You Can Be Restored

The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height that you can aspire to reach.

Laurens van der Post

If you are struggling with suicide, you may feel extremely broken. You may feel so broken that, like Humpty Dumpty, you are sure that you can never be put back together again. But, your story does not end here. In fact, I believe wholeheartedly that you can be restored even if right now you don’t believe it can occur.

The Meaning of Restoration

I have always been drawn to the idea of restoration as a way of describing how we are able to put ourselves back together again. The definition of “restore” is “to bring back to or put back into its former state.” I believe you can return to a state of mind, unburdened by suicidal pain. What’s more, it can happen in a shorter time frame than you might imagine.

For example, during one of my depressive episodes, I  became so unstable that I had no choice but to move back to New York and live with my parents and enter the hospital for periodic stays. One day I thought to myself, “I’m a shadow of my former self. Am I ever going to be normal again?” The idea of ever returning to wellness seemed as unlikely as the sun setting in the east.

During one of our family therapy sessions, the social worker asked my father to state his greatest fear.

“My greatest fear is that Douglas will never get well and will have to live with us for the rest of his life,” he answered. 

The therapist asked, “Have you ever seen Douglas this depressed before?”

“Oh yes, two times,” he replied.

“And what was the outcome?” 

“He eventually got over the depression.”

“Well, then,” the therapist said, “If Douglas recovered in the past, he can do so now. His prior success bodes well for the future.”

My therapist’s prediction came true. Three months later I had gotten well enough that I was able to move back to Oregon and resume my life. 

I’ve seen the process of restoration work not only in my own life but in the lives of other people as well. When I started facilitating peer support groups for people with depression and anxiety, each person who showed up was at a severe low point in their lives. For them, life had been reduced to a desperate struggle for survival. The idea of becoming well enough to resume their own jobs or enjoy their friends and family seemed inconceivable. Yet over time, with the support of the other group members and their mental health providers, they gradually improved and emerged from their ordeal. 

Human beings are incredibly resilient. Our species has survived wars, plagues, famines, floods, and all manner of natural disaster. We are also able to survive the psychological pain that leads to suicidal episodes.

What Goes Down Must Go Up

A wonderful symbol of the restoration experience is the mythological Phoenix bird. The Phoenix had a five-hundred-year lifespan, at the end of which he built his own funeral pyre and was burned to ashes. Yet, out of the ashes, a new Phoenix arose to be restored to its original state.

This is why I am optimistic about your recovery. You have no doubt heard the phrase, “What goes up must come down,” which refers to Newton’s Law of Gravity. In the realm of human experience the converse, ”What goes down must come up,” is also true.

Right now you may be dwelling at the bottom of the abyss. You may be discouraged and full of despair. Let this promise of restoration give you a ray of hope. It is only a matter of time until, like the Phoenix, you shall be restored.

Journal Reflection:
My Experience of Restoration

  1. Can you remember a time before you became suicidal when you were feeling reasonably well? If you can, take a moment to really remember what you were experiencing in your life then.

    • Where were you? Who were you with?  What were you doing?

    • What were you looking forward to?

    • Does it seem possible that you can feel that way again?

  2. If it doesn’t feel possible that your life will improve, can you remember a period of your life where you believed that you would never recover, and yet over time, you did?

  3. If you had such an experience of restoration, can it provide you with some hope that you can be restored again?