Saturday night we walked 16.7 miles through Philadelphia in the Out of the Darkness Overnight walk, raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
This year I had so many names on my shirt. Each name was a loved one lost, or a loved one who struggles. I have people I worry about who I put on there.
So many generous people--so many of you--contributed to my walk without hesitation. In fact, gladly, with kind words, words of gratitude, when really, I'm the one who is grateful.
|So many loved ones|
My new and lovely friend Melissa lost her dad, Miguel, when she was young. She couldn't do the Philly walk, and gave me his name. Our two dads, with the same name.
I thought about people's brothers, boyfriends, parents, children, friends and relatives. The ache of the loss makes me cry, even now, as I type.
I would never compare my loss to someone else's, because all our losses are the worst. Losing loved ones is brutal.
But with suicide there is an extra layer of why. Of whether or not you could have done something. And, even now, of stigma.
I talked to people who kept quiet for decades. Who lied about what happened, because that was more acceptable than the truth. Who are asked why they're not yet over it. Who get chastised by family for being open about a decades-ago suicide loss, because there are adult children who still don't know, and family members want to perpetuate a fiction.
You might not think that a suicide event would be fun, but my teammates are high energy, passionate, hilarious. Cari, who I'd met along with her amazing mom Connie, organized everything for the Philly team. I'm so grateful to her for adding that to her super busy schedule.
|Starting out strong|
I wove in and out as we walked, talking to new people, hearing new stories, or picking up on old tales. You know I'm not one for small talk, and I find the emotional intensity satisfying.
We share our stories, our burdens, our snacks.One even offered to split her Xanax with another.
This year the Philly team was called Philly SOLO, but it was the same incredible team I walked with last year. This year, though, I got to walk with lovely Tiffany, who contacted me before the NYC walk because she was an LG reader, and she's the reason I joined SOLOS. There were members I hadn't met on the DC walk last year, and new members.
Laurie was unable to make this year's walk, and I carried her son Nathaniel with me, and she was with me in spirit.
Nick had been planning on driving Jordan's camp trunk up to NJ, so I asked if he could do so last weekend, and drop Betty and me in Philly on the way. In theory, this was perfect. It didn't take them out of their way, and we'd leave in the morning and I'd be there in good time for the team lunch.
In actual fact, I-95 is Gehenna on wheels.I don't know why they don't have on-ramp signs that say, "Abandon all hope..."
Then we stopped at a rest stop, where India cheerfully announced, "This is where I puked on Jordan's foot!" In fact it wasn't, because the rest stop where she puked on Jordan's foot is much bigger, and has a poorly staffed Dunkin Donuts, whereas this one has a delightful Peet's Coffee.
In any case. We then had to eat. Jordan's bagel was too hot. He was thirsty. Why did it take so long to get water?
I was growing increasingly agitated as the hours wore on and it was looking like I was barely going to arrive in time to drop bags at the hotel before the team lunch.
At some point Nick pointed out that I was overly anxious.
And in my head I was all, "Don't stab the driver, Lisa. Breathe. The number one rule of being a passenger is don't stab the driver."
Out loud I'm certain I was shrill and bitchy, as happens when I am anxious and someone suggests I need to calm down or dial it back, which just makes me DIAL IT UP TO A MILLION.
In any case, Nick and the kids very kindly deposited us at the hotel and Betty and I got to the lunch not terribly late, and I relayed my anxiety and everyone said, in different words, that it's such a high anxiety weekend and they get super stressed out beforehand as well.
One of my teammates also said she's not a lawyer, but the advice she'd like to give me is never to stab anyone. "Just think it quietly really hard," she said.
Not a single person thought I was making too big a deal of it. It is hard for all of us.
I am so open about mental illness, about losing family members to suicide, and about my own struggles with depression. And I'm comfortable talking about all those things.
But I'm usually the one leading the conversation.
Being in a big group of others who talk about the same things, who live and breathe these issues, who casually mention that running daily decreases their ainxiety, who have been told to "get over it" or made to feel aberrant by STILL being upset about the suicide of a loved one...being surrounded by these people feels like exhaling after holding your breath for a long time.
It feels like a strong hug. Like sliding into clean sheets after a hot shower. It's a relief. It's a pleasure to all be together.
|Hard to get all our feet in!|
We started walking at sundown. The first 10.5 miles were fine. And then around 1:00 am, we all sat down in a field and had midnight snack. We took off our shoes and changed our socks.
After that, the city was dark and quiet. Walkers spread out. The energy and excitement of starting out had dissipated.
I saw walkers I'd noticed earlier and wondered if they would make it, who were still walking when we approached the finish line. Honestly, at a certain point, I wondered if I would make it. Like me, they put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward.
The team stayed together well into the walk, way past the halfway point.
The last several miles, I lost my team and walked alone, though I was never alone. And I don't mean that in a Jesus carried me kind of way. I mean, there were other walkers.
We walked into Sunday, Father's Day.
I crossed the finish line alone, and hobbled up the steps to find my luminaria. This year I found all three. I was so tired I was off balance, and nearly fell off the steps several times.
|Walking toward hope|
This is a club I never want you to join. But being a member, walking is helpful; it is healing. As my friend Joy said, "Walking doesn't fix grief. Nothing fixes grief. Walking together on the journey of life is all we can do."
I'm grateful to walk together, and to feel that we are never alone.
I'm thankful you're on this journey with me, and that you've so kindly and lovingly supported me in so many ways.
Including donations that have not yet been credited to me, I raised over $4,500. My team raised over $31,000. I feel proud of raising this for such a great organization, one whose mission resonates so strongly with me.
Thank you for all your support, in so many ways.
Big hugs and much love,