Growing up, suicide meant cutting your wrists. No more. No less. It wasn’t anything that was talked about (and to be honest, my family still does not talk about it, but that is a whole other blog post!)
I went through the melodramatic teenage years where I would toy with the idea of “cutting”, but never followed through, never had a plan, and really wasn’t looking to kill myself, but more to get attention.
I didn’t know what suicide was. (And I didn’t face any mental health issues until after the birth of my first child and was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression and Pregnancy Induced Social Anxiety.)
Needless to say, my entire life would change on May 4th 2009.
Let me just say that not knowing much about suicide prior to that point, it was (and sometimes still is) the biggest shock to me. It is one of those things that is so surreal that you just can’t believe it (and yes, shock was a stage that I went through for awhile).
I recall driving home (from Arizona to Minnesota) for the arrangements and staying home for a week before returning to Arizona. It took me some time before recognizing the signs that I needed help.
I was prescribed an anti-anxiety medication after having several panic attacks and not being able to go into public.
I began therapy once a week where I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and PTSD.
Additionally, I began advocating for suicide prevention and awareness.
The one big thing I learned through losing my grandfather is that it is such a different experience than losing a loved one by accident, health, or illness. And people don’t fully understand that.
I wanted to be a part of something that could prevent suicide, but also be there for those who are left behind.
I poured everything I could into anything I could. Suicide advocacy. Working. Various projects here and there. Just to keep busy. Just to keep my mind occupied because when I stopped being busy and my mind was idle – I would lose all control over things I thought I had control over.
Racing thoughts would keep me up all night.
Anxiety of things I had no control over would keep me up.
I couldn’t sleep. In turn, I couldn’t function early in the morning.
Everything compounded made me question what I was doing and why I was doing it. What the point was in me going on in life. Thinking that the answer to all of my worries was to “check out”.
My first real wake up call came on my first Christmas after my grandfather’s suicide.
My grandfather had spent his last Christmas with my family and me at our home, with my kids, with my family. (Christmas has always been an emotional time for me, but now is doubly so.)
The first Christmas after his suicide, hubby was working and someone took the kids for a few hours to give me time to cook in peace. But peace was not what I found.
That was the first one of many dark days that I faced.
A part of me did not want to share my feelings out of fear. I was afraid that I would be “locked up” in the mental health unit. I was afraid of what would happen if I shared. But a part of me didn’t want to keep it a secret because I knew then that it was me screaming silently for help.
I shared with my husband and two closest friends. My husband made me promise to share if I ever felt that way again and fortunately, I can recognize my triggers and symptoms before they get out of control to share with my husband so that he can hide sharp objects and we can arrange for me to be occupied and not alone.
I continued my medication. I continued weekly therapy. I continued to keep busy.
For my grandfather’s one year anniversary, I got a tattoo on my left wrist that says “Survivor” to remind me that I am just that – a survivor. There is so much in my life that I have overcome at the young age of 30 and I needed a permanent reminder that I was a survivor and could survive this. (And on the left so when the dark days came, I had a reminder that I will survive!)
Since that first Christmas in 2009, I have had a few dark days, but I have learned several things from my grandfather’s suicide and from my own dark days:
- Suicide will not solve anything. In fact, suicide will create more problems for those I love and will leave pain among my loved ones that I would not wish upon anyone.
- I have a Higher Power that can take over my worries. He may not be your Higher Power, but he is mine and mine alone and I know that I can hand over my problems and worries to him and he will hold them for me. I believe that with my Higher Power, I will not be given anything I cannot handle. I just need a reminder of that when it is a dark day.
- I have learned my triggers and my symptoms and have learned to speak up. It is okay to speak up and share how you are feeling and ask for help.
- I have learned that I need help and cannot always do this on my own. And it’s okay to need help. It is more than okay to ask for help!
- I have come to terms with the need to be on medication for what will probably be the rest of my life to be a better person for myself and for my family. I know that medication keeps the dark days at bay and keeps my light days more frequent. I know that with proper medication, I am a better me, a better wife, and most importantly, a better mommy.
- Most importantly, my kids need their mommy more than anything in this world and my husband needs his wife.
It has been a rough few years, but I continue to learn and grow. I have dark days, but I have learned how to handle those dark days and reach out to those who understand and can support me when I need support just like I am here for others to reach out to when they need support.