September 3, 2023 8:43 PM

You're not alone

Benjamin Smith
Written by
Benjamin Smith

This may be the most honest piece I have ever attempted to write. It is something I have tried several times to get down but without any results. If you read it all the way through I am certain you will look at me differently from here on out. I've decided to write it anyway.

I am not writing this to get sympathy or attention. I'm not trying to paint myself as a hero or a villain. I am simply just trying to share my experience in the small chance that I can help at least one other person.

I don't think anyone would be overly surprised to hear me say we are in the middle of a mental health crisis. I am certainly not the first person to say that nor am I the first person to write about it. Maybe I should have been talking about it a long time ago, or maybe there has never been a better time than now. Maybe it doesn't belong on a disc golf website but then again maybe this is the perfect place for it.

Last week the New England disc golf community lost (by all accounts) a wonderful human being named Able Virgile. He took is his own life. He was only 25 years old. He was an avid disc golfer and well loved and respected by his community. Not long after people learned of his death a wonderful group of people did something to honour his memory. I had only crossed paths with Able once but his death hit me hard. You see there have been several times in my life where I have contemplated suicide. I have been in a dark place more than once. Sometimes the world just seems too unjust, too indifferent, too cold for me to want to go on. I carry the weight on the world on my shoulders. I don't mean to but seeing some of the systems we humans have created that seem to intentionally oppress certain groups of people and to see us squander the beauty that is all around us is so heavy sometimes I just want to lay down and have it all go away. I try my best every day. Honestly I do. I don't wish to cause anyone harm and I only want to contribute to the world in the positive ways that are available to me. Some peoples personal criticisms of me have effected me so deeply that it takes all of my power to let it go. Trust me I am trying but it's not always easy.

I'm telling you this because I know I am not alone in these feelings. I have an innate desire to help solve problems when I hear about them. It's a fine line to walk; trying to let people know you hear them while at the same time offering your experiences. I don't want to diminish anyone else's experiences I just want people to know I am trying to empathize.

Over the last few years I have grown comfortable in silence. I may even be addicted to it. I have grown comfortable in my own skin. I have learned that I can talk to big crowds or run large events but it takes a lot out of me. I need recovery time. I have learned that saying no is liberating and that taking care of myself is a part of the process. I hate being complimented because it makes me feel like an imposter. When I do try to show gratitude I often feel like it is not enough.

I am in a great place in my life right now. I have wonderful children that bring me joy to know I am a part of their lives. I have a great partner who challenges me every day and gives me space to be myself. I have dogs who offer nothing but love and cats who tolerate my existence in a way that only cats can do. I love my work and find deep purpose in it. To get to this point took a lot of work, much of it was very uncomfortable. When I was at my lowest I couldn't get past all the obstacles in path. When I feel better I accept things for the way they are and I focus more on the solutions not the problems. On bad days I feel guilty about sitting on the back deck in the sunshine. On the good days I embrace that feeling of doing absolutely nothing.

I have heard it said before that suicide doesn't end your pain, it simply transfers it to someone else. I think about that a lot. A few weeks ago I was in rough shape physically. I had ligament damage in my left arm that made any movement cause terrible pain and I had a lingering elbow issue in my right arm. Years of sports science and understanding of the human body gave me a pathway to recovery. When we have mental health pain that pathway isn't so clear and defined. Disc golf has been one of the biggest blessing of my life. It has allowed me a place to thrive. I love every aspect of course building, creating and running events, and playing by myself. I play events because I enjoy that too but only because it allows me to compete against myself in formalized setting. I don't always want to talk and I still struggle to give myself the freedom to be quiet, but every day I am working on becoming myself.

Maybe this article doesn't seem like much to you but I had to write it. I want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles. I would rather answer my phone ringing at 2 in the morning, or 1 in the afternoon, or offer you my hand in anything that is in my power to help you with, rather than hear you have taken your own life. None of us are alone in this world. I wish I could offer the world more to heal. I wish I could let all the people in my life know that I accept them for who they are and I love them for trying. We are all doing our best and that is good enough.

I wish I could do more but I want you to know even if we have never met there is space in my heart for you for love and kindness. I hope that everyone who reads this knows, for at least one minute, they are not alone.