It’s been a long, cold winter this year or maybe it just seems that way to a lot of people when you live it day to day…..I know it seems to be that way for me some days, at least. When there are so many days in a row with the temperatures being so low and you feel so cold all of the time and no matter how many layers you put on, you still feel that chill in your bones.
I wonder if that’s how it is when you have thoughts about suicide……is it like being in the middle of a bad period in your life, and you feel like it’s been like this now for a very long time, and you ask yourself, is it ever going to be any different and decide, at that moment, in that instant, that blink of an eye that it won’t ever be different, and in one single act, you extinguish your life?
I wish I knew. It’s been what I’ve been wrestling with for the last 10 years….trying to make sense of what does not make sense to me.
As far as feeling depressed about the weather, I think it’s fairly easy to feel hope again very quickly because everyone knows that in only a couple month’s time, it will be warm again……..this is what we know to be true…..it is proven every year, again and again and we can tolerate the cold until it gets warm.
I do not understand suicide……don’t know if I ever will!
Like knowing that the weather will eventually change, we all really do know that eventually, circumstances and situations will change in our lives as well…..that’s life! What makes some people not want to hold on and stick it out until those changes take place?
Friday a neighbor of mine, who lives across from me on the other side of the parking lot told me that her friend, Sherry, of 28 years who lives just across the street from her, with 2 kids, took her own life. She started to cry as she said, “I stopped her 2 times before from doing it…..they just took her out.”
I wonder what makes a person tolerate their life and everything going on in their lives up to that point and in a split second decide to just not tolerate it any longer?
As anyone who reads my blog knows, my own daughter Katie took her own life a little over 10 years ago in our home. I have been trying to make sense of it ever since.
I am not angry with Katie for taking her own life. I have never felt anger towards her for doing this….I just feel so much, incredible sadness and heartache that it has to be this way….that I have to live out the rest of my life without my precious daughter with me here on this earth……I loved every single moment of the time that we spent together on this planet. Although I feel so blessed for the time that I did have with Katie, I still wanted, no that’s I want more time….28 years was just not enough for me.
What I do feel angry about is that there is so much stigma attached to suicide, mental illness, depression, etc. that people who have thoughts of suicide sometimes keep it all inside of themselves without telling anyone because they feel ashamed of themselves, their thoughts or their feelings.
I am angry too, and tortured by the fact that my daughter died all alone in her dark room……all by herself. The amount of pain and lonliness that she must have felt at that very moment crushes my heart and has caused me to gasp for breath at times in the beginning of this journey I’m on.
I know first hand about the stigma. As a matter of fact I started learning about it the night Katie died. Some of the first responders to my apartment were treating me with so much blatant disrespect after they discovered that she might have taken her own life. I remember being looked at with disgust and being talked down to.
I even remember one fireman asking me if there was anyone he could call….I thought he cared that my daughter had just died and I gave him my sister’s number. What I heard him say to her next disgusted me and I grabbed the phone out of his hand. He coldly and matter of factly said to her, “Your niece just killed herself, can you come over?”
I don’t know if they immediately thought that it must be my fault because I was a bad mother and therefore didn’t deserve any respect or consideration or that she just didn’t matter because she took her own life. It wasn’t until later after the detectives and state police arrived that anyone showed any kind of compassion for me about my daughter having just died.
Unbelievable to me now too, is the fact that when that whole experience was happening, I was standing there feeling like I had done something wrong………the stigma attached to suicide was there.
I used to wonder why……why me…..why my daughter? What have I done to have this terrible thing happen in my life? What I think now is why not my daughter? In God’s eyes we are all equal….suicide can happen in anyone’s family. Now I ask myself, what am I supposed to do with this experience? Katie’s life, and death were not a waste and I know I am supposed to do something for some good to come out of it.
“Every 16 minutes in the United States someone dies by suicide…..every 17 minutes someone is left to try and make sense of it.” , according to the latest statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). In 2003, the year that Katie died, it was someone dying by suicide every 18 minutes….that means death by suicide is increasing.
After Katie’s death by suicide, I immediately wanted to get involved in helping to prevent another suicide from happening ever again. I did not want for another family to feel what I was feeling. I did not want to see another person die by their own hand after feeling so bad and hopeless about their lives. I thought that my efforts would stop another suicide from ever happening again. I was so naive!
For the first couple of years after Katie died, I tried to become involved with the local Survivors of Suicide group…..people who were surviving the loss of their loved one dying by suicide. They organized a yearly community walk that I became involved in and I walked with them for a few years but always felt like it just was not enough.
I went to the planning of the walk meetings and suggested a change in where the walk took place because I thought the place they were walking was not public enough. I suggested too, more advertising about the walk because I didn’t see it advertised enough in newspapers or on tv.
When I realized there wouldn’t be any changes, I stopped going to the meetings and only participated in the walk the day of the walk to show my support for suicide awareness and then I’d go right back home again and not do anything more for another year.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what else I could do except keep speaking up about my daughter and suicide every time someone would bring up the topic of their children, make jokes about suicide or respond to people’s gestures like putting their fingers to their head, implying it was a gun and they were going to pull the trigger or gesturing like they are pulling a noose tight around their necks.
Two years ago I found out that the local walk place had been changed to the city near the community where the walk had been held every year. I started to feel hopeful again that suicide prevention would get the notoriety it deserved and more people would actually get to see all of us walking for such a worthy cause.
Disappointment again! The walk actually started at the civic center on the main street of the city. This is what gave me hope. But the route we walked was not down main street and up and around that block area.
We walked down a side street in front of the city hall, across the street where you could gain access to the highway and also led to a park near the river. The sidewalk we walked on was in the park, located parallel to a busy street that leads away from the city with many businesses on the land between the two. Not only that, at the measured mile marked point of the walk, we simply turned around and walked back the same way we had come from…….again, no one really saw us walking and I asked myself, what’s the point?
Some of you may say, but at least they’re doing something and you’re right, they are! I commend them for that.
For me though, I want to see billboards and large signs all over the place with the message for people having suicidal thoughts or with mental disease or depression, etc., to know they are not losers….they are valuable and worthwhile and someone does care if they are here on this planet. I want for them to know it! Maybe this will help them to help themselves.
Maybe these signs will also help people who do not suffer from these afflictions to understand that mental illness is an illness and most of them are treatable. Perhaps that would remove some of the fear that some people feel as well and help, in the long run, to remove the stigma attached to suicide, mental illness, depression, etc.
In the support group I belong to, Fran, mother of Justin, died last year, used to end her posts with a quote something like this, (sorry,can’t remember exact quote), I am one person, I cannot do it all, but I will do what I can.
I feel the same as Fran. I am only one person but I will make the most of any opportunity I am given to shed some light on the subject of suicide and mental illness and the stigma surrounding it whenever I can.
Thank you for reading.