It feels unbearable. Hang on. It won’t feel like this forever. I promise.

During my first year in college, I lived with a nurse who had a refrigerator door full of prescription bottles. (I have no idea why.)

One night, I swallowed every pill I could and went to sleep hoping to never wake up.

I did. In a bed of vomit.

I told no one. Not my best friend. Not my sister or my mom who lived in town.

Not my boyfriend who kept trying to dump me.

I was a failure even at trying to check out. And in college, which I wasn’t cut out for at the time, I pulled a 1.9 grade point average. Stellar, right?

Looking back, I can still ignite the feelings that were all-consuming and impossible to communicate.

Two things saved me. One: I went to a counselor who made me PROMISE, NO MATTER WHAT, I WOULDN’T TAKE MY LIFE.

It was a real promise, one I couldn’t make to myself, but somehow made to her.

Later, when I had the impetus and opportunity to try again, my promise stopped me.

Is there one person you can make that promise to? One who cares about you to whom you can say, “I want to be dead, but I promise you I won’t kill myself” and mean it?

If so, please make the promise right now. If not, I raise my hand for you. Promise me.

Second, I got a summer job with Southwestern selling books on the other side of the country. This took me out of my circumstances and gave me a new focus.

It was an extreme step for a suicidal girl. I had to save my own life.

Sometimes, we need a complete shift in our environment to transform our perspective. When we can’t change how we feel inside, sometimes changing our outside world helps.

You can think your way into suicide. Please don’t! Choose better.

Stick around to see what the next chapter of life brings you. It may be your best yet.

Although I know the deep desire to end the pain, I don’t know your life. I’m not pretending I do.

I’m praying if you try to die, you get lucky and get it wrong, but we can’t count on that.

I’m praying you don’t get on the exit ramp. Drive yourself back into life. Find one thing worth living for. Just one. Let that lead you.

It’s a long road and there are many chapters to your life. You won’t always be in the situation you’re in now. I know it feels that way.

Your life won’t always feel like this. I promise.

Sometimes just staying alive takes courage. Stay. Alive. One hour at a time. Call up the brave one inside you for one minute, one hour, one day at a time.

The urges may follow you and you may have to fight them for a long time, as I did.

But, it’s worth it. I’m grateful to be alive. I’ve had multiple chapters of good and bad.

If I would’ve checked out at age 18, I would’ve missed: Spring Break in Mazatlán, falling in love—over and over again, holding my mom’s hand while she battled cancer, being my little sister’s maid of honor, getting married (and divorced), owning a home, flying on the swings at the Mall of America, laughing with my sister, traveling to Europe with eight women and one guy who didn’t like to shower, running the Chicago Marathon, waterskiing in Tulsa, Oklahoma, falling for Rod Stewart, meeting Billy Joel, learning to like jazz, barbeques on the deck, blueberry and raspberry flavored coffee, returning to college at age 37, becoming a writer, sacred love, Sedona, yoga, a collection of friends who unfold history with me (that I didn’t even know back then), watching my nephews grow from babies into men, living with my sister, dozens of road trips, being mom to the best dog in the world, making love, and best of all, being there for people when they’re going through one of life’s dark tunnels.

I would’ve missed. My life. Don’t miss yours.

This is the book of your life. Keep reading. New scenes will be written and new characters will walk in. It’s going to get juicy. Just you wait.