A Lesson In Hope

I was only fifteen when I tried to kill myself.  It happened nineteen years ago today.

Both of my sisters left home. One left a note behind and didn’t look back. The other moved in with a different family just a few houses away. I stayed. I had a medical condition I couldn’t get my family to face and I hid from the rest of the world. I had just been diagnosed that September. The following month, a boy who went to my school and lived up the street died by suicide the same day we received our report cards. He had gotten a B. Two other students attempted suicide. Then, I became attempt number three.

We had just celebrated Thanksgiving. A couple of days later, my parents went to granny’s house for turkey leftovers, but I stayed home that night. Maybe it should’ve been a sign that I planned it. But the truth is, I was so ambivalent in my attempt I was blinded. While the rest of the world could see what was on the surface, if you asked me, I was just trying to get rid of my migraine.

Years later, a college essay forced me to reflect on that day. I stayed in denial about a lot of things. I stood by that migraine, which I did have… and shifted the focus to home. I lived in a pretty abusive household. At the end of the essay, I needed to choose what side of the fence I was on when it came to legalizing physician-assisted suicide. I couldn’t choose one. So, I took a break from college to decide.

Ambivalence, once again, crept into my life. Attempting suicide during my youth, amid familial religiosity, made me a black sheep; sinful, troubled, tormented… outcast. I fought against that with lies.

“I didn’t try to kill myself! I had a migraine.”

When suicide isn’t talked about in the community or the home, it’s easy to feel like we have to hide those things. So, at age thirty-one, I repeated the past and my self-destructive uncertainty with a suicide prevention campaign on Facebook. Ambivalence has always been tricky with me, and it’s hard to detect.

Like when my sister told me, in the middle of my campaign, she was “broken but not suicidal.” I think she really believed that. Or wanted to. I know I did. I should’ve known better. Maybe I would’ve saved her if I had known what to look for and was listening with my heart. But I didn’t know how. I didn’t know anything about suicide; the risks, the warning signs, they were lost on me. Until now.

While juggling suicidal thoughts, grief, and denial… I educated myself. But the one thing I kept running from is why feeling suicidal is a daily fight for me. I finally know the answer. When I tried to kill myself as a teen, it wasn’t because my sisters were gone or because I lived in an abusive home. And it wasn’t depressive disorder like the inpatient doctors at the youth facility tried to throw at me. It was because I couldn’t leave like my sisters did. I couldn’t fight for my life on my own. I couldn’t escape. Because the biggest thief of my hope was looking in the mirror, seeing the diagnosis I was facing, and knowing there was a solution, there was a way to address it—for the rest of the world. Not for me. My father’s insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment.

Some say I survived, but I didn’t. The following summer, I deleted me. Although, I couldn’t have told you back then. I wouldn’t have been able to explain why I wrote a new first name on every paper at school.. or how I went from a bully to one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet overnight. But I know now that it was the onset of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

I kept myself hidden, protected, for as long as I could. I ran from the reason for my suicide attempt as long as I could, until I had my daughter. Until my lack of fighting for myself began to impact more people than just me. Then, I rose from the ashes to face the demons still burning inside… and I learned the hardest lesson of my life: Hope is temporary if solutions are out of reach.

I don’t know if you know how it feels for the cure for your pain to sit just out of reach. But I can tell you how to survive. Fight. Even when there is no hope.

It’s okay to fight dirty when you’re fighting for life.


If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out to the National Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to chat with the Crisis Text Line. 

To Those Whom I Met In An Online Support Group For PTSD

It’s different now. You know? Four years ago, you were my only support— online, in person, and in life. I only had you and a brand new baby to hold.

I shared a lot with the group, with you, but the biggest battle is still one I carry alone. Though, you taught me to bare it all and learn to pull a few close. I did that. You taught me a lot of other things too, although many of you I’ve shoved away. And you let go.

