If you know me, you likely already know my story. You know my dad died by suicide in 2006 after multiple attempts.
This was how I told people. Maybe you were one of the kind people holding their breath, praying, sending love, waiting for news.
Maybe you've seen this photo a million times.
I make a point of talking about mental illness and suicide like everyday topics.
I can't talk sportsball, but I can engage in a lively conversation about antidepressants.
(Is that depressing? I honestly don't know.)
Sometimes I think about how different my life would have been if, after my mom and I found my dad after his first attempt, we'd actually talked about it. What if, instead of telling us that we could never talk about it because it would hurt his career, Dad had sat down with us and discussed his struggles?
My sixth grade would've been a lot easier. My everything would've made more sense.
What if I'd grown up in a household where all feelings were considered valid? Where there was no shame?
When I think about the past, I think about the home atmosphere we work to create and maintain for our children.
In the Before times, my son taught anxiety-reducing techniques to other kids at school. I heard from a teacher that he said, "Do you want me to show you something I learned in therapy?"
I was so proud when I heard this.
He talks about therapy like it's normal. Because to him it is. Because that's how we treat it. Like going to any other doctor.
I would love to live in a world where we treat mental and physical ailments with the same degree of normalcy.
In Covid times, I know that these calming techniques, that mental health help, are that much more necessary.
My shrink and my acupuncturist told me they've never worked so hard as in these times. Everyone has been in crisis. I have friends who have never, ever manifested anxiety or depression who have struggled with one or both in this pandemic.
Not everyone is able to access help.
I think of how alone I felt in our family, despite/because of? the insistence that we were FINE, and as an adult, how alone I felt in my own depression, until I started talking and writing about it.
I think of how alone, truly, physically alone people have been in this pandemic. And how even the introverts among us need to not feel alone. We may get over-peopled, and we may need more time to recover from people, but we still need to be heard and understood and loved for who we are.
Recently a dear friend who I haven't seen in person in decades reached out. A friend, though not a close one, had died by suicide. She was wondering what to say to the family. How to talk about it with kids.
She was gutted. And she wasn't close to the person.
She said that if I didn't feel like this was an OK thing to ask me, she understood. She just thought she'd ask, as she trusts me.
I told her that honestly, this is what makes suicide loss different. It's hard to ask about. People don't know what to say.
Even people who weren't close to my dad, or who hadn't seen him in years, decades even, told me they felt like they should've know. Maybe there was something they could have done.
Suicide wrecks the loved ones left behind. It crushes families.
I told her the same thing I have told others: tell the family you are so sorry for their loss. Offer to be there for them--an ear, a meal, coffee, anything.
The fact that you are there for them, not avoiding because of Suicide (whispered, but also with a capital letter, so I guess whispered meaningfully), means a tremendous amount.
Because we as a society don't know what to do with those left behind.
But before we get to that point, we don't know what to do with those who are struggling.
Mental health services are expensive. And they are stigmatized.
Depression is often treated as a choice. Cheer up! Shake it off! Go out and get some fresh air! Watch a funny movie! Don't be so down!
(I haven't heard these things in a long time, but if anyone says them to you, you have my permission to offer them a refreshing cup of nut punch.)
I have a lot of feels about this, as you may know.
What I want everyone to know, to feel in their core, is that all their feelings are valid. Your life might not be as hard as someone else's. Your depression or anxiety or anything else you are struggling with might not make sense.
Mental illness doesn't make sense. Depression is a sneaky liar.
Anxiety? Anxiety is such a tricksy fucker.
Now that I think about it, I have been told to calm down. I've been told that a lot. To stop worrying. Everything is fine.
But if it's not fine in your being, it is not fucking fine.
I guess all this to say, if you are struggling, know you are not alone. You might feel alone, completely alone. You might feel like it wouldn't matter if you were no longer here. Like what you take from the world is more than what you give. Like it would be easier for those who love you to not have to worry about you.
Or all of those things. Or none of them, but other things.
I'm just throwing out my familiars here.
(Feel free to use these words with someone you're worrying about. Asking someone if they are considering suicide does not put the idea in their head. If it's an option for them, it's already there.)
If you need help, you deserve help. You deserve help in figuring out how to feel better. It doesn't have to be so hard. You don't have to do it alone.
Love and hugs,
A brief list of resources, should you or a loved one need them
Call the suicide prevention lifeline: 800-273-8255
If you hate to talk on the phone (raises hand) and want to chat online: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
Or text TALK to 741741