National Suicide Prevention Week 2020
Updated: Sep 12
This week (6th – 12th) is National Suicide Prevention Week. Thursday (10th) is World Suicide Prevention Day.
If you haven’t experienced the darkness of a suicidal mind, then it is hard to wrap your brain around what that feels like and how a person can get to that point.
I have been to that dark place. Many times, to varying depths. It is not a place I would suggest even my worst enemy visit.
Storytime, as the kids say. I experienced trauma from about ages four to fourteen. This trauma did irreparable damage to the way I think, view myself, see the world, and build relationships. I was likely living with depression the whole time without realizing it. After high school, I worked full-time and went to school part-time. By the time I was in my last couple of years, my grades were dropping, I had zero energy, and I didn’t want to do anything. At the time I blamed it on burn-out, but looking back, I’m sure at least some of it was depression.
During my seven years of working full-time and going to school part-time, I also had a relationship with my first boyfriend. He was cute and charming and interested in me. I didn’t want to date him, though. By the time we had our first kiss, he had already displayed signs of controlling, possessive behavior and didn’t seem to care how it made me feel.
“Well, why’d you kiss him, much less date him?” you ask.
The trauma I experienced as a child had silenced me. I had lost my ability and strength to say ‘No’ at four years old. The trauma taught me that any love, even this type of ‘love,’ was all I was worth so I better hang on to it. The trauma froze me. Instead of saying no or removing myself from the situation, I shut down like a robot that’s lost power. I know what’s happening to me and I want it to stop, but am powerless, and I wouldn’t know how to stop it anyway.
Nine months of his controlling, possessive behavior and fondness for re-traumatizing me is what I endured before I found out he had been spending time with his ex-girlfriend when he wasn’t with me. I was sad for about two days. Then I realized…I was FREE!
A few years later came my second (and last, if I have anything to do with it) adult romantic relationship. Another charmer, this one. And, again, all the signs were there, but my trauma conditioning took over. This ‘relationship’ was just a few months long, but it ended in a raging dumpster fire.
And that was that. The straw that broke the unknowingly depressed camel’s back. And, boy, did it break.
I spent the next several months crying. I would barely make it into my office at work before I was uncontrollably crying. The work day rarely passed without more crying. And then there was the treacherous journey home on the lightrail, desperately trying to force the tears back until I got to my car. When I got home, I spent most of my time crying on my couch or in my walk-in closet until it was time to cry myself to sleep.
All this crying was NOT because I wanted to be with El Jerko. I felt used. I had told both guys about my childhood trauma. At the time they were the only two people in the world to know. And they both took about 2.5 seconds before basically doing the same thing that traumatized me as a child. I felt worthless. Or mostly worthless. I apparently had one thing that kept me from being completely worthless, but that one thing kept being abused.
I realize that it’s hard to understand why I was ever with either guy, and especially why I kept spending time with them. That is hard for me to explain. As is the deep, dark hole that I was sliding into at an alarming speed. Every trauma, every negative thing ever said to or about me, every mean thing my brain thought about myself, all the guilt and shame of the trauma, all felt like boulders pulling me deeper and deeper. I was disappearing and no one seemed to care.
There was a short list, written in pencil, of reasons not to end my life hiding in the back of my head. But the tears gushing from me smudged and erased those reasons until only one reason was left. I was ready to erase that reason myself by the time the Summer was in full swing. And I had a plan.
One of my favorite drives is to take 285 to Fairplay, then head over Hoosier Pass into Breckenridge. It’s a much nicer drive than I-70, and a lot prettier as well. Near the top of Hoosier Pass there is a scenic view spot. My plan was to take a bottle of Jack Daniels and drive to that scenic view pull-off. I would then drink enough whiskey to dull my body’s natural survival instincts and drive my Jeep off the steepest part I could find.
When I had only one last reason to live and my plan seemed more logical than ever, something clicked in my brain. I realized that the heavy darkness I had been feeling was not just sadness, but something else. And that’s when I went to my doctor for help.
But I was close to enacting my plan. And once suicide becomes a viable option, it remains a viable option (at least for me). If I get too stressed at work, my first thought is that it would be easier if I just died. When I’m living in the darkness of a depression hole, I often say that I want to die. Sometimes, I actually start planning again.
Unlike eight or so years ago, though, I have vomited up my secrets to quite a few people. Those secrets are no longer weapons my brain can use against me. Some of the people who know my secrets are now my support system, so that when I do start planning my suicide again, or am just having a particularly bad day, I can reach out (as hard as that is, especially in that headspace) and get help. I have a medication that works for me. I have some therapy under my belt. And I have knowledge. I have educated myself on depression and anxiety, and all the super fun stuff that comes along with those joyous mental illnesses.
Mental health and suicide prevention are incredibly important to me. Not just because of my own experiences, but also because of the experiences of friends, family, celebrities. No one should have to deal with mental illness, but unfortunately we do. There is no amount of muscle, money or fame that can protect you from experiencing mental illness if your brain chemicals don’t work properly. And very few people will go through their lives without mental illness affecting them in some way, either through their own experience or someone they know.
I urge everyone to educate themselves on the signs of suicide. And SPEAK UP! If you notice the signs in someone, talk to them. You will not talk them into committing suicide by asking how they are and how you can help, but you may miss the opportunity to keep someone from suicide if you say nothing.
And for those who are struggling, I pray that you can make it through. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Below are some resources that may help:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/