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Our scars tell the story that we survived

Just like yours, each of my scars tells a story.

The one I notice most often is on the index finger of my left hand, a line running diagonally across the knuckle, with a lighter oddly-shaped scar behind it. The line came from the first pocket knife I bought with my own money. I bought it at Boy Scout camp along with a beginner woodcarving kit.

As I worked on the kit, my blade hit a knot in the wood and I didn’t even feel it cut my finger to the bone. But it healed quickly, and I never did finish that little wooden owl.

Several years later I face-planted in gravel and asphalt when I wrecked my bicycle going downhill. One of the many scars I bear from that wreck is the odd one on my finger near that slash mark.

Those scars are faded now, and I don’t notice them all the time. But when I do see them they remind me of what happened and that although I experienced a bit of pain and recovery, I survived.

I have other scars from a couple of life-threatening incidents, but those are typically hidden. Nevertheless, when I see them I am reminded that I survived those events, as well, by the grace of God.

My deepest scars and the ones that have had the most difficult time  healing are not visible to the naked eye. They are marks on my heart and spirit.

Like running a finger over a raised bit of scar tissue on my  hand, my thoughts sometimes are turned to the events that caused me to be wounded and I wince a little and rue my poor choices or circumstances at that time. But then I am reminded … the scars mean I have healed, at least somewhat. And they mean that I have survived.

I’ve seen the scars on the wrists of people I care about that show they once were so despondent they tried to end their own lives. I’ve touched the scar on the chin of a woman I loved from where she tried to put a bullet in her brain and failed. I’ve hugged and cried with someone who showed me scars on his legs where he’d cut himself to try to relieve some of his emotional anguish.

Their scars are visible reminders to them — and perhaps to others — that they almost gave up, or even tried very hard to do so but did not succeed. But those scars are so much more than that.

These ugly lines, bumps, marks, patched holes and other blemishes from self-harm do demonstrate that the person who bears them has had a difficult struggle, and perhaps is still struggling at this very moment. But they also demonstrate very clearly that the bearer of those marks is still very much alive. They may have failed at their intent to relieve pain or to leave this life, but they succeeded in surviving.

This coming Sunday, Sept. 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. The month of September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in Mississippi.

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death for people of all ages in our state, but is the third leading cause of death for people from age 10 to 24. On average, at least one person commits suicide every day in Mississippi.

Suicide is viewed by some as an unpardonable sin. It is viewed by some as the most selfish act possible, a cowardly way to avoid your problems and pain. It is looked upon by still others as the only option left open to them.

None of these things is true.

It comes about through despair and despondency, through depression, anxiety and a host of other causes. I’ve heard most of my life suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

However you view suicide, don’t condemn people for having the wounds that have come from a life that they don’t know how to deal with anymore. Don’t give up on anyone because they don’t handle things the way you are able to handle them.

And don’t be silent.

So many great organizations and ministries exist that can be beneficial to people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, and to those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide. I can’t possibly list them all, or tell you which one is better. But one that stands out to me is To Write Love On Her Arms.

The purpose of TWLOHA.com is to encourage, inform and inspire those who are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. It’s named after a story written by founder Jamie Tworkowski, who was moved by a friend of his and her struggle.

Maybe it’s not right for you, but maybe it is. Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. Let your scars tell the story that you survived, too.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at 601-265-5307 or brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.