I bet you don’t know, everything I do, the woman I am today, is because of you. I stumbled into the room half dead, half alive, broken. And every time I opened my mouth, you cared and you actually spoke back. Everything I said, you told me it helped you. I’d never had confidence in myself like that… or people who wanted to love me. I didn’t even know the sound of my voice before I met you.

We bled together and laughed together. I swear, we introduced the world to cupcakes and vodka. You still make me smile. You still make me cry too. Because I know, in the end, I hurt a few of you after the loss of my sister.

It’s not easy for me to admit I did some of the damage. It’s not easy for me to write this open letter to you. But, when hearts get broken, we have a way of slamming doors. And, when we remember love, we have a way of kicking them open too.

Maybe, back then, I was just a stranger who walked into your life and you did your best to love me. I wish I would’ve told you then I was so broken I didn’t know how to receive it. I wish I could have told you then how I will love you with everything that I am… and hurt you because I can’t always control it.

All the words I needed to say got lost because I knew you loved me and you were hurting too, but you shoved me away. You ignored my pain. And every single time, it broke me. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch your news feed; your sadness and pain. But, mostly, your love.

Many of you had families; sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandchildren. Gosh, I envied them. And I listened when you called me family too. Maybe I seemed just as lonely as you, but the truth is, you had love you couldn’t feel in the middle of your darkness. It was too much for me because on my side of the fence the yard and the houses are empty.

I wish I could’ve told you back then. I think a part of me really tried. But I was shattered, the words came out sharp and anger became me. I wish I had logged off. Part of me wishes I had stopped reaching out. Because my circle was small and when it came to pain, I carried it all; your bad days, my bad days, your loss, my grief, all of the weight from everything we’ve ever escaped… and the only place to dispose of it was in the same place we gained or left it.

I’m sorry I hurt you while I was hurting. You deserved better from me. But I just wanted to say, in case you ever look back my way…

Thank you for teaching me how to walk.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got

My best friend killed herself, and I told myself my fight for suicide prevention had nothing to do with my grief.

For nearly a year and a half, I researched every related topic, every keyword, every article and news link, every way suicide correlated with her life or mine. I dug into her past. I dug into my past. I encountered the next death and I didn’t even blink.

Suicide number ___, in my mind. Lost hope. Lost battles to cancer. Drug overdoses. Loss number ___.

I searched every hashtag. I followed, bookmarked, and connected with every organization and professional available to me. College work would be due, I’d go to research a topic, no matter what it was, I landed on suicide-related things. I collected articles I didn’t have access to otherwise. I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop.

Neither could death by family member number four or suicide number three. But it didn’t faze me. I’d Google, tweet, research, and write; collect obituaries and pretend to breathe. I told myself it wasn’t grief; it was motivation. It was going to make something of me.

Nicole, Debbie, Nicholas, Danny, Shawn, Robert, Daniel, Kay, I collected names. That hasn’t stopped. Neither have I. And I thought I needed some explanation, some defense to be driven — to be inspired by loss. I searched for validation. I fought for a purpose, a noble cause.

I became a sponge. I absorbed all of the loss around me until I felt like a fraud. Like with the death of Linkin Park’s lead singer, Chester Bennington. It’s not like I knew the guy personally. But it pained my heart as I read The Guardian headline informing the world of the next “suspected suicide” loss on recently deceased Chris Cornell‘s birthday.

The word “suicide” still makes my heart skip a beat. It still makes me sink to my knees. And I find myself lost in my own grief again, asking myself if the fight is worth it, asking myself if I’m just grieving or crazy, not intelligent or driven; asking myself if I’m broken or what.

The answer comes faster each time:

I’m grieving and I’m learning and I’m fighting for life.

Maybe that’s all we stand to gain from our losses. Knowledge and hope. A reminder to live.

And maybe, someday, peace of mind.


#RIPChester

If you are feeling hopeless or suicidal, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line, 741-741. You can also visit suicide.org for international resources and listings.