Have you ever thought about taking your own life? Like many others, I have. There’s a reason I didn’t call it “committing suicide.” I learned when my sister took her own life, or died by suicide nearly six years ago, that using the word “committed” is not preferred by mental health professionals and suicide awareness and prevention advocates. People “commit” crimes like murder-- the taking of one’s own life, while devastating to family members and loved ones left behind, is not a crime.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, this week is National Suicide Prevention Week and Wednesday September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. You can check the calendar at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for details about events this week, in addition to resources and support. You can always call 1-800-273-8255 if you are having thoughts of suicide, and please reach out to mental health professionals if needed. Seeking help shows strength.
In February, though we’re not and never will be finished grieving the loss of my sister, my family lost my youngest brother to a drug overdose. It’s unfathomable the pain that my parents have had to endure in losing their children. Mental illness is something we struggle with in our family, that I’ve also had to face. It’s with the help of good therapists and medications that on behalf of my own four children I have done my best to, as the AFSP Twitter hashtag emphasizes, #keepgoing. I have a tattoo of a semicolon, the symbol of “your story continues” of the mental health nonprofit Project Semicolon.
I believe not only that it’s okay not to be okay, but also “better out than in” when it comes to expressing emotions, thoughts and feelings. My sister always talked about “elephants in the living room” and how there are people who’ll step quietly around them forever, and people who ask what they’re doing there. I’m an elephant in the living room person, you’ll never catch me stepping around one. Life is too short to swallow pain and agony, and especially in today’s world it’s too easy to drown in depression. I catch myself wanting to stay in bed for far too long; I have to fight to keep my head above water a lot of the time.
But I “keep going” for my kids, I admire people who practice self-care; maybe one day I’ll get better at that. I want to meditate more, write more, learn to spend more time in quiet—I always struggle with trying to spend less time on my phone. Surrounding yourself with distraction, good or bad, is a great way to battle feelings of depression and loneliness.
If you are from a survivor family, you know it can be a lonely place. I didn't receive a single sympathy card or flower when either one of my siblings died, like people do when their loved ones die of cancer or old age. People don't know what to say, so often they don't say anything. But our grief isn't less just because some uneducated fools want to say suicide is "selfish." There aren't sympathy cards for suicide survivors or families of those lost to suicide. Too many people suffer in silence. We have to fight the stigma.
If you are having feelings of depression or anxiety, you’re not alone. There is help no matter what your situation is, there's someone to listen. I'll listen. It isn’t always easy, but we have to keep going, for ourselves and for our loved ones.